Mother Nature is currently blessing us with abundant rainfall here in Eastern Montana and in my rural area that means we are slogging through mud. It is splattered on our cars, in our cars, caked on our shoes, smeared on our clothes, and without exception tracked into our houses. Homes where I live, have “mudrooms” that attempt to contain the muck before it sneaks into your living space.

A huge portion of the population in Montana is required to travel on dirt or mud roads…to school, to work, to play. For 17 years I lived on a remote ranch and traveled on 20 miles of dirt road that became a rutted mire in the spring. Sometimes we opted for driving in the grassy ditches rather than trying to slop down the road and risk ending up in the same ditches upside down.

The first wet spring after I was married and living on the ranch, I decided to borrow a coworker’s monstrous Kirby vacuum. The cattle guard in between our homes had been removed for repairs, and a fresh hole had been dug with a plank in place for crossing on foot. I lugged the cumbersome vacuum cleaner the 100 yards through the mud from my neighbor’s home to my home, cautiously crossing the plank, but on my trip to return the vacuum, I slipped and ended up in the five foot deep mud hole with that massive Kirby machine. My dog Jake, who had decided to accompany me, stared down at me. I could barely see the nearby activity at the ranch shop over the top of the hole. I looked at Jake…I thought of Lassie, “Go get help, boy!” Jake just stared.

I stood in the mud in the hole with the Kirby in the air to keep it clean. I examined the situation. Calling for help seemed like a humiliating option. Setting the Kirby down in the mud hole seemed an expensive option. Grasping the Kirby by its throat, I headed up the side of the hole, digging in my heels… slipping and sliding… as I went clumsily up and out. I then nonchalantly continued down the road, clomping along in my “Frankenstein” shoes caked with several inches of sludge…

Years later on the same ranch, my three young sons would spend hours riding their bikes through the mud, spitting racing stripes up their backs. They made roads for their toy trucks in the wet sticky dirt until the wheels froze up as if set in cement. It was a contest to see how stuck in the muck they could get their little bodies, before they lost their shoes, leaving their white socks forever murky gray. Dressed in rain ponchos and wearing snow goggles, they delighted in having their sled dogs pull them through the muddy swampy fields on scooters. Piles of slime-crusted clothing would accumulate throughout the day in the laundry room and I finally began purchasing underwear and socks in colors other than white.

I recall proudly sitting in church on Sundays with my “spit and polished” boys only to realize that their ears were full of mud…

The boys maintained their passion for mud into their teen years. They discovered that flying airborne off gumbo cliffs on sleds worked just as well on wet dirt as on snow, but claimed it certainly took more guts. As did being pulled behind a four-wheel-drive truck on muddy farm roads using a dismantled pickup hood as a sled.

I would guess, as my sons grew into adults, they joined their dad in finding mud a little less desirable. Thawing fields swallow up ranchers’ feed trucks. Corrals, where cattle are worked, become a mess of manure and mud, creating a quicksand. The semi-trucks, transporting these cattle, find no traction on the slick roads and often end up sliding into the barrow pits. Tractors have to be chained up to extract the trucks from the earth’s muddy hold… tow ropes are as necessary to have on hand as jumper cables…

As for me, I am deliriously grateful for the abundant rain and I must say…I will happily slog through the mud…

mud 3-10-14 002


3 thoughts on “Mud

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