FourHoles

FourHoles
Earth, Giuseppe Arcimboldo, possibly 1566


"It might not say anything about me or my overblown prowess …"


The oldest political advice counsels that if your opponent's busy digging a hole, stand aside, but what to do when you catch yourself digging one, or, as in my case, find myself engaged in digging four holes? I imagined each a modest effort, though I knew the substrate beneath that flowerbed. I was building a defense against the bastard deer, who, around here, put self-respecting omnivores to certain shame, for they eat anything, everything, even prickly gooseberry shrubs and rhubarb leaves, which by international decree have been recognized as deadly poisonous to all species since at least the early Middle Ages. I'd moved my circular wire fence from my rhubarb bed to enclose the gooseberry garden after The Muse had spotted the c deer gnawing my beleaguered bushes, thinking that now that the rhubarb's well established and lush, the deer wouldn't be in any rush to assault it this year. Once I'd moved the barrier fence, the deer mounted armed assaults against the rhubarb, stripping every leaf from every stalk, gratefully avoiding the edible stalks, which The Muse made into a custard pie, but the damage was done. I'd need a better barrier for the gooseberries once I moved the rhubarb's original protective fence back where it apparently belongs.

Hence, the holes.
I own a post hole digger, a simple clamshell device which breezes through soil and features two long pole handles operated by muscle power and gravity. I also owned four old steel fence posts, abandoned alongside the house by some previous owner. I figured I could spend an hour or so and erect a net fence the deer could not penetrate. I'm now on the third day of the effort. The first day, I managed to dig two almost deep enough holes without puncturing any drip irrigation lines. These holes were only almost deep enough because a foot down, the ground turned to stone, which considerably slowed progress and concomitantly cooled my initial self-esteem. I took to using the base of one of the steel fence posts to break up the otherwise impenetrable barrier. The job quickly turned excruciating, with me on my knees worshiping a vengeful and unforgiving god while making little progress. The physical exertion and the sun encouraged me to leave the job half-done until the next morning, when I could work in the spruce tree's shade and feel well-rested.

The third hole proved worse than the first two combined, with fairly solid rock no more than a foot down. Oh, I managed to nick a drip irrigation line right off, necessitating a distracting break while I fetched the mending supplies. When a man has his head and heart set on digging a hole, picky irrigation line mending becomes nigh on to impossible, like asking a pile driver to craft fine lace, but I persisted and succeeded. I needed to relocate that third hole further out of harm's way. I took to counting the clamshell digger slams, twelve one way, then twelve turned ninety degrees, then scoop out the resulting half cup of gritty soil. Repeat ad nauseam or until an arm falls off, rest then repeat again, inch by bleeding inch. I finally abandoned that effort in favor of starting its brother hole next door, figuring that I could always come back for more. I needed some actual soil to renew my faith in myself. That fourth hole proved even worse than the third. After an hour of near fruitless effort, I filled each hole with water, it being the universal solvent and all, then distracted myself with easier chores. The water remained undrained an hour later, a shiny glaze seeping up from the greasy bedrock below.

This morning would be day three of my little landscaping job, four holes, freshly painted repurposed fence poles, twenty feet of four-foot high netting. I dreamed of my creation overnight while my Incredible Hulk shoulders throbbed and twinged. I imagined the world, or my backyard portion of it, conforming to my design and me, looking down on the finished construction, satisfied. I'd Googled post hole digging after that second day's disappointing progress, but I mostly found the sorts of fools who make YouTube® videos to show off their new power tool. I do not use power tools. I consider them cheating and dangerous. My landscaping principles only stretch as far as hand tools can reach, and I have no interest in achieving the sort of dominion requiring a Diesel engine and ear protection. I found one video insisting that water would be the key and another introducing me to the geological concept of caliche, a naturally-occurring cement which seems the foot-down underlayment of my my whole damned yard. That video recommended using a five-foot long heavy iron bar to beat my way through that bedrock layer.

When does anyone finally choose retreat over continued assault? Nothing in anyone's Good Book guarantees that MY will might necessarily be done, and the future of my once brilliant solution to my deer dilemma seems as though it has already passed. I could assuage my spirit by reminding myself just how much dedicated effort I'd put into completing this scheme and that additional fruitless exertion probably won't ever improve anything. WhatNow? What Next? My post-apocalyptic second ideation might prove just as or even more effective against the expletive deer, but I can't quite see that future from where I'm looking ahead. I sit here considering the consequences of surrender, how that bedrock has been there under that thin top layer of so-called soil since before dinosaurs started pooping in the trees. It might not say anything about me or my overblown prowess if I beat a hesitant retreat from this effort. What Now? What next, indeed.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved








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