Breaking Up is Hard to Do
I was next able to visit the property in late October. The optimism we enjoyed from seeing the start of cleanup had been tempered a bit by the fact that we had no visual progress updates since the last visit. So I found myself anticipating this visit in part just to be able to get another dopamine boost.
About a third of an inch of rain had fallen at the end of the previous week. It was obviously welcome relief to the parched landscape, but had interrupted DKI’s schedule. They did not work on site that Friday as they were worried about the possibility of snow on the steep driveway. They seemed to be taking longer than planned and this had only delayed them further.
Still, by the time I arrived they had finished removing most of the debris. They were now focused on removing the concrete foundations and dead trees surrounding the house and garage.
Though they were technically a bit behind schedule, their efforts were notable both for the good progress they had made, and for how they made difficult work look pretty easy.
For instance, to clear the area below the foundation wall (where the house itself once stood) required two excavators; one below the wall to remove material, and another above, on the driveway itself, to dispose of it. Getting that lower excavator into position required navigating some pretty steep terrain.
Shortly after I arrived they were done using the lower excavator, so they needed to get it back up onto the driveway. The terrain is too steep to drive up normally, as you might with a car for example.
Instead you have to approach the slope backwards, and simultaneously use the shovel as both a crutch (for stability) and as a foot (to push the excavator up slope). Without that extra push the excavator’s tracks just grind their way into the dirt and you go nowhere. Lose the extra stability provided by the crutch and you risk rolling the (several ton) excavator over, on a steep hillside no less. This is not a job for the feint of heart!
Meanwhile, on the driveway itself, DKI used the heavy equipment to collect and then dispose of the foundation rubble. As I know from my experience with the Bobcat skidsteer, it is easy to take for granted the power available in those hydraulic cylinders.
Imagine trying to move even one of those boulders by hand. Or the tree trunks below. With only manual labor it would have taken many hands, and many weeks.
Here’s another example of the power behind those hydraulics. That crumpled piece of metal below is actually the quarter-inch-thick steel door of the old Bobcat’s engine compartment.
Despite the power in these mechanical beasts of burden, they do still have their limits. DKI’s foreman told me that he had to dismantle the burned-out hulk of our old Bobcat because it was just too heavy to lift in one piece. That is why he had removed the steel door.
For the same reason I found the Bobcat’s diesel engine lying on the pavement, all alone and partially dismantled.
While the engineer in me found the exposed innards very interesting, it was also a bit sad to see the engine like this. Prior to the fire it had been fully functional and running strong, providing the very same kind of power that DKI was now using to dispose of it.
Goodbyes Are Hard Too
Despite the welcome morale boost each step in the cleanup has given us, there is (for me at least) still a quiet but persistent sadness present whenever I visit. I feel a nagging sense of loss here; the loss of something that can never be replaced, never undone.
I feel it acutely every time I see a new tree stump appear where a familiar tree once stood. On a practical level I know the trees have to come down. They are dead (or nearly so). They can never again be the healthy green towers of shade that they once were. It was only a short few months ago that the landscape was crowded with them. Now the few that remain standing are coming down too.
Though I know it cannot be so, a big part of me still wants to believe that if only I let them remain standing they would bud again next Spring. It hurts to see each one of these old friends come down.
The feeling of loss is not confined to those majestic old trees either. Familiar aspects of the house and property are now also gone forever, or disappearing with each day of the demolition.
One final task during my visit was to empty the 20 foot storage container behind the house. Although it survived the fire, thick smoke found its way into the interior, covering everything inside with a heavy layer of jet-black soot.
It had been mostly empty already except for some sturdy metal shelves, extra skid-steer tire chains and a few other parts for the old Bobcat.
I pulled those things out of the container and stacked them beside the few items we’d salvaged from the garage’s shop area.
After the container was empty I secured a plastic tarp over the items outside, in a feeble attempt to protect them from the long winter ahead.
The container itself will probably be one of the last things that DKI removes from the property. Even though we really didn’t use it for the last 10 years, it will still make me sad to see it go. Kinda like the trees I guess.
Come to think of it, we didn’t really “use” most of those trees on the property either. Yet like good friends they were always there for us.
That Reminds Me
As I started down the driveway on my way back home, this colorful Dogwood reminded me that Winter is just around the corner.
And sure enough, I see that there is more rain and possibly even snow in the forecast for this weekend, the first weekend of November.
That forecast has me worrying about the driveway again. I sure hope DKI is finished by Friday!