Sometimes a little time must pass before we can talk about the really nasty, disturbing events in our lives. Finally, enough suns have set and enough moons have risen that I can discuss something that has gotten to me in a big way the last couple of weeks. Mud!
Yes, mud. Icky, gooey, gross, sticky mud. Like cat hair, it latches onto anything it can, coating and clotting its way from the road and driveway onto my shoes and pant legs and into the house. I find it in the oddest places—a little speckle stuck to a grocery sack, a chunk by the door, a smear on my purse.
Lately, we have had such an abundance of it that I can hardly remember the color of our vehicles. Next time you drive through a parking lot, take a look and see if you can identify the country cars and trucks. We saw one last weekend that had so much mud coating it, the mud finally started calving chunks like ice floes off a glacier. The asphalt beneath that pickup had enough mud covering it someone could have stuck in a couple of potatoes and carrots and started a nice little garden.
Mud does not simply obscure a car or truck’s paint job. It adds a new dimension to driving. I like to be at least the second person to drive down a mud road, just so I can read the tracks of the vehicle that passed before me. I know everything will proceed as it should when the tracks follow a straight line in the appropriate lane.
When I see tracks that swing back and forth across the road with sharp little wedges along the ditch that show where a previous driver jerked the wheel hoping to straighten things out, I know I should tighten my seat belt and check for loose items that can fly through the car. Those kinds of tracks make anyone take a deep breath and send a few extra little prayers heavenward.
Right now, we have an interesting situation the road near our house. Some of you may have taken your children to amusement parks that have those little roadways with mid-size cars youngsters can drive. Ever notice the rail that runs around the track to keep the car on the road? We have one running a hundred feet down the hill, across the bridge, and back up the hill. Only our rail is mud-formed after weeks of tires surging through it, creating the Grand Canyon of tracks.
Once I challenged it on an icy morning and found myself fender to fence post up the nearest incline. The road and I parted ways somewhere in my momentary rebellion, but no damage was done. Fortunately, I ventured only a bit from the beaten path and with few minor groans and grimaces, I re-entered the trail. After this experience, I suspect mud had a lot to do with the forming of those still present tracks on the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails.
Of course, if you are not in a hurry and you do not mind burying your vehicle, you can hit the accelerator, close your eyes, and scream “wahoo” until you find out exactly where nature takes its course. I think some of my students call this “mudding.” Since I am always going somewhere on a deadline, I have not yet enjoyed this thrilling element of mud. Perhaps when that day comes, my perspective will change.
Driving by the CO-OP, I notice the farmers and ranchers have a handle on the mud situation. They sport some dandy boots, tall rubbery ones they can hose off when the mud gets too thick. I think I might need a pair of those, maybe two or three. I could keep one in the car, one by the back door, and one by the front door.
My husband has a great pair of rubber boots I like to snitch, but they weigh so much before they get mud covered I cannot walk in them after the mud babies start clinging and clotting in each little tread, especially since they are way too big for my feet. By the time I make it to the dog pen, I can barely lift my feet. That short distance adds at least five pounds of mud to each foot, which causes the too large boots to pop right off my feet. I do not know what he does about this extra tonnage. He probably figures it is good for him and packs on a few more ounces of goo.
Mud is not only miserable; it multiplies the amount of work to be done. I know farmers and ranchers must plan extra time into their schedules to feed and work their animals. It adds drive time to get to town. Road crews know they have more work coming as soon as it dries. Housekeepers cringe just thinking about the extra vacuuming and scrubbing. It becomes obvious why farmhouses have a mudroom or mud porch.
But…yes, but… Lack of mud means lack of moisture. It means blowing dirt. It means watching the dust hang in the air for minutes and sometimes hours after someone drives down a country road. It means no green winter wheat peeking through the soil, no milo, no sorghum, no soybeans, no rippling creeks, no fish to catch, no wild flowers.
No mud suggests no life for many of us who love the prairie. I guess I will get me a pair of those light weight rubber boots and some extra vacuum bags and start counting my dirty blessings.