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A Rainy Winter Day

On days like today, I think back to the days of high summer. Long, hot dry days with the grass scorched brown, the 2 AC units in the Old Girl running full blast to fend off the heat.Choking clouds of dust that boiled up behind the dozers as they inched across the parched soil and heat waves that shimmered across the cracked ground. The work went on for days on end and pretty soon you just lost track of time, every day blended in to the previous one and I had to struggle to remember what day it was.

Texas is like that in the summer. Scorching heat and weeks of little rain that made us all wish for a rainy day or two just so we could get a respite from the grinding work schedule.

During the Winter it rains in Texas – especially Deep East Texas where the moisture laden low pressure systems spin up out of the Gulf of Mexico. And then it rains some more; and it takes days for the ground to dry out. We were fortunate this week to be able to work for three full days even though the ground conditions were less than ideal.

A future road -- just a sea of mud now

A future road -- just a sea of mud now

We worked in more mud than we normally would just because there was no choice. Every day, the weather forecast predicted more rain and each day good fortune smiled on us with dry weather.

After a layoff of several weeks, my old muscles ached and every joint screamed. I thought at times maybe this game was better suited to one younger and fresher. The years and miles eventually take their toll you know. We worked from daylight till dark on a winter shortened schedule and at the end of each day, it was all I could do to clean up and get a bite to eat and then collapse in the bed. When the ground is saturated as it is now, the steel tracks on crawler tractors pick up prodigious amounts of mud. I had to shovel out the tracks with a sharpshooter spade multiple times each day. It is easy to get stuck as well. Filled ground that is saturated is just a quagmire waiting for the unsuspecting operator. Time after time, I would feel a track on one side or the other fall away in the soft ground and start to dig in. Getting one of these big rascals stuck signals a huge ordeal to snake it out. Despite several close calls every day, we at least avoided the debacle of a stuck 30 ton dozer.

Friday afternoon I could tell our luck – such as it was- was running out.  All day the skies had been gray and soggy.  It started spitting rain mid afternoon and with a forecast of 90% rain for Saturday, we hurried to get everything sorted out and buttoned up for the rain event that seemed to besure in coming.    At about 11pm Friday night, the outer rain bands from the low pressure system circling in the Gulf to the south of us reached the Old Girl.  A steady drizzle accompanied me to bed.

Saturday I was up before daylight to check the “official” rain gauge.  The gauge is a galvanized pail that does double duty as a dog waterer.   I went outside in a steady drizzle with my steel tape and a flashlight.   A quarter inch of rain so far – I could deal with that for sure.   I sent my brother a text and told him to hold off coming to the job site until mid morning. It was definitely too wet to work right off the bat and I had a funny feeling the rain was not over.   I checked the weather radar on  my laptop and the forecast looked horrible for the home team.

The view out the sofa window of the Old Girl

Sure enough, about 10:30, it commenced to rain in earnest. A few hours later, the rain gauge/dog bucket is approaching 2″ of accumulation. Oh well! Mother Nature is certainly out of my control and the most logical thing I can do is make the best of it. The Old Girl is snug and warm and as I write this my afternoon is going quite well. The afternoon matinee on TCM is a good ol’ Gary Cooper Western from back in the day and I just splashed some Jack Daniels in with my coffee refill to help pass the time. Jack Daniels is fine for flavoring but you can’t beat  the Jim Beam for the heavy work.   Certainly could be worse!

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