More Dogs on Main
August 20, 2010
For those who care, this is an important potgut alert: They have hibernated. Year in and year out, the "potgut" ground squirrels hibernate at my house on August 15, give or take a day. It’s almost sudden how they disappear. One day the pasture is writhing with them. It’s hard to walk through a field without stepping on them. The next day there will be a couple of stragglers gorging on the last of the tender grass. Then a couple of days later, there are none.
The hawks are circling, hungry and frustrated that the all-you-can-eat buffet has been closed. It’s pretty slim pickings for them, and they will pack up and hit the road within a week or so now.
There’s no getting around it fall is here. The aspen leaves have dried out enough that the slightest breeze makes them rustle. Summer isn’t exactly humid around here, but the air is much drier all of a sudden. And it’s been getting pretty cool at night. I’ve been as low as 40, and some of the other cold spots like Silver Creek and Coalville have been down to 38.
I was in a neighbor’s house the other day and noticed the Christmas tree is up. I don’t know whether that is getting the jump on the season, or if they just never got around to taking it down from last year. I thought it best not to ask; I still have the snow shovel on the front porch and the gaiters from x-c skiing are still hanging on the drying rack, so I’m in no position to pass judgment.
On the big weekend mountain-bike ride, the conversation turned to skiing. Often those preseason conversations are about what gear is hot this year, and what we are going to replace. This year, it seemed to be more about how much life there was left in the old stuff, and how these are the best skis ever. In other words, nobody can afford to buy new stuff this season. That doesn’t mean we won’t be skiing, but I will be sporting a little duct tape.
Things are winding down on the ranch. Once it starts getting this cool at night, the hay more or less quits growing. I’ve got one, or maybe two, water turns left before my irrigation water is gone for the season. At this point, that’s really OK with me. The joy of irrigation begins to wear off by this time of year, though I have to confess that there is always some appeal to playing in the water damming ditches up and spilling it out on the field.
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But it’s also amazing how quickly a day can completely unravel. I needed to make one simple switch in where the water was running the other morning. I just needed to pull a piece of sheet metal out of a slot in a culvert to send the water down the other side of the field. It was the kind of move that didn’t even require boots. Except that the sand and gravel in the ditch had worked into the slot where the metal is supposed to slide up and down. It was wedged in solid and might as well have been welded. So before long, I’m knee deep in the ditch without boots on at about 50 degrees. After a fair amount of pounding and prying with a shovel, and a string of profanity that would have made my sheepherder grandfather proud, it moved a little. So I got on top of it and yanked. The gate opened, and as the metal slowly slid up, a mother skunk and her babies stuck their heads out of the culvert to see what all the commotion was about.
That seemed like a very good time to check on something important at the other end of the field. In the meantime, my main dog, Big Lizzy, found something dead to roll in. I’ve been taking care of a niece’s dog while they are on vacation. Her husband was due to pick him up in about a half hour, so their dog finds the mother of all cow pies to roll in. And my new dog, the three-legged golden who just showed up one day, decided he needed to chase the skunk family down the ditch toward me.
The mother skunk blasted with both barrels. Fortunately, she was still trying to hide out in the ditch, and the blast was confined by the deep grass on either side of the ditch bank. It was still enough to bring tears to my eyes, and almost choke me, but by some miracle nobody actually got skunked. Well, nobody who lives at my house. My niece’s dog was a different story. But I’m sure her kids will be happy to see him, just the same.
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.