The way out here

Scratching ahead

Posted 4/11/23

Not all jobs come after a lot of planning; sometimes they all but happen to you. Some jobs seem nearly impossible, until you blink and find yourself halfway done—and then you fight to get to …

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The way out here

Scratching ahead


Not all jobs come after a lot of planning; sometimes they all but happen to you. Some jobs seem nearly impossible, until you blink and find yourself halfway done—and then you fight to get to the finish line.

This last frosty weekend was one such job. Thursday rolled around and as I wrapped up my butchering work for the week, I found myself staring at an empty day in the old planner book. There was nothing else to do at the butcher shop, and like it or not, I had a free Friday on my hands.

Jokingly I exchanged all the normal possibilities with my father-in-law about what could be done with this rare free time, and the topic of our waterline came up.

Before I really knew where the conversation had gone, I was calling up Rent-E-Quip to get a quote on a mini-excavator for the following day.

Although I was greeted with initial skepticism about whether a machine or delivery service would be available for the following day, the call ended with the anticlimactic news that in fact there was indeed an opening for both. Checking our bank account to make sure we could swing it, I confirmed and went to bed that night, imagining the work I had just unwittingly volunteered myself into.

Don’t get me wrong, the work had needed to be done for as long as we’ve been growing vegetables. But it was the kind of undertaking that was guaranteed to carry weight, not only with the payoff, but also with the enormous task to get there.

Early the next morning, I arrived at my veggie patch to get to work. Already delivered bright and early was the mini-ex, sporting a spare trenching bucket and a full tank of gas to get right to work.

I hopped up on and gave myself a refresher on the controls, suddenly concerned about my ability to acquire the required coordination fast enough to complete the job.

Fortunately for me, after an initial bump against the corner fence post and a slight scare when the weight of the machine was thrown around opposite to the way I thought it was going, things started to jive, and as they say, I was off to the races.

The ground where I started was soggy and the trench was quick to fill with water, making me rely on the feel of the arm and bucket to know how deep I had delved.

The job itself was simple enough; all I had to do was cut a straight line about two to four feet deep from my water tank up the hill to a bass pond we planned to take water from to fuel our plants.

As I dug, I would have to stop and lay black waterline in the ground, unrolling it and splicing together sections and backfilling the sopping mud and clumpy sod as I went. The wind at times whipped up across the field, causing my eyes to lose focus as they glazed with tears, and my skin blazed with the same icy dryness that attempted to desiccate the ground around me.

The total was a mere 700 feet, but the first hundred or so threatened to extinguish my sense of confidence.

What I thought would be a single-day job quickly turned into a second, but the extension, better weather, and the clarity of the previous day’s toiling against a good night’s sleep made a difference.

Coming back to the job that Saturday brought me confidence but, as is consistent with my projects, new problems.

Within an hour of starting on Saturday morning, I lost a tooth on the bucket and sprang a small leak on the hydraulic line of the arm. Fretting over what this would do to my bill by the end of the day, I refueled, added hydraulic oil, and pressed on, now only a few hundred feet from completion.

The rental company was no longer in the office, and my rental time was coming to a close. Failure was not an option, because the prospect of finishing this with a shovel was far too soul-crushing.

I got into a good pattern of digging, moving and repeating until the line was complete.

As I got closer, the weather got nicer. It was almost like God was giving me and the machine the last push to get where we needed to be. My wife came out to help me lay the final length of pipe, and we backfilled with a sigh of relief, having completed this truly monumental task.

The way out here, sometimes when you’re staring up a hill, you just have to make that first scratch to get your momentum going. Don’t think about what you have to do or even the consequences of failure. Start in, don’t stop, and don’t give yourself any time to consider the alternatives. Then, when the dust settles, enjoy the significance of what you’ve done. Who knows how many years my family and I will use this waterline to provide for ourselves and our customers? The difference between where I started and where we are now was nothing more than a handful of overthinking and a dash of self-doubt.

excavator, waterline, planning


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