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‘Dead body’ and the pursuit of good grazing

This is the first year in a long time that we have managed to clean the ditch, get the water running (for which we own rights), and get the 1930-1950-1980-1995-something pump system going. This feat took four intelligent adults about three weekends of work, all for the sake of the horses’ grazing.

Pulling in the driveway Saturday, I noticed that our street had a giant puddle next to it. I also noticed that water spurted out from the dirt levee that shields our property from the road. Rogue water was ruining my triumph over that little known force of nature: irrigation.

It didn’t take long to figure out that a pipe behind our levee had backed up and forced water through the side of the levee. Our house was built in 1897, give or take a year, and these are old pipes, now covered in decades of dirt and evolving trees. The pipe had performed a miniature sedimentary geology experiment that now needed digging out. Later, after several fresh mosquito bites, gallons of sweat shed while digging, choice cursing, and near-death experiences in four inches of “super mud”, the pipe remained clogged.

I stuck the shovel up the pipe and it only went about halfway. There was only one thing left to do: Stick my hand up there, in the dark, slimy, unknown.

Whatever was in the pipe felt like a giant kitchen scrub, tough and slightly spongy. I started yanking at things and touched two creepy, twiggy things. Pinky fingers? They were roots. I hacked those in half, and scrabbled at rocks, mud and sand in the mouth of the pipe. 

I was sure that three weekends of work was about to become a week or so of excavation, unpaid time off the day job, pipe replacement, and frankly, I have better things to do. Somewhere in there, my temper snapped, and I yanked over and over again on the twiggy-root-fingers. If nothing else, those suckers were coming out.

When something very large shifted behind the twiggy-root fingers, I jumped back. Actually, my body jumped back. My feet stayed in the super mud.

A dead body immediately came to mind. Call me over-reactive. On the other hand, a good imagination goes a long way toward ditch work well done. I pulled harder. It loosened, and started creeping out. I pulled, and I pulled, and I pulled. And what came out …

What was in the pipe at Poudre River Stables -- click photo to enlarge. … a five-and-a-half-foot-long mass of roots and slime, weighing about 80 pounds! Note to self: Clean the ditch pipe a little more often than every 20 years.  

(Karin Livingston is a career 4-H leader specializing in horses and is the author of the young-adult horse novel, Winning Bet. An ad-free version of this blog is available on the Amazon Kindle e-reader. Just search for "Hoofprints" on your device.)

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