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FROM THE VALLEY: This is Almost the Whole Story


I took a couple weeks off from writing this column to go to our modest

cottage, the Labor Camp, on the St. Lawrence River.

A relaxing break? Not me, pal. I took the four-plus hour trip just to put on a blue-striped prison

uniform, the matching brimless cap, strap a 50 pound ball to my ankle and mindlessy sledgehammer big rocks into smaller ones?


Well, okay, maybe not seriously, but sometimes it feels that way.

Even though I'm known as Dr. Doolittle for several reasons (one being, my

wife does about a 110% of the work), the first day I was there I crawled under

the camp to address a reoccurring

problem. A corner of the building needed to

be jacked up at least five inches. A wonderfulLy fun job, right up there with

volunteering as a clinical guinea pig to eat rat poison and see what its side-

effects are.

The job-at-hand info: Only the back side of the building sits on the

shoreline, the remaining part rests on twenty wooden cribs/piers which extend

out and across the river. And they (the 4' x 5' cribs) have a tendency to shift or

sink unpredictably into the ground over the winter and spring months. When

that happens, it's time to call in someone stupid enough to crawl underneath the

building and do stuff that makes walking a tight rope over hell, ten times more


Luckily, the river had receded somewhat – as it usually does this time of

the year – so I didn't have to worry too much about the water. The rusty nails

protruding from the floor above me, the spiders, the crabs the size of Rhode

Island and minks who have taken up residency underneath were another thing.

Referencing back to that Dr. Doolittle thing, I also talk to the animals ...

and insects and all sorts of critters. And I truly believe they talk back to me. (If

you know anything about this column, you're familiar with the times my dog,

Maggie, and I have had conversations about everything from A to fleas.)

Anyhow, as I prepared to drag two 20 pound bottle-jacks with me in the

cramped three-foot high space, I announced my entrance to who and whatever

was under there ... just to be on the safe side.

“Hey, everybody. No need to worry. I'm not going to disturb you or

anything like that.” But truth be told, I wasn't going to let any living creature

get near me, no matter what I had to do. But naturally, I didn't have the courage

to tell them the whole story.

After a thirty-minute crawl - and traveling a whopping eight feet - I picked

out two of the five box-beams I was going to use to place the jacks under; two

beams that I thought would give me the best opportunity to accomplish my

goal of raising the corner of the camp a full 5 inches or more. The literal

“pressure” of what could happen if everything came crashing down played

heavily (no pun intended) on my mind. Again, I didn't have the courage to even

think about the whole story.

As I set up the jacks and started working the handles up and down, I noticed

that even though I had placed large plates underneath them to prevent what was

happening, it didn't work. The jacks were being driven into the ground. There

was zero lift on the building; things were going in the wrong direction. And as

surreal as it may seem, I was pretty sure I was inadvertently pushing the earth

away from the camp and just, possibly, shoving our beloved planet out of its

normal orbit. It was time to go back to the drawing board.

So I did just that. And, long story very short, I succeeded.

Well ...somewhat.

I can semi-proudly say the camp is now a sixteenth of an inch

higher than it was before I started. Okay, almost a sixteenth. Close enough.

It was time to celebrate and strut around like “yeah, I'm pretty damn good at

fixing stuff, yessiree, Bob.” Time to move on.

I decided to crack open a Coke, enjoy my manly accomplishment and figure out what to do with the rest of the day. When I reached into the refrigerator for my beverage, I noticed two plastic containers of worms hiding behind some Tupperware. I'd put them in there the

last time I was north over a month ago. I forgot all about them.

Assuming they'd be all dead, I cautiously pried the lid open. To my surprise

they were alive. And, boy-oh-boy, were they relieved to see me. “Woo-hoo,

we're saved!” they screamed. (In case you forgot ... the Dr. Doolittle thing ....)

“Wow,” I said, “I can't believe you guys aren't all dead, rotting to crap and

all smelly, stinky bad. Awesome!”

“Thanks, dude. Hey,” one of them suggested, “let's celebrate. Let's do

something fun.”

“Sounds good,” I said, “what'cha say we all go fishing?”

I didn't have the courage to tell them the whole story.

That's the way it looks from the Valley.

The author Tom Valley speaks softly to annimals

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