Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

 

That’s America!

What do you do with a muddy T-shirt?

This part of Tennessee is known for it's red clay. We have a few inches of topsoil, but beneath that is several feet of the hardest, stickiest, clay known to man. When I was digging my garden, I prayed to hit on solid rock, just to get away from the clay.

One year for Easter, I had the bright idea that instead of Easter baskets loaded with candy, I would get each child a tree, to plant for their very own. It would be a much nicer celebration of Easter than gorging on candy. I thought it would be nice to have a lasting reminder of the holiday each time we looked at the trees they had planted. While it didn’t turn out quite the way I had planned, I know I'll always remember it, that's for sure!

The kids loved the idea, and so early that Sunday morning, we went out to plant their new trees. The air was crisp and cool, with a slight breeze. The sun had just come out, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky; simply a beautiful day.
Then we began digging.

Well, I began digging. The kids quickly discovered that after the first three or four inches, it became really hard work, and they quickly found other things to do. I dug the first hole in about an hour, working through the clay, removing rocks, roots, the occasional grub, and some things better left unidentified. Once the hole was deep enough and wide enough, I called the first child back over, and we began to plant the tree. We mixed the clay and topsoil with more topsoil from the garden center, (Have you ever bought dirt? You'll never use the phrase "dirt cheap" again if you have), painstakingly breaking up all the clumps and mixing the two soils with a garden rake to achieve the proper consistency, and began back filling the hole. Then we opened the root ball, and placed the tree in the hole. Now, before you put the tree in the hole, you have to form a slight cone in the bottom of the hole, and spread the roots around it. This helps the tree overcome the shock of being transplanted. The only problem is that the tree has been wrapped in a burlap bag for 6 weeks, and the roots have grown into a tangle worse than my son's shoelaces, before we discovered Velcro. I patiently untangled the ball of roots, losing no more than three or four to breakage, and we put the tree in the hole and covered the root ball. We mounded the soil up and then soaked it with water to fill all the gaps, then added more soil, just like it said in the gardening book. We mulched around the base, and then staked the tree to keep it straight.

One down, five to go. (For the math impaired, yes, I have six children.)

The dew had evaporated off the grass, and the sun had climbed a little higher in the sky. The crisp air gave way to a warm breeze that did little to cool me off as I began the next hole. The pleasant morning passed into an unpleasant afternoon, hot and muggy, more typical of July than April. The next three trees became a back-breaking, mind-numbing routine: Cut the sod away, dig through 3 inches of loam, then swing the pick at the red clay, and scoop the pitiful handful of dirt out of the hole. Put the tree in the hole to see if the root ball is covered yet. Pull the tree out of the hole and begin to dig again. Repeat. Chase dog away from freshly planted tree, re-mulch. Continue on new hole. Check depth of hole. Curse the day you ever thought of planting a tree. Stop dog from digging up newly planted tree. Replant newly planted tree. Go back to new hole and dig. No, the dog won't dig here, only where you've already dug. Trust me on this one. Chase dog away from newly replanted tree again. Trip over guy wire, cutting shin and uprooting newly replanted tree. Lie on the ground and curse Johnny Appleseed, and everybody remotely connected with Arbor Day. Get up, replant newly uprooted, freshly replanted tree. Continue work on new hole. Decide that the root ball doesn't absolutely have to be covered completely and plant new tree. Cover with topsoil and chunks of clay, then mulch. Dig up tree to stop child from crying because he didn't get to plant it. Re-plant freshly dug up tree, with said child's assistance. Proceed to next hole. Repeat three more times. Rig lighting to continue digging in the dark.

The day was gone; the yard was covered in darkness nearly as black as my heart. I was tired. The blisters on my hands had broken, re-blistered, re-broken and scabbed over. My back was permanently deformed; only several hours on the rack would get me to stand straight again. I was numb below the waist, except for the cut on my shin. Somewhere during the day, I had begun to loathe nature. As I swung the pick, I dreamed of napalm drenched rainforests, and barrels of Agent Orange, ridding the earth of every tree. I fantasized about strip mines as far as the eye could see, and endless acres of asphalt. But I couldn't disappoint my kids. They were counting on Dad to help them create new life in our yard, and I couldn't let them down. This was a family project and we had to finish it. What could I do?

So, I called them back outside (they had been inside watching TV for the last 4 hours, sticking their heads out and asking me if their holes were ready yet) and prepared to dig the last hole. Then I noticed something. Right near the front of the house was a little depression where the grass grew greener than anywhere else. This little depression was almost the perfect size for the last tree's root ball.

I know what you're thinking; I was thinking the same thing. But I was exhausted, and I didn't care anymore.

I cut the sod, slashed the root ball, dumped the tree into the hole, and put the last of the topsoil and the last of the mulch around the tree, creating a volcano shaped mound that completely disregarded all the advice in my gardening book.

I'm sure that some day in the future, my plumber will curse the idiot who planted a tree on top of the septic tank. I will join him in that cursing, and blame it on the idiot who lived there before me.

So, like I said, the red clay here is bad. It also stains everything from clothing to shoes to small animals. I've spent a lot of time cleaning that clay off of shoes, trying to avoid tracking it inside. My children aren't quite so diligent, so despite my best efforts, my carpet, which was once gray, has assumed a ruddy hue reminiscent of a Burnt Umber Crayola crayon, which isn't too bad because it helps the paw prints from the dogs blend in.

While most people, myself included, look at something like that and see it as a nuisance, others see it as a gold mine.

I have a buddy at work who is of the second sort. He collects dirt and clay from sporting venues and uses it to die T-shirts and Polo Shirts, then sells them as memorabilia. Tractor pulls, short tracks, baseball fields, wherever there's mud and people playing in it, he's there. Think about that for a minute; he's making good money selling dirty shirts.

Is this a great country or what?
Posted by Rich
Humor2 • (3) CommentsPermalink


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Thats one of the funniest stories I have heard in a long time!
Posted by Justin  on  11/11  at  07:43 PM

Glad you liked it....at least my pain and suffering didn't go completely to waste!
Posted by rich  on  11/11  at  09:59 PM

You forgot to add the part that only half the trees survived...
Posted by Isaac  on  11/13  at  11:44 PM

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