Tom Clyde: Rocks in my pockets
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June 30, 2017
Summer is in full swing at the ranch, which means every day offers something new, exciting and completely unplanned. That ensures that everything that was routine, scheduled and planned is pretty much undone before breakfast.
The river behaved in a gradual runoff, so I didn't get flooded. It was still a huge river and took out a whole lot of problem beaver dams in the side channels. I'm glad to have the beaver dams gone, since they were gradually elevating the water table enough to cause septic tank issues.
But the displaced beavers are running amok. They seem to be finding irrigation ditches pretty attractive places to set up shop. For the most part, they are in the main flow of the river, popping out at night to drop an aspen tree across the driveway, and moving on.
There are a million little projects and things that need attention. I'll spot something that needs work — a broken gate hinge or the irrigation system squirting water from a wrong place (like the electrical box) — but I'm working on something else and don't have the proper tools with me, or something else is more urgent.
The end result is a growing pile of very clean gravel on top of the washing machine.
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So I've developed a system for keeping track of things I need to come back to. I stick a pebble in my pocket.
There are time-tested techniques like carrying a note pad and pencil. The pencil always breaks, and I fall in the ditch about three times a day, so the note pad gets soaked or blows away.
More technologically aware people might use various functions on their phones. I don't carry my phone around the ranch because it doesn't work out here, and it, like the note pad, would fall in the ditch. So the cell phone is as useful as a rock — which is probably where the idea of putting a pebble in my pocket as a reminder came from.
The only problem is that when it comes to actually being reminded, a pebble doesn't carry a lot of interpretive detail. There's a rock in my pocket, so I must be trying to remember something important. But what? The end result is a growing pile of very clean gravel on top of the washing machine.
Other times, I will remember something very specific, in the tiniest detail, except where it is. I spent a good part of today trying to recall where a specific scrap of angle iron was. I had, at some point many years ago, put it in a specific place in case I needed it. Suddenly I needed it.
The piece in question is a scrap of the track that hangs in the top of the barn. The hay trolley that hoisted the hay up into the barn, back before hay was baled, ran along that. I saw a cool hay trolley recently, and decided that I needed to make a light fixture out of it. But it wasn't right without the track. Angle iron is angle iron, except when it is something else. This is cut to odd dimensions and has two pieces riveted together with a spacer to fit the trolley's wheels and the hanging hardware to anchor it to the ridge beam of the barn. I knew I had scrap of the 100-year-old track around here.
Everybody has had the experience of knowing that they have something, but not knowing where it is. You can turn the house inside out looking. In my case, I could turn a half dozen barns inside out. It's not exactly a needle in a haystack, but there is a haystack involved, and a rusty, 6-foot scrap of specially cut angle iron might as well be a needle. The ranch is more than a square mile, so there are lots of places to have spotted a piece of rusty iron once in the last 60 years. There are two barns on the ranch that still have hay trolleys in them. There are several piles of random scrap iron.
The situation called for a good nap to let the idea ferment a little bit. There were several barns to choose from, and there is also the pit where all the scrap wood and broken branches get burned. Lots of miscellaneous hardware bits in that pile of stuff. But when I got up from the nap, I was pretty sure it was buried under about a foot of old hay and raccoon poop on the east side of the sheep barn.
Much to my amazement, it was right there, exactly as I had remembered it. The track was also the right size to fit the random hay trolley I had bought.
Now if I could only remember what emergencies all these rocks in my pockets were supposed to remind me of . . .
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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