This is a chapter from “A Little More Common Sense”, scenes from my childhood from a totally different perspective.
With a ton of stone in the bed for traction, I tried using the four-wheel drive truck and its’ snowplow to bulldoze dirt. We needed an embankment on the upstream side, and we need it fast, but the snowplow refused to dig in the hard dirt.
Undaunted, I persuaded the ancient tractor to start, and began to drag the farm disc cultivator ’round and ’round the creek bed above the bridge. A few trips loosened the dirt all over a half acre about three inches deep. The snowplow pushed the loose dirt easily, and I soon had satisfying mounds of dirt piled against the retaining walls.
A full weekend of this dizzying work created an earth dike four feet high and a hundred feet long, extending from the bridge in both directions to high ground. It was raining while I finished, and continued to rain for two weeks. The dike turned to soft mud and settled a lot.
Stone-hauling continued every evening in the icy fall rain. The dike leaked in places, keeping us busy plugging holes with chunks of stone, but the dike held. The half acre bowl-shaped depression wed dub on the upper side of the bridge was now a lake.
More stone raised the level of the dike and covered the mud to keep it from washing away if the water spilled over the top. The rain stopped, and the lake subsided. There was a foot deep pool in the lane on the unfinished house side, but it was passable with two feet of solid stone fill beneath.
Gradually, the stone-hauling raised the lane above water level. The lane was passable in the car now, and got better with every load. Winter came and all work halted. The pool was frozen solid, so we traveled in and out easily, although carefully on the ice.
With spring came the acid test for the new bridge. Spring rains were always heavier than fall rains, and lasted longer. The spring of 1970 was wetter than normal. Ordinary drizzles lasted for weeks, saturating the soil so every drop that fell ran racing down the steep hills to our creek.
In late March, four inches of rain fell in one afternoon, in a matter of two hours. When I drove in from work, water was level with the top of our dike, and two streams were pouring from the culverts. Water as trickling over the top in places.
I put on tall boots and went to check it out. There didn’t seem to be nearly enough water coming out of the culverts, considering that they were submerged on the upper end. Some poking with a stick dislodged limbs and leaves that clogged the culverts, but there was still comparatively little flow through them.
Further prodding disclosed something else blocking the culverts. Water was beginning to run over the dike in a small stream and cutting a trench as it went.
There was no choice but to climb down into the frigid water. Some groping in the muddy yellow water found the problem; a small cedar tree had washed down the creek and lodged crossways in front of the culverts. Finding was one thing, removing was something else. The surging current held the tree against the concrete with tremendous force. I pulled hard with both hands and bent with my nose almost in the water to reach for a better grip when the tree dislodged upward. The other end was directly in front of a culvert, so the current grabbed it and tore it from my grip.
It turned and was sucked endwise into the near culvert, which in the process pulled me off balance to fall almost into the current. One foot went in front of the surging opening to catch myself, and was instantly swept into the culvert. I grabbed onto the bridge railing posts and pulled myself up and out of the water, safe and sound, but minus one boot.
Once I had clambered onto the bridge, the bare foot was more comfortable than the other one, which was soaking in a bootfull of icy creek water. Wet all over, I sat down to pull off the other boot and survey the damage. Water was roaring along happily through the culverts now. I noticed the cedar tree bobbing along a couple hundred yards downstream.
The water level had ebbed somewhat. It was no longer running over the dike, but I slogged over to the breach and kicked a couple big rocks in the new trench anyway to stop any chance of more damage. Surely, this rain was the worst test the bridge would ever see. The dike held. The roadbed was intact. It looked like we’d finally won. I sloshed my way to the house, to get dry and warm, not feeling too victorious.
You couldn’t really win against nature, I thought. The best you could hope for was an armed truce. I felt the lack of ultimate victory and the relentlessness of weather and nature. Ten, twenty, or a hundred years from now, the creek would eat away at our bridge and eventually win again. But for now, we had our small victory. The bridge would serve us well for as long as we were likely to need it. That would have to be enough.
Statistics: Posted by rj5156 — Thu Feb 16, 2017 11:30 am