Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mucking Around

It’s coming.

I’m not speaking about spring or summer, or even Christmas. I am referring to something much more sinister and tormenting. I speak of the dreaded event about to strike any day now. Here in Maine, we call it (insert drum roll here) . . . Mud Season.

We live on the side of a big hill or little mountain, depending on how you look at it, away from any large cities. Our house sits halfway up a dirt road, at the end of our long, dirt driveway. It is breathtaking and serene most–er–a great deal of the time.

Our first year here we’d heard the vague term "mud season," but it had little meaning to us at the time. I remember thinking: So it gets a little muddy, how bad can it be? That first spring, we still thought of mudslinging as something only politicians do, but when the UPS driver came to deliver my new laptop, reality literally set in.

With my husband working out of town, and me staying home due to illness, I didn’t even know the mud had arrived. Well, not the kind that sucks large delivery trucks into the core of the earth, anyway. When I answered the door, the deliveryman handed me my package and then asked if there were any men at home. I tilted my head and squinted my eyes, thankful–for once–that my dogs refused to listen to my pleas for them to be quiet, then asked him why he wanted to know.

"I may need some help getting out of here," he said. "It’s a little muddy."

Is that all? Whew! Well, talk about your understatements. Ha! After listening to him rev his engine for about ten minutes and watching muddy sections of my front yard fly off into the surrounding woods, I put on my rubber boots and went out to see what I could do to help.

I walked over to the van to ask if he thought putting some planks under his sinking tires might help. As I neared the vehicle, I noticed the ground became soft and mushy. The closer I got, the more I sank into the earth. The driver agreed to try the boards, so I ran to the basement to retrieve the ones I had passed on my way out.

As I made my way back to the truck, an unpleasant sucking noise resounded with each step. All of a sudden, the mud held fast to one of my boots, and before I could react, my foot slid out. My sock remained safe inside the rubber, and I struggled for balance while my rogue appendage sought refuge.

Seconds passed in slow motion. Realizing the ground had claimed my other foot, too, I dropped the wood and swayed from side to side trying to maintain my equilibrium. As I lost the battle, my foot smashed into the mucky dregs. Tumbling forward, my hand jutted out to break my fall, and I think I yelled out, "Oh shit!" While I didn’t see any doggie droppings nearby, the brown stuff I now had all over me came close enough.

Turns out, boards are no help when you embed your vehicle in a foot of soupy ground. Neither are chains, or the heavy rope I brought out as a last resort. About a half-hour into the spinning of tires in sludge, my eyes widened and I got his attention by pointing to the bottom of his van. I wonder if he noticed the problem as soon as he got out, because he didn’t have as far to step down. The base of the truck now kissed the very terrain the driver tried to escape.

I handed him my cordless phone–we don’t get good cell reception here. (I know, I know!) And while he made his call for help, I went over and sat on the deck stairs. He turned his back to me, but I could still hear certain words. "What? Kidding me!" and "NOW!" dominated his side of the conversation.

His face reddened, and he leaned forward into the phone as he spoke. On a hunch–or maybe it’s when I heard the first curse word fly, I decided to go make a pot of coffee. As I washed the muck off my hands, I tried not to think of the crud I’d tracked in. My foot felt uncomfortable encased in the dirty, scrunched-up sock inside my boot, but I put it out of my mind and headed back outside.

When I rejoined my new friend, he stood in the sea of muck, staring at his incapacitated chariot. He looked at me with a confused, lost expression.

"They said it’s going to be awhile."

"Why don’t we get out of this mud and go up on the deck?" Although our deck furniture still lay in its winter home, I figured we could at least lean on the railing while our boots dried.

I got us some coffee, and we talked as we drank. As I refilled our cups, I decided to invite him in. He seemed nice enough, and besides, watching the dogs slobber all over the sliding glass door unnerved me. We discussed our families and pets, society’s ills, politics (am I being redundant?), our job histories, and our theories on how to make the world a better place.

Three hours later, a huge tow truck barreled up the muddy road and backed all the way into my narrow, soggy driveway. Although we had made the best of this forced bonding, we both jumped up, mid-sentence, and bounded out the back door.

I felt like a band should play while we waved our hands and danced the jig. Instead, we smiled and watched the big machine pluck the van out of the quicksand. Then, my adventure ended and I watched both trucks drive away. For a moment, I stood alone, feeling a little bogged down (Sorry–couldn’t resist), but the sentiment passed as I kicked off my boots and headed for the shower.

Every year at this time, I reflect on our mucky experiences. (Yes, there have been others.) I sometimes wonder if that UPS driver ever has fond thoughts of his time spent mired in the woods of Maine. If not, he’s just an old stick-in-the-mud!

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