Digging holes in Maine

It was our first Fall in Maine. Home-sitting for friends, we were feeling the pressure of time: in just three weeks we’d found and closed on a house and moved a two year old and our entire household from Wisconsin. Everything, that is, except our horse, who was due to arrive in 10 days. And we weren’t ready.

I needed to fence about two acres of pasture, frame in a stall in the bottom of the barn, and build a paddock linking the stall with the pasture. I had marked the corners of the pasture and laid out a generous rectangle fir the paddock and a runway from the pasture to the barn, put in markers for the posts (which I had hauled in multiple trips from the lumber yard and then creosoted), and had rented a gas powered post hole digger. After a steep learning curve digging the first few holes marking the runway, I powered through digging holes and planting the newly creosoted posts delimiting the pasture. Having hauled and creosoted the posts and posted the pasture in two days, I was confident I would finish posting the paddock and stringing wire with time to spare. 

Bright and early the next morning, I put out my posts for the paddock under the watchful but silent eye of our nearest neighbor, an old time Mainer who always seemed drawn to observe my projects like a moth to a flame. He could never resist the opportunity to see how the young in-migrant would fare.

New England soil is famously rocky, but this was beyond anything I had ever imagined. Rather than the  cantaloupe sized rocks I’d had to haul out of my first few holes, the first two were suitcase sized. The third one required that I dig a pit next to the hole and lever it into the pit with a pry bar before continuing to dig.

Jim watched impassively for more than an hour as I struggled to complete the first hole at the near corner of the paddock. frustrated - and despairing of finishing -  I said to no one in particular, that this must be the rockiest soil in Androscoggin County.

Jim cleared his throat and, looking past me at the woods across the field, said slowly: “Well, it sure don’t help that yer diggin’ spang on the old ice house foundation.”

His directions were painfully laconic: I pointed until he gave a barely perceptible affirmative nod. After moving the paddock lines about 3 feet north and east, the remaining holes were easy.  Though I am grateful for his help, I will never understand why he didn’t speak up sooner.

 


 

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