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Disappearing gravel is a constant battle on township roads and rural driveways.
Disappearing gravel is a constant battle on township roads and rural driveways.

Disappearing Gravel and Other Weighty Matters

Mar 23, 2017

Henry David Thoreau wrote of wood that it warms you twice: when you chop it, then again when you burn it. As is true of many pearls of wisdom, this insight can be applied to other situations. Snow, for example, is a royal pain in the hoosegow not once, not twice, but many times over.

When the wind howls, great drifts of snow rise up and ensnare the automobiles of those silly enough to venture out for videos and pop tarts. Then the accursed stuff must be shoveled. Aching backs. Heart attacks. Those who own snow blowers are spared the shoveling — if their infernal machines, ignored since the last blizzard, will start.

After the snow comes spring. As you may recall from junior high science, snow plus warmth begets water. Water, in turn, begets mud and much sulfurous language. Clueless children and spouses leave trails of mud across kitchen floors. People clean the muck off their cars, only to see all their work undone when they drive through a puddle a block away from the car wash.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, muddy cattle feedlots are swallowing overshoes whole. They won’t be seen again until archaeologists unearth them several millennia from now and they’re put on display in an ancient history museum with the placard: “Rubber Overshoe (ca. 2000 AD). Worn by guards at the giant bovine prisons of this era, before hamburger was outlawed and the civil rights of our brothers and sisters in the animal kingdom were recognized.”

At the Holtzmann house, melting snow turns the driveway into a muddy mess, with puddles the size of Lake Oahe. Almost. This is quite a mystery to me. For 20 years we’ve been buying gravel by the truckload and using it to fill in the low spots on our driveway. Yet every year, low spots appear IN THE SAME &%$#@ PLACES!

Where does all that gravel go?

If the mental energy I’ve devoted to this mystery were converted into electricity, it would light up Seattle. As any person who drives on county roads will tell you, gravel has a way of disappearing from them. I understand how that happens. Cars, like those that blaze through our corner stop sign so fast they generate sonic booms, kick rocks into the ditch. Some of it is pulverized into dust, which is then carried away by the wind and deposited on every flat surface in our house. That doesn’t happen in my driveway.

Where does my gravel go? Do thieves make off with it in the dark of night? Are there sinkholes below my driveway that draw the gravel toward the center of the earth? Am I doomed to go on, like a modern day Sisyphus, endlessly pouring gravel into holes that will never be filled?

Moving on. Remember the old days, when the Publisher’s Clearing House sent out envelopes that said, “Regor Holzmumm, You May Already Have Won $1,000,000!” When they arrived you threw out everything but the Prize Claim Certificate, with its gold seal and official number. You always wondered if the entries of people who didn’t order anything went straight into the trash, but you returned your certificate anyway, and allowed yourself a moment to think about what all that cash might buy. A car that doesn’t release billowing blue clouds every time it starts. New underwear, with unstretched-out waistbands. Name-brand foods instead of plain label.

Nothing is as simple as that anymore, my friends. Publisher’s Clearing House has gone digital. They’ve been telling me I May Already Have Won! at least three times a day for months. After trashing the first billion emails, I finally got curious and opened one. Links led to links that led to still more links, each of which seemed to promise to be the electronic equivalent of my Prize Claim Certificate, but were actually come-ons proclaiming the BIG SAVINGS!

I’ve since returned to my earlier ways. I trash everything that comes my way from PCH. (Yes, we’re on familiar terms even though I’m ignoring them.) This leaves me, Regor Holzmumm, to wonder what will happen if I win and they notify me by email.

Moving on. Unless you’re one of those fanatics who’d rather read books than watch television, you surely have noticed the increasing number of advertisements featuring various products that … let’s just say they are directed at men and their egos. If you catch where I’ve drifted.

If this advertising blitz is any indication, it would seem the men of this country are suffering from a crisis of confidence. As a public service, I am want to remind men of a few things. Yes, we men started every war in history, except for the Trojan War, which was Helen’s fault. Sure, we steal cars, hold up convenience stores and generally keep prisons filled to overflowing. Disco was invented by a man, who will surely burn in hell for doing so. We don’t know who the first person to smoke tobacco was, but I’m betting it was a man. In my experience, women generally have more sense than to say, “Hey, let’s dry this plant, then burn it and inhale the smoke.”

Men are responsible for all these things and more, but we’ve done some good things, too. Men invented the microwave oven, and the popcorn to go with it. A man discovered penicillin, and conceived the Lazy Boy chair. Men designed automobile cup holders, and the coffee mugs that fit neatly into them, without which nothing would get done before 10 a.m.

With all that to recommend us, do we really need potions and pills? Here’s an idea, my fellow fellows. Build something. Plant a tree. Tell your wife she’s a babe, even though the evidence on that point may be less than conclusive. Help your kids with their homework.

That’s how to be a real man.

Editor’s Note: This column is revised from the May/June 2007 issue of South Dakota Magazine. To order a copy or to subscribe, call (800) 456-5117.

Comments

08:14 am - Mon, March 27 2017
Laura said:
Roger, I once worked with a gal who won $10,000 from Publisher's Clearing House. They showed up at the library we worked at with a giant check. Too bad it was her day off. That was awkward.

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