Last night the sun set bright pink across the whole sky. ‘Twas a portentous omen on the eve of Easter. It had significant meaning like sailors be warning. The meaning, if I can divine it right, was to lay down thy ‘implements of destruction’, put aside the metal rake and transfer shovel. Let the truck keys sit on their shelf and stir not a finger in the direction of a weed.
Ah, but the wife and I are heathen folk. We might be the devil’s own children for we know the secret formulas of sulfur, charcoal, and saltpeter. That’s black magic for sure. There were folks hung for less in Salem and other places. Our alibi is that we learned it from a History Channel DVD. I’m doing my research on black power weaponry. I wanna get a gun that’ll shoot beaver between the eyes.
Friday night, I went out in the moonless night after tucking the frog princess into bed. Again, I went out in my robe and stopped this side of the spill way to hear what the frogs were saying. And they said, ‘All is well, carry forth on your errand.’ So I did. I went across the dam to the culvert that was clear and flowing, making that certain noise so horrible to beaver ears, the sound of running water. I went there and I scanned round for beaver bodies working. I saw none. And so, I waited. Like a hunter, I waited.
That horrible noise must have been too much for them for after while one approached languidly, circling in closer. Ah, but I forgot to say that I was cocked and loaded with shot. I decided I’m never going to be accurate enough with a slug in the 20 gauge standing in the black of night. What am I, some trained killer or boy scout raised with guns? Pish-posh, I don’t know a thing. I’m just starting to learn in my research what are the meanings of caliber, center-fire, gauges, bores and whatnot. And thanks to History Channel’s ‘Tales of the Gun’ Discs 3 & 4, I now know the origin of the phrases ‘to go off half-cocked’ and to be a ‘flash in the pan’. And also, that it seems even our most celebrated scientists, like Galileo and Michelangelo, were sell-outs to the military-industrial-complex, back when it was a military-mostly-forged-by-hand-and-animal-power-complex.
In fact, watching the history of black powder and the rifle, et cetera, I think I can pinpoint the downfall of human society to exactly the time when guns & ammo gave chivalry & knights the pink slip (maybe J. Diamond already said this) and any idiot with a few weeks training could fire a gun and kill a fellow. But Joseph M. Marshall III does says something similar about the downfall when it happened among the Lakota on our American continent. All nobility was gone, bravery mainly abandoned. If there was honor in being a warrior anymore, it was hard to find and lost in all the senseless killing. But, oh, how I go off on tangents? Where was I?
That’s right. I saw the little bugger. He was swimming toward the culvert to stop up that flowing water. I leveled the barrel on him and had a good view in the reflected starlight on the water. The shot felt good. And there was no ‘beaver splash of the tail in anger’ afterwards. And the water still flowed the next morning when I went out to check the culvert. Ah, but there is no stopping these animals.
The following evening they were out again. One splashed his tail lightly in the distance while another approached and I took yet another shot. But this time it didn’t feel so good. And when I went back out this morning they had stopped up the water around the culvert and my first Easter chore began. Do the beavers not know that we should not work? It is a holy day! They are to blame for leading us to heathen ways, down the primrose path, first to chores clearing culverts and then on to heavy labor on holy days.
I just wanted to finish projects outstanding from the day before then switch to holiday/holy mode. I hate a job half done. First and heaviest, the old satellite footing was to be removed from next to the house. Like some vestigial embarrassment of a bygone broadcast era, the thing seemed to have been built to withstand a category five tornado. When you buy instead of build your ‘dream’ house you inherit these types of things.
We’d taken off the aluminum ‘wok’ part a few years ago and sold it for scrap, deflowered it if you will. But still, there was the steel footing post sunk in about three square yards of concrete. This great concrete mass had been dug around and sat for over a year like a brontosaurus egg in a nest outside our bathroom window. But finally, with truck and come-along, tamp and t-post we were able to wedge it out of the hole and into the bed of an old wheelbarrow-sans-wheels-and-other-hardware. It was sitting there in it’s sled not going anywhere. The truck, of course, couldn’t pull it. The thing must weigh six hundred pounds. Even on the “sled” it wouldn’t budge. Give the wife credit for the solution. We cut up 2 treated posts into thirds and on these six round logs we were able to roll it to an out of the way place. Yes, this is the way that the Great Khan’s of the past, moved their homes across the steppe. But it wasn’t easy.
That being done. It was time to finish burning the hedge apple (Osage orange) blow-downs along the pasture. This was simple enough until the fire got out of hand. And I lost control of it in the mostly dry and dead pasture grass. And it was about to blow out of the pasture and into the very flammable chestnut and hazelnut plantings. The flames were about shoulder high and I almost gave it up for lost. I prayed to God for the winds to change. I blew in the direction that I wanted the wind to come from (this is old Mongol magic). And low and behold they did change. And frantic, throbbing, sweating, smokey and out-of-breath desperation gave way to calmness.
Ah, but the funny part is when I was working along the burn with the shovel smothering and desperate, my son was behind me on the line moping up. And I told him, after my prayers were answered, “Thank God, the wind changed.” And he says, “Thank God? Don’t thank God. Thank Hanuman.” And I said, “All right. Thank you Hanuman.” What eight-year-old American farm boy thanks Hanuman?
Ah, but heathens though we may be, my son knows well enough what caves are to be remembered on Easter day. Though, he may thank Hanuman he knows the moral of the story is to not look for the living among the dead. And the moral of this story, might be the same. Heck, maybe that is always the moral of the story. Don’t look for the living among the dead.
That’s what we’re doing, “out here a thousand miles from [our] home”. Sick of looking for the living among the dead, we’re out here among the living. Living and working, enjoying holy days in holy toil. Yes, yes, it is romantic exaggeration. Perhaps the real moral of the story is not to work too much on Easter. And in my sweaty desperation, I did learn my lesson. And after a cold, hard cider, I stopped with the heavy labor and went exploring and canoeing with the kids, holy pursuits with holy rewards. We saw beautiful things, wondered, marveled and learned. But it seems there are lessons to be learned whatever road you’re on, holy or heathen. There are always lessons to be learned. But remember, don’t look for the living among the dead.