Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Bridge at Eegeebeegee, Phase IIB

The Colonel had an enlightening encounter with mass, gravity, torque, leverage, and the coefficient of friction this weekend. And, amazingly, no serious injury resulted.

As the three of you who regularly waste precious rod and cone time perusing posts hereon will remember, the Colonel is building a bridge across the creek dividing his vast holdings here at the northern end of southern nowhere. Over the past ten weeks the Colonel and his crew lowered the creek bed in order to install bridge pier uprights, cemented in the near and far shore abutments, and replaced the rip-rap rock in the creek to raise the creek bed back up to it's previous level.

It was now time to add the major timbers that will form the backbone of the bridge span. A neighbor provided two creosoted 12 x 12, twenty-four foot timbers and Saturday morning delivered them by trailer to the far shore via another neighbor's adjacent pasture.

Does a 24 foot long, creosoted 12 x 12 timber weigh a lot? Is "I" Barack Obama's favorite word?

The Colonel can not accurately assess the mass of the timbers, but is fairly certain that when the timbers were rolled off the side of the trailer and impacted terra firma seismographs across a three-state area recorded the event. The earth's axis was almost certainly shifted and you may thank the Colonel for the resulting shorter day.

The jolt bounced the Colonel, and an acre of unattached fauna into the air. A coyote and the Colonel shared a shocked eye-to-eye moment before it dropped back into its tall grass hide.

The last surviving snail darters in the Tallahatchie drainage were stunned and floated belly-up.

The air was filled with a yellow-green haze of pollen snapped suddenly and massively from the boughs of pines across the Colonel's vast holdings.

As a gentle breeze cleared the air, the Colonel and his neighbor stood next to the timbers and gazed down the long slope of the approach to the bridge site. "How you gonna get these things down there and across those abutments," the neighbor asked.

The Colonel adopted his best "air of confidence" pose, paused for effect, and stated matter-of-factly, "I have no idea..."

The Colonel did, in fact, have an idea, but it was so Rube Goldberg in nature that he was loath to admit what his plans were.

With the strong backs of #2 son and one of his friends, the first timber was rolled over onto rollers improvised from short lengths of PVC pipe and, the Colonel kids you not, short lengths of oak limbs. The timber was levered and edged by hand, inches at a time, until it reached the lip of the slope down to the creek. As the center of gravity of the massive beam neared the precipice, a warning light began to flicker faintly in the Colonel's brain-housing group.

The Colonel never pays attention to flickering lights.

Levering and edging eventually moved the beam's center of gravity past the lip of the slope, and, as the nose of the beam slowly dropped, the flickering warning light suddenly glowed brightly and was joined by a clanging alarm bell. The Colonel frantically searched his speech center for an appropriate warning.

What is the appropriate warning for a impending runaway 24 foot, creosoted 12 x 12 bridge timber?

Excellent question.

The Colonel still doesn't know.

Needless to say, the bridge timber reached a position 50 feet down-slope a lot quicker than was anticipated given the amount of elbow grease it had taken to move it the first 25 feet from pasture-level to slope precipice.

"Well," #2 son opined, "that was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be."

With the timber's nose about 10 feet from the abutment, two 6 x 6 timbers were positioned side by side with ends alongside the timber and other ends propped up on the abutment. With a cant hook, the timber was rolled over onto the 6 x 6's. A chain was attached to the timber and stretched across the creek to the Colonel's rusty red pick-up truck, Semper Fillit, and the timber was pulled halfway across the creek. Remembering what happened the last time the massive timber's center of gravity crossed a fulcrum, the Colonel instructed his two assistants to sit on the far end of the beam as he pulled with the truck, to keep the leading edge higher than the abutment on the other side of the creek until the beam's leading edge was safely over that side.

To the amazement of all involved--it worked. Twice.
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