Mud City Press


by Dan Armstrong

Two men were setting posts for livestock fencing at the back of a small valley in western Oregon. They'd been at it for six hours now, and it had been raining steadily the entire time. One of the men, Maynard Smith, was at the wheel of a tractor. The other, Maynard's hired hand Tim, stood at the top of a slight hill where they wanted to drill the next posthole. Attached to the back of the tractor was a lightweight drilling rig that could cut through the wet ground as though it were tub margarine. Maynard had to maneuver the tractor in reverse up the grade to set the drill. It was a short climb, no more than twenty yards, but it was muddy and slick, and he'd failed at it once already.

Maynard gave the John Deere a little gas and went at it from some distance off, trying to hit the hill with some momentum. As soon as he reached the grade, the tires began to rip and tear at the sod. The green and yellow tractor bucked and slid this way and that, throwing chunks of grass and mud all over Tim, who was trying to direct Maynard into position. With a lot of effort and even more spent diesel, Maynard inched to the brink of the hill. The tractor held a few moments, then slid slowly back down the grade.

After another attempt with the same result, Maynard let the tractor come to rest at the bottom of the slope. He cut the growling motor. It answered with a backfire and a puff of smoke. Tim slipped down the grade and tramped over to the tractor. Maynard climbed out of the rig and stood next to his hired hand. Both were wearing full suits of olive green raingear and black rubber boots with red neoprene soles. Both were soaked inside and out. For several minutes, neither of them said a word.

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