Life's A Ditch
We were whittlin' and spittin' off Al's front stoop. The dogs kept bringin' thrown sticks and balls back up the ridge. They had us trained pretty darn good. We would look up to the clouds comin' in from the Ocean through the straight-shot creek-water n' wind eroded out canyon due west. The islands lookin' like little flock a turtles due south, gauging how the winter rains would affect our comin' winter's work.
"Saw a Bobcat that was real fuzzy!"
"Saw that ol' Mountain Lion down by the holler t'wards Fomasi's wearin' sunglasses."
"Never can tell."
"Still seems season's comin' on..."
Our signs had been repainted.Ads ready at newspapers waiting for us to say go.The big ugly trucks and back-ups were hummin' and out-fitted with tuned chain saws, long clankin' steel pullin' chains and tire chains for various vehicles and some for the big ugly Four-Wheel Drives. This year we set up hot coffee and chocolate thermos's down there where you shift into low gear. Little magnetic signs got slapped on the doors showin' a sort of gorilla grabbin' and liftin' a little Mercedes out of a steep creek-bed.
All these retirees and yuppies and some monstrous big young money movin' in here from cities and sorted created a real boom for unstuckin' shiny motorcars. They can't drive without curbs or four lanes for Poop! Cement Truck Hill is the most profitable half-mile I know...other than a few places where the Redwoods have narrowed the road to just maybe a lane besides kickin' up the pavin' all which ways.
Young moms or stay at home poppas or folks workin' in the house never havin' to pay no never-mind to a punch-clock or boss, they drive like they'd never seen a winding road, the ones ya have to look at and steer so ya don't ka-bonk into a tree or oncoming whoever. They must figure thier healthy coat of lacquer and penguin wax or whatever keeps'em safe. These days spiffy Volvos are like Volkswagens. Gettin' won't be long before the "People's Car" will be a Toyota 4-Runner.
Jeez, it wasn't fifteen years or so ago Grant King runnin' for County Supervisor against a young Environmentalist Incumbent Whippersnapper called Joy Ridge The Champagne Ghetto !
Only gotten worse. This time the Whippersnapper is runnin' against another Do-Gooder. We're so chock full of well-meaning, eat snails for lunch don't smush'em with your boots, gaggle of folks it'd make your Amnesty International Card stand up and salute.
Years back we got a contract with The County . We'd clean out the roadside ditches so the rainwater would run tippy-lappy down the mighty pretty sloped watershed hillsides into Salmon Creek, then The Pacific, past the surfers and on over to Asia.
We got the tow bid because we wanted a win-win situation. People would drop a wheel in a ditch. We'd pull-up wearin' slickers ready for a Nor'wester and red-plaid hunters caps with either one flap down or the other or both.
"Uhh-huh... Does look to be stuck awl-right..."
We'd give them something hot to drink. Sometimes if they were nice, offer the adults a little snort to keep warm. Kids and Womenfolk could stick with the heaters in the trucks. We'd pace distance, depth and how much ditch our contract called to clear. Often fire-up a chain-saw to make it sound as good as it looked. One guy thought we were gonna cut his tires off to un-stuck his bright new car.
'Well... yes...Would get a might better bit o' traction and steerability rolling on the rims but let's first try cutting a few Redwood limbs to put under yore zillion dollar a pop radials."
While Al explained we didn't take American Express, I made a lot of noise cutting some branches, threw them in the back of my truck for kindlin'. Then we cleared a good fifty yards of previously filled with washed down pasture brush and limbs ditch.
His Fancy Car that cost more than five acres around here even now, had an "I Love Golf", with a little red heart shape for "Love", license plate holder. Gold chrome wrappin' the message.
This is as much fun as helpin' Tom's Dad; ever tell you about Tom's Dad, Vern?, a Welder in Schenectady workin' in a building Edison and Stienmetz built to help build electricity. When not welding, Tom's Dad had a fine get rich quick thought up in the back roads of the Adirondacks. Cool green winding macadam roads with frost heaves. Sun just filters in through the maple, beech and fir. Out on a bumpy curve he's nailed up hub-caps way high there in the trees. It was sort of like a bunch of Billboards for his some more than other's, used Hubcaps what fell off fast goin'-by cars that didn't know or care to stop if they did, For Sale Shop in the trees. Tom wonders if the soon to be sudden wealth will change Dad. Doesn't figger t'will when it does.
Anywhose...back here and now and then some, We'd say , "Okay, Turn your wheels into the hillside....it's like steerin' into a skid."
Damned if'n more'n likely they would. Don't that beat all?...
Once enough got drug up and cleared, we'd holler..."Right You Are There!!!...Now just crank'er back into the road sorta."
They'd be real happy and pay us alot of money and wonder how they took a wrong turn on the way to Bodega Bay?
We'd shake hands and say, these things happen. Fact be known, we drive all the way out to Bodega Bay sometimes in the fog. Hardly know then, if it weren't for the Ocean sound and the whistle buoy off The Head.
Not letting all that much go to chance, there'd be signs down by the main road. For a couple miles would be "Ol' Dead Rancher's Widder Woman who doesn't know a Shovel for a Massey-Ferguson Barn Sale!" Or "Old Rich Collector Lady's Kid's who don't care but for money Antique Sale!". Of course in the city papers to the south we'd advertise a "Anonymous Celebrity that didn't want anybody to know they lived up here and just Croaked Estate Sale!".
Yeah we figgered best be not to let to much rest just on dumb luck. We just twiddled with the odds a touch.
Like flies to a honey-pot.
And talkin' about a real sweetheart, Ernie, our district's Supervisor [Hey Ernie!...How DO ya Spell Super-Vis-OR?...Thanks Ern! ] gave us shiny medals and a Big Trophy for savin' the county money by not goin' over our contract's budget for ditch clearin' and being friendly to tourists and folks in need. Helpin' strangers to find out what direction to point the fancy chrome grill with all the little medallions like suitcase stickers from places where they can't even talk American to get to where they're wantin' to get gone to.
So there we were, in The Casino that's named after Art Casini not about a Roulette wheel and spiffy plastic lights that bubble and have fish swimmin' through and ever'thing, but in The Casino all the same, standin' on a big stage and wavin' to all our friends wearin' baseball hats with tractor names on the front with the bills stickin' out frontwards to keep the sun from your eyes not turned bass-ackwards the way city-kids and those ridin' bicycles that cost more than it took Mahoney AND Lucille to fly back to the family stompin' grounds in Italy's wine country, up there on the Four by Eight plywood over Pool Table Stage with Salmon, Crab, Beef Stew, Lamb and a ton of other stuff!
Ernie said he'd pay for ever'thing plus donate two new Fire trucks that start good AND stay an extra hour for the "Dunk The Supe" Tank to raise money when "The Bodega Big Event" comes 'round next August. [ YOU DID TOO, ERNIE !... I HEARD YOU SAY IT MYSELF ! ] That Ernie, He's a darn fine fella, I've voted for him tons of times. Every year.
As a Ditch-Digger for the County...although I use other folks' fancy cars or Sport Utility Vehicles fresh from the showroom, I can recommend this line of work to any young person thinkin' of startin' a new business. Out in the fresh air, meetin' new and interesting people. Imagination and initiative is well rewarded! And you get paid BOTH by The County [ WITH BENEFITS ! ] and Grateful Clients [ THEY TIP GOOD TOO ! ] . It's darn satisfyin' , honest work.
I remember old stories...The Moonspinners would lure sailing boats onto the rocks and salvage the cargo that washed-up on the shore.
Gives you a warm feelin' deep down knowin' you're keepin' a tradition alive.
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