More Dogs on Main Street
June 18, 2010
I’ve had a string of bad days at work lately. I’m not talking about substantively bad days at work, where the company you work for goes bankrupt, or a project you’ve invested a couple of years on gets canceled. I’m talking about the bad day at work where the simple mechanical things go all sideways, making it impossible to get your work done.
It used to be that a bad day at the office was something along the lines of a computer foul-up, or the printer running out of ink. In my new, simple life as a tiller of the soil, a bad day at work usually begins with the weather. You might have noticed that it’s been rather damp lately. When the water isn’t coming out of the sky, it’s raging over the banks of the rivers. It’s been wild.
So when things finally settled down a little, I started to reboot the whole operation, turning the irrigation back on and picking up the pieces from a record flow in the river. It turns out the river has rearranged things a bit. Where I used to have my main irrigation canal, I had about 20 cubic yards of gravel, silt, driftwood, and whole trees. This was not something that I was going to solve with a shovel. I don’t own a piece of machinery that could even drive to the problem, let alone solve it.
I was standing there looking at the mess trying to figure out how to even begin, and not seeing an easy solution. It could take weeks to get a contractor up there, and by then the irrigation water would be gone for the season. Jeremy was there with me. When things get horribly bad, you want Jeremy there with you. If there’s a tree about to fall on the garage, he will cut it down and make it fall the other way. When bears are in the neighborhood, he and his dogs encourage them to move along. When the river dumps a mountain of stuff in the canal, his only questions are which piece of quarter-million-dollar machinery to bring up, and how soon.
His family has machinery like accountants have pencils. When I go to the hardware store, it’s Home Depot. When he goes to the hardware store, it’s the Cat dealer. It only took a couple of hours to get the canal mucked out and open for business. I’m sure there are lessons here about proportionality, worrying, and problem solving. But what I took away from the whole experience is that I really, really, want a track hoe.
Speaking of bad days at the office, Obama gave his first Oval Office speech to the nation this week. It was about the BP oil spill. Call me naïve, but even after this long, I still had great expectations of him. People still doubt the science behind climate change. There’s no way to doubt the slime on the beaches of the Gulf. Dead pelicans don’t lie. Here was a backdrop to demand that Congress find the courage to make sweeping changes in our overall energy policy renewables, nuclear, and the best hope (and the one that makes the Republicans shudder): conservation. With irrefutable proof that oil is fouling the planet behind him, I expected Obama to forcefully demand a change from the cheap energy policy that even Nixon tried to move away from.
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In the end, it seems to have been a lovely speech (I fell asleep part way through). He went on about how our energy policy isn’t working, and blah, blah, blah, something, something, without ever suggesting something as radical as proper tire inflation. It left me feeling all nostalgic for my Jimmy Carter cardigan sweater. Except that Obama didn’t even get that specific.
There was an opportunity to have used the disaster in the Gulf to change the direction of things. Cheap energy is so fundamental to our economy that change will not be easy and can’t be made quickly. But I wanted to hear two very specific things from Obama first, how we are going to deal with a mess that is likely to have globs of oil washing on shore for a generation even after the well is plugged, and second, what we do to solve the greater energy problems.
At the end of the speech, he shared a touching little anecdote about a tradition among the fishermen on the Gulf Coast that involves the local clergy blessing the fleet before the start of the fishing season. The president seemed to be telling the Gulf fishermen, and by extension all the rest of us, to pray for help in this terrible mess, because it’s pretty clear that’s all he’s got.
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.