9 June 2016 – Sunny- Upper 80’s, DRY and HOT!!!
In rural South Dakota you build fences not to keep cattle in, but to keep them out. Hoten Holler butts up to some National Forrest which is leased by some ranchers, and consequently there are “Cattle At Large” roaming around. Our dirt road has two cattle guards on it, and both have been there for quite some time and filled full of dirt and gravel making them unintimidating for the roving bovines and a few have started down our road. They must be interested in the long grasses that have turned a brilliant green in the last few weeks, or they may be interested in Cowboy Dave’s cattle that are fenced in to his pastures on the west side of the road. Either way, they need to stay out! They especially need to stay away from our “build site” which is currently a giant crater in the earth. The last thing we need is a big hole in the ground full of injured cows….then again, BBQ anyone?
To remedy this situation, we decided to dig out the dirt in the cattle guards. The two Dave’s completed the northern most one with no problems. Last week, Pilot Dave got a little shovel and just excavated the garbage out of that thing in an hour and a half. He worked his butt off and he was tired and sore, but he could have won a gold medal in the digging Olympics for both pace and style points.
Yesterday, we both decided to tackle the southern cattle guard. This proved to be a bit of a different animal. The bars in the guard were too close together to get a shovel into the dirt so we decided we would have to pull the whole thing up and dig it out. The southern end of the road is considerably more rocky than the northern end is and what we thought would be a 2-3 hour job ended up taking us all day! Did I mention that yesterday was the warmest day we have had this year, with almost no clouds and highs in the upper 80’s? About 2 in the afternoon we were kicking ourselves for not completing this project back in April when it was much cooler.
So, we borrowed the builder’s skid steer and chained up the guard and pulled it down the road. Then we dug, we used the “spud” to loosen up dirt and rocks and we dug them out. We dug all dang day. We were digging machines, channeling our inner prairie dog or gopher, there was no stopping us!
Cowboy Dave came up with his tractor to try to dig out the hole, but there is an enormous rock in the middle of the hole and it just would not budge. So we kept digging and dug around the rock and started shoveling dirt into the bucket of Cowboy Dave’s tractor. He used the excess dirt and rock to smooth out some of the holes down the road. Linda brought us iced tea and cold water and even got in there with a shovel for some time despite our protests.
Finally, in the heat of the late afternoon, we decided we could put some railroad ties in the hole to support the cattle guard and provide some more depth to keep the dang cows out. Then, Dave jumped in the skid steer and maneuvered the cattle guard back into position. Success! Right about the time he got it back into place, another neighbor decided to return from town and they got to test out our work. Their pickup cleared the guard no problem and we decided to bolt it back into place and be done.
This morning, Dave and I are both sore. We are both sunburnt and tired but we agree that we would much rather be working outside doing things for ourselves than slaving away at any other job for someone else. Still, we won’t be doing any digging for a while!