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Fence Posts MAG
"Wake up." My dad gently shook my foot. I rolled over and looked at the clock - 5a.m. I rubbed my eyes as he continued talking. "The rain cleared, so we canstart digging and maybe we'll have all 15 fence posts planted by dinner. Butwe'll have to move fast 'cause it looks like it'll rain againtomorrow."
He left and I quickly slipped into my grubbiest clothes.Then I headed outside where Dad was waiting with a thermos of coffee, two mugs, abox of donuts and our tools. We wasted no time eating; we would eat as weworked.
The sky was dim, but the eastern horizon was beginning to glow aswe walked together through the morning stillness. We were alone with the smell ofthe thick dew, which was spread out on the ground and tangled up in thevegetation, and clung to us as we sloshed through it.
The sun was slippingover the horizon by the time we began work on the first hole. We were soonsurrounded by the many waking birds who sang their greetings to eachother.
Before we started, Dad spoke softly, "I never know what I'mdoing, but that doesn't stop me." Of course, this was not true. I hadlearned that he did know what he was doing, or could figure it out like apuzzle.
I jabbed the trencher into the ground and stood on it with bothfeet. The ground was wet and my shovel had no problem sliding into the ground. Irepeated this to outline the size and shape of the hole, and when I reached themaximum depth, I dropped to my knees and continued with the hand shovel, whichwas not effective, so I ended up using my hands.
Periodically, I wouldwipe my mud-caked hands on my jeans to eat a doughnut and drink some coffee. Ittasted good, the sweetness of the glazed doughnuts contrasting with the bittercoffee. Then I continued digging.
We finished and Dad readied the post. Wedropped it in, packed the mud down with our fists and nailed the supporting beamsto the post. I measured its tilt with the level, and when the bubbles lined upjust right, we staked the supporting beams to the ground.
We walked backto our yard where we had laid out pallets of cement. We poured the powderedconcrete mix into the wheelbarrow and Dad sprayed water into it as I mixed. Whenwe were done, we pushed the wheelbarrow around to the post. Our walk back to ourworksite was different; this time, everything was awake. The sun illuminated thesky and had burnt off most of the dew. The animals had begun their day and werescampering about, acting as if they had somewhere important to go and were verylate.
Reaching the hole, Dad tipped the barrow and I scraped the cementinto the hole with the hoe. It was necessary to fill each one as we dug, and notwait until we finished because if rain were to sneak up on us, all the holeswould be ruined, and our work lost.
We patted the wet cement with ourhands, an action Dad called the "jitter bug" because the surface wouldjiggle up and down. The point was to make the rocks in the cement sink to thebottom to add weight.
We continued to dig holes, pack down the bottom, setthe post on its stilts down in the hole, check the post with the level, nail thesupporting beams into place, mix the cement, pour the cement into the hole, and"jitter bug." It was a long process.
Six holes later, we stoppedfor lunch. We ate peanut butter sandwiches, drank cold water from the hose, andtalked. Dad reminisced about helping Grandpa mix cement the old-fashioned way.Grandpa would measure the concrete into the trough, and then count six shovels ofgravel, six shovels of sand, a half bucket of water, chop-mix with a hoe, andthen try to adjust the mixture to the right consistency. It was trial and error,taking precious time. Our conversation ran freely through the fields of my dad'spast and my future.
After a while, the work became routine. Some holes didbreak the usual pattern, however, causing delays. We were interrupted in ourdigging because of some tree roots, but Dad hacked through them with a hatchet.At the eleventh hole, we found a slag pile where construction workers haddiscarded cement years before. We had to use a wrecking bar to break that up, butwe persisted.
Pressing on through the afternoon, we began to move inrhythm with each other in silence. Words became unnecessary. We could anticipateeach other's every move, with a simple look-and-nod connecting us into a flowingdance of activity. We thought, and worked, as one.
Periodically, a wormwould thrust its head through the side of a hole, wave around in search for dirt,then return to the safety of its dark tunnel. Smart move! This little inspectorobviously disapproved of our work. No matter. I look back on that job withspecial satisfaction. More was planted that day than fence posts.