More Dogs on Main Street
November 6, 2009
It’s been a busy week around my place. The water system that serves the neighborhood just south of mine is rebuilding the collection works at its spring. It’s a great big spring, and they have excavated down to expose a big fissure in the bedrock. The water comes out of that with enough force that you can drop a tennis-ball-sized rock into it and the water pressure throws it back at you. The plan was to dig down to the bedrock and then put a concrete box around the water source that could be sealed from the surrounding soil and surface water.
It’s a pretty impressive bit of construction. There were excavators, a crane, backhoes, dump trucks, and a cement pumper. To get things dry enough to work without SCUBA gear, they brought in five huge pumps. At the peak of the pumping, they were moving between eight and ten thousand gallons per minute. They had to keep that going 24 hours a day for a couple of days to get things set, concrete poured and the whole thing backfilled. This is a neighborhood where I am often kept awake by the racket of deer chewing their cud at night. So a couple of thousand horsepower of diesel engines was a big change.
The construction site drew quite an audience, and they might have offset some of the cost of the work by selling popcorn. Unfortunately, the site was tucked back against the mountain, and while the rest of the valley was enjoying summer-like temperatures, the work site was in constant shade and never got above about 40. So there were limits to how long I could watch that one.
But right next door, there is another project that requires my attention. A neighbor is putting a big addition on a very old house. Most people thought the original house, which dates from the 1880s and sort of sags, probably wasn’t worth saving. Nobody knows how rotten the logs are, and there isn’t much of a foundation under it. But the addition is charging ahead.
It’s kind of a strange deal. The new room is huge, but has only a few small windows in it. The contractor said the interior will be lined with plywood under the drywall. The whole project seems to be based on the need to find a place — other than the owners’ living room in Salt Lake — to hang some 200-pound mounted moose and elk heads.
I can’t criticize that. I built a barn to fill with useless old tractors, and the only regret is that it could have been double the size. So if a guy’s marriage depends on getting the moose head off the living room wall in Salt Lake, I understand. I’ve met both his wife and the moose head, and would have to say both are definitely "keepers." But until you actually see a moose head screwed to the wall of the house, you don’t fully understand how large a room they need. I suspect the full collection includes everything from mountain goats to jackalopes. The door is too narrow for me to sneak an Allis-Chalmers in there unnoticed. I already measured.
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A friend of mine has a new excavator. It’s one of the big ones with a bucket that looks like it holds about a cubic yard. His brother has mostly been running it through the summer, and he wanted to get some time and experience on it. So he’s working on some irrigation ditches on the ranch that have gradually silted up and grown in to the point that we can’t get the water where it needs to go.
He let me play around on it for a few minutes. As much as I enjoy sidewalk superintending at construction sites, it’s definitely more cool to actually sit there and take the controls. In the hands of a good operator, this machine can either crush a house or pick up a golf ball. In a matter of just a few seconds, I had made a real mess of things and sent my friend running for cover. I managed to miss the fence, but my section of ditch isn’t exactly smooth and level. If I win the lottery, I’m definitely buying one of these.
There have been a lot of projects on the ranch where I’ve been the guy standing in the hole pointing to the water pipe with a shovel while somebody else is operating one of these machines. They move it like an extension of their hands, and can lift huge valves into position with precision. After sitting at the controls of this machine, I have an entirely new level of appreciation for the skill that goes into it.
With all these projects to watch, I’m just worn out.
Tom Clyde served as Park City attorney in the 1980s and is the author of "More Dogs On Main Street." He has been a columnist at The Park Record for more than 20 years.