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Thursday, January 11, 2001

Welcome to life in the country, on the fringe of civilization. It can be idyllic, a peaceful oasis, a retreat from chaotic modern life. Or it can be a big gooey mess and you're stuck miles from help and you have to figure out how to keep the bear from taking a dump in your crystal punch bowl.

Out here in the wilderness, we have to deal with the elements on a primal level. We're at the mercy of factors whose randomness and relentlessness make preparing for them a guessing game, a spin of the big wheel. Sometimes you're riding the raft down the river, and sometimes you're under the raft.

It was high tide here at the Fortress yesterday. After a morning of steady rainfall, it became apparent that all the rocks in the world can't keep water from flowing downhill. My driveway was flooded, and the excess rainwater was streaming right over the gravel my landlords put down for me a while back, and directly into my garage.

I have to admit that I was at a loss at first. But when there's a crisis, all you can do is dive in. I grabbed the big broom and tried to sweep the muddy water back out, but it came back at me at about twice the speed I swept it out. And twice the depth. Figure that out. I'm no engineer.

Did I panic? Well, yes, a little. I was sure I was about to lose some books, records and videos. The first thing I tried was to build a levee at the entrance to the garage, out of excess gravel, but that had old Ma Nature snorting with sadistic glee. Who does this amateur think he is? she wanted to know.

The pile of old raggedy towels I used when the laundry room flooded was handy, so I made a water break inside the garage. That was the best thing I'd tried yet, but the garage door wouldn't close on the clump of wet towels. Just rolled down and then rolled back up again. So I had to move the towels further inside the garage, which kind of diluted their effectiveness. Now the door would close, but another reservoir was building up in front of them.

How high's the water, Mama?Five feet high and risin'.

Then I got serious. (About time, eh?) I took the shovel again and studied where the water might flow, if I forced it to. I dug a couple of trenches that led to some low spots that were fortunately outside the garage. I dug out the low spots to make them lower, and built up the area in front of the garage again.

How high's the water, Papa?She said it's five feet high and risin'.

At times during this ordeal I was just throwing rocks and dirt around to see what would happen. I really had no idea what I was doing, but some of what I tried made a small difference, so I kept doing it.

All this didn't happen in a vacuum, of course. I was trying to get some work done, between expeditions. And it was raining on me while I was rooting around in the mud. I pulled on a hat and my heavy jacket, but that wasn't as much protection as my body would have liked. It reminded me that we're still trying to decide if we're over that cold we've had for three weeks.

It annoyed the heck out of the birds, too. Every time I tromped out the door and down the walkway to the excavation, they would scatter and chatter. They always come back, though. They know where their meal ticket is.

When I decided I'd done as much as I could for one day, I hauled the trash can down the long, muddy drive to the curb. I was about to take the recyclables out when I remembered it was only Wednesday. That stuff goes out on Thursday night. No, I didn't bring the can back in. It's just one less thing I have to take out tonight.

It wasn't a very productive day inside the house. I might not have even tried going to the post office in all this Weather, if it hadn't been the day the payroll checks get mailed. I didn't want to deal with phone calls this weekend from a half dozen angry (and thirsty) construction workers, so I went out in the storm. I might never leave the house again, though.

What a day. Anything to keep from tackling my 1099s, I guess.

All of this happened yesterday, right? Surely the landlord has rushed over to take care of me, right?

Wrong. I have yet to hear from him. And don't call me Shirley.

Ironically, today was water delivery day, but the Sierra Springs truck doesn't seem to have done any damage to my primitive but elaborate drainage system. And though the Weather broke for a time this morning, it's raining again.

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