More Dogs on Main Street
July 4, 2008
This has been a summer of construction frustrations for me. We made the decision to modernize the farm by graduating from ancient Egyptian flood irrigation to a modern center-pivot sprinkler. It’s one of those big things that drives itself around the fields watering the hay.
Trying to do it in the spring was a gutsy move. If everything went well, it was supposed to be up and running by the first of June. If things didn’t go well … it would have been safer to install it in the fall, when the worst that could happen was that it would get snowed on before the project was completed.
But everybody involved and there are lots of them assured me that there was plenty of time to get it up and running in the spring, or by the middle of June at the very latest. The planets seemed properly aligned, and we decided to go for it. The schedule didn’t anticipate that it would still be snowing in mid-June and the fields so wet that the equipment was spending more time getting un-stuck than actually working.
I guess, sooner or later, every construction project turns to POO, which is a polite way of saying "parts on order" or words of similar import. Mine were coming from some place in Iowa, which was under water and not answering its phones.
About the time the project really began to unravel, and the excavator packed up and moved on to other jobs because there was no more he could accomplish, the project manager from the supplier in Orem went AWOL. He was leading a youth group on a pioneer trek in Wyoming.
For the uninitiated, this is a re-enactment of the Martin-Wiley handcart pioneer disaster. They load up a bunch of giant wheelbarrows and drag them across Wyoming for a week. Because it’s a re-enactment, nobody actually gets caught in a blizzard and dies, but I suspect that after several days of dragging their carts across the sage, it might be an attractive alternative.
Recommended Stories For You
When he came back from the 19th century, my 21st century irrigation system was still in pieces, and those pieces were scattered over at least four states. There were meetings. There were phone calls. There were days and days when nobody was here but the turkey buzzards, which have decided that the sprinkler is a great place to roost. There were more meetings, and the project manager is "no longer with the company." It’s not clear who, if anybody, has taken over his projects.
So here we are in July and I still can’t water the hay. It looks remarkably good considering that we’ve been driving track hoes, bulldozers and big trucks all over it for a month. Things are coming together, with pre-dawn concrete pours and scrambling to find electrical parts that never got ordered or fell off the handcart crossing the plains. The contract has every rubber grommet and self-tapping sheet metal screw itemized. Five pages worth.
It’s hard to look at a list of a few hundred items and see what’s not there. Nobody noticed that PVN-673-JK-WIX-783(98) had been omitted from the list. It never got ordered. I have no idea what that is, but it apparently costs $5,000 and nothing will run without it. For a part that critical, one would assume that there would be a few sitting in warehouses someplace. But that would be wrong. Some Swiss cuckoo-clock maker is carving it as we speak.
So while quietly going insane dealing with all kinds of problems that are completely beyond my ability to solve (other then the morning round of phone calls to get today’s excuse "the dog ate your circuit breakers"), I’ve tried to work on some things I can control. I built a barn for the antique Farmalls to live in. I don’t know how it got filled with junk so quickly. It hasn’t been finished for a week, and already I’m wishing it was bigger. But it went smoothly, and was a great excuse to buy a nail gun. If you’ve never used a pneumatic nail gun, they are great fun.
We had an old hay wagon stuck out in the field. It hadn’t moved in something approaching 25 years, when my Dad bought a team of horses and really got into playing with horse-drawn stuff. This wagon proved too heavy for the quarter-horse team and retired to the fence row. The tires were completely rotted off.
I called Tom at Burt Brothers and asked if he would keep an eye open for some tolerable used tires that would fit. Not ten minutes later he called back to say he had a set. So I got the hay wagon rolling again just in time to find a broken weld in the hitch. But I was able to get that fixed, too. The sprinkler project is stalled, but I can at least take the kids on a tractor ride to go look at the pile of scrap metal they will be making payments on for the rest of their lives.
You have to take success where you can find it. In a weak moment, I agreed to take on another volunteer job that involves record-keeping and managing a database. I’m not good at that, but they claimed it was all computerized and easy. The software won’t run on my Mac, so I had to spend a day figuring out how to convince the Mac to run Windows, which is just wrong. Installing the Windows disk in the Mac was the electronic equivalent of pouring ipecac syrup in the drive. But even that worked, with the added bonus of finding that Windows still comes with Free Cell and Spider Solitaire. So at least I can be entertained while nothing is getting done around here.
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 nearly 20 years.