The Untrenched West
I don’t quite remember the first time I heard his name mentioned. However, I do remember the first time I saw him for myself. Standing atop that rolling hill among the newly planted shrubs. The wind teased his flowing cape as he smiled down upon me.
Pa had been trying for years to manicure our beautiful acreage. He loaded the lower forty with perennials and succulents. My ma and three younger sisters seeded the outer edges with some sweet grass (I hear it came all the way from Kentucky) and my uncle brought us the best smelling wildflowers I had ever known.
After ages of bleak landscape, we finally had a lawn to be proud of and take pride in. There was just one problem … the sun going down. Those particular summers were real warm and we didn’t spend much time in the yard while the heat was blazing. So, we really only gathered amongst the hedges and tall arborvitae after the sun went down. It was cooler then, but less pretty too.
You see, during those evening hours when the darkness came rolling down the valley, all the shadows kinda grabbed up the view. Instead of seeing the vibrant colors and the way the hardscape curved through the undulating pastures … it was all muted and gray. All our hard work was lost amongst that twilight bandit.
My parents loved to entertain but they could never really show off all that hard work. Pa had a man come out once to look at things ‘cause he knew stuff about electricity and said he could light up our lawn. We was all excited and knew our prayers had been answered. But then the bad news came … real hard.
This fella from the city said he could help with making things light up like stars in the sky. He could show off anything we wanted to show. Unfortunately, he was going to need to tear out all our plants to lay down the wiring. All that hard work was gonna be gone like the afternoon breeze.
Turns out, in order to install this fancy lighting, he needed to bring in a big machine to tear up the ground. We tried to convince him we could do it by hand but the ground in summer might as well be stone. We woulda been scratching ‘til fall trying to get even a little trough run a few feet. That’s when I heard the rumble…
It was like outta one of my dreams for sure. A low rumble turnin’ to a high-pitched whine as the stranger crested the hill. Ma said she had heard talk of a man who travelled the land helping folks with their irrigation and root pruning … but she wasn’t sure he could help us.
As I looked up through the scorching sun, my eyes fell upon a gleaming steel bar, held by a rumbling teal body. The light flashed and across my face and in that moment, I knew the legends were true. I was staring at the Lone Trencher.
His shiny helmet (complete with ear protection and face shield) stood gleaming in the hot sun. Work gloves flexed around the handle of his trusty trenching steed … the GeoRipper minitrencher. He hit the throttle and it jumped (no actual kickback due to bar weight and expert design) and he laughed as he went to work.
With little effort and a big grin on his face, he quickly laid a 1 ½ inch trench 6 inches deep through the existing flora and fauna. He curved around Ma’s prized azaleas and in between sisters’ tight-spaced rhododendrons. With minimal ground disturbance and little to no back fill, the Lone Trencher made the impossible a reality.
That night we held a big party at sundown. As the sun disappeared behind the mountains, Pa hit the switch and the lights burned bright. Everyone gasped when they saw the transformation. Just an hour earlier we had a daytime only lawn. Now, we had a 24/7 expression of our love for landscaping and it was something to be proud of to be sure.
As he crested the hill, the Lone Trencher looked back and gunned the GeoRipper one last time before disappearing out of sight. To this day, there are those that say he can still be found helping those that have only picks and shovels to battle their land. I will forever remember the words of wisdom he gave us that day…
“If you’re hand diggin’…you’re doin it wrong!”