Friday, April 23, 2010

Six Penny Pond... or How Many Ways Your Land Could Hurt You

Hi, my name is Dan, and this is my first contribution to the Purgatory Ranch stream of consciousness. This past weekend we tried to clean up the pond. We arrived in the rain, and realized that there was a lot of junk. A LOT OF JUNK. MORE JUNK THAN ANY OF US REMEMBERED. But, at a place named Purgatory, that's what you get.

I'm merely an amateur anthropologist, but I do have some preliminary findings. The previous denizens enjoyed Canadian Mist, Fords, and lived in a trailer. Nothing more could be divined.

We set to it, endeavoring to make a dent in the pile, whilst having no way to haul more than a Toyota pickup bed's worth of the sundry. Piece by piece, metal panels, skirting, and debris was peeled out of the vegetation and muck and hauled to the pasture for removal at some later date. A snake was discovered, and dispatched with a shovel. Species was unknown, but no herpetologist being present, it was left to the laymen with predictable results. The digging renewed for about 5 minutes before the previously minute field mouse droppings gave way for a large pile of very fresh scat under the lip of an unearthed panel. My father, being a bit of a poop expert took heed, and carefully peeled the panel up to meet a new friend, a fully grown and extremely feisty skunk. Several things happened at once:

1. My father yelled "Skunk! ^$&%! Skunk! Shoot it!"
2. The young person enlisted from a sheltered urban lifestyle to help us, began to reconsider her decision to volunteer.
3. James began to move rapidly in the opposite direction, arms flailing, yelling, and I quote: "AAAAAAIIIYYEEEEEEE, SKUUUNNNNKKK, RUN!!!! AAARRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGHHH!"
4. Skunk hissed, exited burrow, tail pointed to the heavens, and began to amble southward through the junk pile.
5. Wasting a few moments to let it the skunk get out of stank range, .40 S&W rounds began to move downrange furiously.
6. Junk and pond was ventilated, but unknown damage to intended victim.

In the aftermath, there was some disagreement to the actual series of events. The last round MIGHT have found its mark, as the skunk was not seen or heard from again, and a repugnant aroma filled the area.

James swears he was protecting us, and could not go fisticuffs with the villainous mammal since his wife has a sensitive nose.

Shaking, and ears ringing, we went back to work, having stripped the ground down to a metal box spring bed entwined within volunteer saplings in the pond proper. A dangerous exhibition of the power of the laws of physics was about to commence.

On one side of this match of mettle and grit: Grey Dog (Old Toyota Truck) with James at the helm, armed with his "C-130" tow strap, a come-along, and the sheer power of determination. On the other, a bed, a tree, a pond, and Murphy.

I tried to take the easy way out, seeing the dangerous game of brinksmanship now being threatened. I tried to simply come-along the bed up and over the tree. Not a chance.

Grey Dog takes up the slack, James punches it into 4-LO and mashes the accelerator. However, the strap had been hooked to a simple Eye-hook, which immediately and spectacularly fails. We give pause for a post-mortem. Thankfully the strap and come-along are intact. So is the bed and the trees' death grip.

Now we're serious. The come-along goes away, replaced by a receiver hitch with a shackle. Once again, Grey Dog leaps forward. And the vaunted strap gives up the ghost. The spectators regroup.

Grey Dog backs in, this time with a huge towing strap, twice as wide as the previous casualty. Attached to the frame of the bed, this will surely work! We step back, a little farther than before. A fiery gleam takes James eyes. He will not fail. He revs the engine, and throws the clutch. Grey Dog strains, the bed groans, and Murphy takes his cue. The hardware plate that had been our anchor point snaps free of the frame and comes back up the hill at Mach 3 with a vengeful shriek, cataulted by the tension of the huge strap. It puts a large dent on the bumper. A hush falls over the land. Grey Dog hisses and clutch fluid smokes.

The strap is attached to the frame and the shackle. We have learned from all previous attempts. Grey Dog surges and the bed is freed from its watery prison. James is victorious!

Somehow in the midst of all of this mayhem, I find an old encrusted Bulova watch valise. Opening it and shaking out the hundreds of ants that have taken up residence, I find six grimy, tarnished pennies. All are from the 60's and 50's, with one wheat penny to boot. Purgatory Ranch is already repaying us for our labors. Henceforth I dub the watershed, "Six Penny Pond"and James the "Towmaster". I consider us lucky to have shared the experience. A lot of work remains, but at least we know what we're up against! I just pray the skunk does not have it's revenge...

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