In deference to the demographics of our circle of friends, who trend old and often trip over things, yesterday we hired a backhoe and two young guys to clean up the stones that boobytrapped the garden in back of our house, and patch up the holes with black dirt. Alas, by noon the project had turned into a boondoggle that had us questioning our good intentions if not our sanity.
Our ranch is so littered with thousands of rocks of all sizes and shapes it makes me wonder if this area might not have been a meteorite landing field, only recently covered up by a thin layer of black dirt.
It’s a perfect terrain to build a house. To build the foundations, a little over 12 years ago, workers just had to cruise around with wheelbarrows and pick whatever size or shape rock they needed. And once up, this sucker has not settled one millimeter. Some San Miguel homeowners might complain about cracked plaster and other settling problems, but we haven’t spotted as much as a single hairline crack in the walls or ceilings.
The problem, though, comes when doing any landscaping. Any attempt to dig a foot-wide hole to plant a tree inevitably takes you straight to a rock, usually a big one. Backhoes, renting for approximately US$24 an hour, including the time of often amazingly dexterous young operators, are indispensable for any kind of tree planting, as well as truckloads of black dirt for backfill.
Within a hour of starting, yesterday’s rock-removal campaign immediately uncovered a problem we’d neglected to consider: “The Iceberg Effect.”
Rocks innocently poking a mere four or five inches above the ground would turn out to be but the tip of a boulder as big as a washing machine. It was then I recalled that jackhammers attached to backhoes had to be summoned to dig the trenches for our house’s foundations, and also that around here, the favored raw materials to build farm fences and houses and pave roads, are rocks, rocks and more rocks.
|As if from outer space.|
As the old backhoe belched and farted its way back to our driveway, the rocks grew bigger, approaching ginormous. Then we reached the one specimen that had the machine grunting like it was going to bust a hernia. And with it partially exposed, clearly there was no turning back.
After twenty minutes of a machine-versus-nature struggle, amid a cloud of diesel fumes, out came something that had everyone gasping—a rock, maybe five feet across, weighing at least a ton and perfectly shaped like a heart.
It didn’t break or show any signs of being, God forbid, a fragment of yet an even bigger boulder. Just a huge, perfectly shaped rock.
Stew, who seems to be embracing the occult in his later years, pronounced it a good omen, certainly a traditional symbol of love. And just in time for St. Valentine’s and our fiftieth anniversary coming up on June 20.
The Mexican workers began debating how to position the rock just-so, for best visual impact. I quickly declared that our heart-shaped conversation piece was in a perfect location.
In other words, we weren’t going to move that sonofabitch one inch from where it had been uncovered, and it would be the last rock with would dig up.
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.