Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chain Gang

Give a Marine a four-wheel drive truck, a chainsaw, and a couple lengths of chain and there ain't nuthin' he can't move.

Yesterday, during a brief burst of unaccustomed energy associated with entirely too much Christmas goody sugar intake, the Colonel and his rusty red pick-up, Semper Fillit, accomplished item #7 on his 459-item Project and It Needs doin' File List (to which the Colonel has affixed the most appropriate acronym, PAINFUL).

Item #7 was "Move metal thang."

Accomplishing item #7 was indeed painful, both physically and mentally.

The "metal thang," was so called because the Colonel and his not-so bright sons (they take after the Colonel, not the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda) couldn't figure out, even with all of our not-so massive brain power cobbled together, just what in the world it was. The best that could be figured is that it was a piece of logging equipment left behind years ago when the section of land whereon it was discovered, during one of the Colonel's security patrols, was being logged in the far distant past. The metal thang looked like a large gate. A very large gate, made of inch-thick steel plates. The Colonel was able to figure out, as part of a hands-on-lift-test, that the metal thang was the approximate combined weight of two bull elephants and a well-fed goat.

The metal thang, when first discovered, was leaning up against a large cedar tree destined for harvesting and conversion to sawdust on the Colonel's sawmill, Semper Filet. The Colonel conducted the aforementioned hands-on lift-test and was able to move the metal thang approximately seven and one quarter microns away from the cedar destined for harvesting and conversion to sawdust, for approximately seven and one quarter micro-seconds. The Colonel's hands-on lift-test of the behemoth metal thang was immediately followed by a short recovery period during which the Colonel's infantry-ravaged lower back and pack-ridden shoulders convinced him that a strategic planning session in the inverse prone position would be advantageous as well.

Upon conclusion of the joint hands-on lift-test recovery period and inverse prone position strategic planning session, the Colonel spent the next three and a quarter hours conducting a low-light land navigation exercise back to the Big House, as darkness had fallen some time during the preceding six hours. During the exercise, the Colonel discovered the world's second largest blackberry bramble and a here-to-fore uncharted hardwood bottom with muddy creek. The Colonel's arrival at home was greeted by the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, whose concern for the Colonel's whereabouts over the preceding day overrode her desire to conduct a cast-iron skillet Colonel-correction period for the copious amounts of mud and blood tracked into her home.

After cleaning up, and withstanding the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda's withering condemnation of the Colonel's intelligence and judgment, summed up in the repeated use of the word, idiot, the Colonel trudged to his study, turned on his 'puter and entered on line seven of his PAINFUL list: "Move metal thang."

Said entry remained ignored for a year and a half, whilst the Colonel, and more worthwhile uses of his time, were exhausted.

A lack of cedar logs destined for conversion to sawdust adjacent to his sawmill, Semper Filet, finally stirred the Colonel to action on item #7 on his PAINFUL list, and he loaded chainsaw and chains on Semper Fillit, shifted into 4WD, and headed for the patch of mixed hardwoods and ten year-old planted pines in the very heart of which the metal thang rested against the cedar tree destined for harvest and conversion to sawdust like a rusting reminder of the Colonel's waning muscular might and mental acuity.

As there was no way to turn Semper Fillit around once in the woods adjacent to the metal thang, the Colonel backed his rusty red pick-up down the space between rows of pines, stopping to cut down intervening brush and hardwood saplings with his chainsaw. Fifty yards short of the metal thang's resting place, a near-ninety degree turn in the pines was required. (Dear reader, you must know that it took the Colonel nearly an hour to figure out how to construct that last sentence--backing the truck into the pines actually required a left-hand turn, as long as the Colonel was receiving visual navigation cues from his rear-view mirror; looking over his shoulder changed it to a right-hand turn. As the five of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon know with frightening clarity, the Colonel is easily distracted...) At the point of the [insert direction here--the Colonel is tired of trying to figure it out] hand turn, the Colonel spent the better part of the morning jockeying Semper Fillit in the tight confines of planted pines until his rusty red pick-up was around the corner and backed up to within chain length of the metal thang.

The Colonel wrapped one end of the chain around Semper Fillit's bumper hitch and hauled the other end over to, and attached it to, the metal thang. When the Colonel hit the gas, the metal thang edged forward approximately one quarter of an inch, at which point the leading edge bottom corner dug into the ground like a quarter horse's hooves and stopped Semper Fillit in it's tracks like a roped steer. The Colonel succeeded in digging four impressive potholes with his rusty red truck's tires before it began to slowly dawn on him that the truck was no longer moving forward. The metal thang was going to have to be laid flat for movement.

The Colonel approached the metal thang warily, circling slowly, mentally measuring it's center of gravity and computing the foot-pounds of energy required to change the metal thang's physical orientation from on-edge to flat. Said computations delivered a sobering sum in the amount of approximately 400 foot pounds more energy than the Colonel believed was available to be mustered from his diminutive frame, infantry-ravaged lower back, and pack-ridden shoulders.

Math never was the Colonel's strong suit.

The Colonel braced his boots against the cedar tree destined for harvest and conversion to sawdust, placed his hands shoulder-width apart on the upper edge of the metal thang, coiled his atrophied muscles for one explosive release, summoned a Rebel yell that began in full Fredericksburg roar and choked, mid-heave, into an Appomattox Courthouse whimper, and pushed mightily; yea, verily, with much pain. The metal thang tilted ever-so-slightly away from the cedar tree destined for harvest and conversion to sawdust, and wavered mere microns short of the center-0f-gravity line beyond which attraction to the third rock rocketing 'round ol' Sol would pull the metal thang from vertical to horizontal orientation. Just as the Colonel's quivering muscles began to give out in a cascade of lactic acid-producing fatigue, a solitary breath of breeze blew from over his shoulders and provided just the needed combination of refreshment and reinforcement. The metal thang's leading edge crossed the line of no return and the behemoth began a momentum-gathering rush away from vertical to horizontal orientation.

The metal thang's earthside impact lifted the Colonel one half foot off of the ground, set off car alarms as far south as Hattiesburg, and no doubt registered on seismographs throughout the Mid-south region.

A veritable blizzard of pine-needles jarred loose from their coniferous connections and covered the ground in an accumulation of up to six inches, in a radius taking in the better part of seven adjacent counties.

A tsunami on Sardis Reservoir swamped three bass boats and a college professor-carrying-kayak (had to be a college professor; no self-respecting redneck would get caught dead in a kayak).

Water sloshed out of swamps and sloughs throughout the region, revealing relic-littered bottoms and panicking the local mouth-breathing, pillow-case and sheet crowd.

After the earth stopped moving, and upon conclusion of a short inverse prone position muscle recovery and strategic planning session, the Colonel reconnected chains between the metal thang and his rusty red pick-up and recommenced his practice for the upcoming county fair tractor pull. In flat-to-ground orientation, the metal thang slid nicely ... until the near-ninety degree [insert direction] hand turn in the narrow confines of the planted pines was reached. The Colonel spent the better part of the rest of the afternoon jockeying his rusty red pick-up around the near-ninety degree [insert direction] hand turn in the narrow confines of the planted pines.

As he dragged chains to reconnect the metal thang to his truck, it slowly dawned on the Colonel that the metal thang was positioned in one lane of the narrow confines of planted pines and the truck was positioned in another lane of the narrow confines of planted pines, with a near-ninety degree [insert direction] hand turn in between.

The Colonel, drawing on all-but-forgotten theorems from 10th grade geometry class, determined that looping the truck-to-metal thang connecting chain around the bottom of a pine tree on the far side of the near-ninety degree [insert direction] hand turn in the narrow confines of planted pines would, upon recommencement of county fair tractor pull practice, pull the metal thang to the center of the near-ninety degree [insert direction] hand turn intersection, from whence it could be re-chained and dragged hither and out of the narrow confines of planted pines. Practice, amazingly enough, confirmed theory. The Colonel's 10th grade geometry teacher, Mrs. Graham--the lady whose fierce discipline prepared him for that of the Marines--would be proud.

The metal thang is now positioned in a corner of a field on the Colonel's vast holdings here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere.

Item #7 on the Colonel's PAINFUL list now reads: "Figure out what to do with metal thang."
Post a Comment