Conventional wisdom claims that no good deed goes unpunished. I offer this situation for your consideration.
We spent part of Spring Break at Lake LBJ in the heart of the Hill Country and offered to bring back cedar posts for our son-in-law to build a new fence for his and Caroline’s growing herd of longhorn cattle. We were hauling two pieces of furniture down there and would be coming back with an empty trailer, so it seemed the expeditious thing to do.
Now for those of you not familiar with the Hill Country, it is overrun with cedar trees, trees that are not native to the area, I have been told, and they have taken over. So an enterprising group informally known as cedar choppers saw a way to make a living clearing the cedar trees and selling the wood for fence posts and lumber, which is a good deal because it helps to clear out the unwanted cedar trees that suck all the moisture out of the ground and produce that nasty pollen that gives everyone cedar fever down there.
Before we were in the market for cedar posts, it seemed like cedar choppers were everywhere. Now that we needed one, they were nowhere to be found. After many calls and dead ends, we decided to re-route the trip home through Lampasas where we had remembered passing a big cedar lumber yard before, and sure enough there it was, Myers Cedar, but with a chain across the entrance. It was Sunday, after all. Two phone numbers were posted, so Bill called one of them. We could hear the office phone ringing amid the stacks of cedar posts. Before Bill could call the other number, a man appeared magically to help us. Augustine was his name, and he called the boss using one of his two cell phones, and we were in business.
If I had known I was going to write about this experience, I would have taken a picture of Augustine to share with you, but he might have taken it the wrong way, so maybe it is just as well. He was a small man, probably in his late 50s, but sturdy and strong after nineteen years of cutting, stacking and loading cedar. A red bandana served as a sweat band and held some of his mop of hair out of his eyes. Carrying his cell phones on either side of his head attached to some sort of make-shift headband was no doubt his invention, a pretty clever one, I thought. Surely that made it easier to hear them ring if he was using a saw and made them handy to carry and just reach up to answer. I wandered around while he and Bill loaded 40 poles on our trailer and found his work hat, a large straw hat that would surely protect even his shoulders from the sun, it was so big. Next to it was his food for the day, a half-gallon of milk, a bag of flour tortillas, and another bag with fillings for the tortillas. His backpack lay on the ground and his bicycle was propped up against a stack of poles. I suspect this was a typical work day for him.
In a short time the poles were loaded and we were on our way. Sort of. As luck would have it, I too had some wood I wanted to take home, some tree stumps I found at the lake that would make great plant stands. We had loaded them to the front of the trailer and had a ladder and packing materials neatly arranged behind them. This little trailer is just a single axle utility trailer and 40 6-inch cedar posts filled it and then some. The tires were pushed down almost flat as we gingerly made our way into town to find an air compressor.
My tree stumps were no match for the weight of the poles, so of course as we pulled out onto the highway, the trailer started whipping back and forth. Too much weight toward the back of the trailer. We reached a top speed of 45 mph before pulling into a convenience store to air up the tires and realized that there really was no way around the fact that the weight in the trailer would have to be redistributed or we would roll into Muleshoe sometime late the next day.
There just happen to be a big shade tree next to the curb behind the convenience store. Thank goodness it wasn’t middle of the summer hot and humid yet, but the shade helped. To complicate matters, Colten wasn’t up to speed because he had caught a stomach bug the day before and was throwing up. Mari had to be contained in the vehicle, as she had made the trip with us. Stuff from the back of the Yukon had to be unloaded to find the work gloves, and we only had two pair, so I stood idly by and watched, but I did take pictures and bought water.
Naturally everything had to be taken off the trailer and put back on with the weight more evenly distributed to the front. Then more stuff from the back of the Yukon had to come out to find more tie-downs to secure the load. An hour and a half later I took the final picture, picked up not only our trash but the other plastic bag of empty beer bottles that was there when we got there-I figured we would be accused of leaving the place a mess-and we were off at the blazing speed of 60-65 mph. But the trailer pulled nicely and the tires weren’t quite so flat.
When we finally rolled into Muleshoe at 7:45, butt-weary and bleary- eyed, we were just thrilled that we hadn’t had a flat along the way to add to the adventure. Counting the whole trip from start to finish, we managed to take a normally 7-hour drive and turn it into roughly a 10-hour odyssey, which may not sound too bad, but I assure you the extra three hours and second set of unloading and reloading had taken their toll. My behind is still sore from all the sitting, and Bill gets to look forward to unloading those posts one more time at Neil’s house.
But that’s okay. We were glad to do it, and it makes a good story. ‘Course, now Colten looks forward to digging all those post holes this summer…