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Low on a windy hill.

Hilltop living is not without advantages: The view is nice, and if God should ever change His mind and reflood the earth, we'll be among the last to go. From there on, living atop a hill is-well, it's all downhill, that's what it is. (I have heard that to harvest potatoes grown on a hill all you have to do is dig out the bottom of the row and hold a sack and the potatoes will roll into it. But I have yet to verify this.)

As for the disadvantages of hill dwelling ... where to begin?

Up here is where lightning forms--and often stays. Here is where the wind blows your aluminum ladder down, leaving you stranded on the roof until your dear wife finally shows up after an afternoon of leisurely shopping for sleeping pills for her cat. Here is where you jump off your mower to pick up a fallen branch in the way and your beautiful red Murray mower goes down the hill without you. Here is where the well-driller drills down 248 feet at nine dollars a foot before striking water, while Abrell's well in the valley totals 18 feet. Here--and let's begin here--is where you replace your driveway after every rainstorm, and where you leave your car at the bottom of the driveway whenever the snow piles up to a depth of one-half inch. Whoever engineered the entry to this termite convention center we call a house relieved the precipitous grade by a bend part-way up. Why the surface had been laid with rocks the size of baseballs was not immediately clear. What was clear is that these young boulders not only relieved the car of its muffler in short order, but often I would arrive at the carport or the road to find my upper partial in my lap.

So, for $62 and change, Gene Coffey spread a load of stones the size of hickory nuts over the stones the size of baseballs. And what a difference! Until the next rain. After which I found at least $43 worth of our stones the size of hickory nuts now garnishing Big Four Road on the way to Miller's.

At Mr. Coffey's suggestion, I had him next bring a load of screenings," which had the capability of packing down and forming "a good hard surface."

Well, it's the morning after the next rain, and do I know where my screenings are right now? Indeed I do. They are nicely packed around the hickory nut-sized stones on Big Four Road, forming a good hard surface.

Well, you know me. The screenings having cost more than the hickory nut sizers, I got out the old wheelbarrow and the old scoop shovel and scooped and wheeled until most of them were back where they belonged. After rescuing them for the third time, I called Mr. Coffey and ordered a load of stones the size of baseballs. The car is now on its third muffler, and storing my upper partial in the glove compartment before traversing the driveway has become automatic.

As for getting up our driveway with snow on the ground, no problem. This is because we can't negotiate the hill on Big Four Road to reach the driveway. After sliding and spinning until we're about out of gas, we park the car down by the Nazarene Church and slog up. Usually I'm carrying two sacks of groceries and a gallon jug of skim milk, with my back pockets dipping snow. One time I got all the way to the top of the hill and forgot the milk. So I slogged all the way back. It was the first time in seven years I hadn't been ordered to bring home a gallon of skim milk.

Or take the garden. You might as well, it doesn't stay home anyway.

Without benefit of a bulldozer, a hill-dweller's garden of any size is going to be on the bias. This provides rainstorms of any size the ideal opportunity to remove any topsoil still lingering above the clay base. Our base by this time is not only clay but clay-clay, the kind of clay from which bowling balls are made. Even our moles come up wearing hardhats (I just made that up).

After breaking the handle of my first hoe and bending back the blade of hoe #2, I ordered a load of sand and lime, little knowing that a load consisted of ten tons. And because Mr. Coffey could not spread the sand and lime on the garden as he had spread the stones, the screenings, and the boulders on the driveway, I was again presented the opportunity to consort with the old wheelbarrow and the old scoop shovel. And if you have ever scooped and wheeled ten tons of anything, brother, you know you've been someplace. You also know that you don't go any other place but on the old couch for the next two days.

Not so with the sand and the lime. With the next heavy mist they went directly into the barnyard, the entire ten tons.

I was all for moving the garden down there. We no longer use the barn anyway, except for storing overflow from the shed, where we store overflow from the house. At one time the barn housed our miniature ponies. But we kept breeding them smaller and smaller until eventually they disappeared altogether.

The one who talked me out of moving the garden has yet to plant her first seed, unless you count some ill-timed four-o'clocks (which I don't). So I am still planting garden seeds with a jackhammer and chopping out weeds with a double-bitted ax. A hoe, as I might have indicated, is about as practical as a fire extinguisher in an igloo. The good news is, I can usually do the harvesting with nothing more than a Wal-Mart shopping bag.

The capricious wind that whips across here does more than knock my aluminum ladder down, leaving me stranded on the roof. Another of its favorite pranks is pulling my best (which isn't saying much) fruit trees out of the ground. And how it loves to convert roofing shingles into gliders. The little back-up shed I shed several hundred dollars for at Wickes Lumber Company left us one night on an exuberant gust for parts unknown (though I suspect it's somewhere across the road). I do have the door, which fell off in transit, in case anyone is interested.

The wind has twice blown sparks out of the trash burner and set Abrell's pasture on fire. The last time, it came within maybe five feet of barbecuing two stupid goats with their stupid heads caught in the fence. And I don't mean rare, I'm talking about well-done.

I could go on, so I will. This concerns a problem that may be unique to our elevated habitat--I haven't inquired of the Bluford Abrells who habitat the hill directly across from us. (A local wit recently observed, "The whole damn county has gone to ragweed and Abrells.") I refer to the National Guard jets from Terre Haute using our five-room aerie as a tracking site. Sometimes they are up--oh, maybe 500 feet. More often not so high. What this does to the eardrums--hang on ... here comes one now!-should provide the young jesters at the controls their kicks for the day. But no, their day isn't complete until they can catch me on the lawn mower so I'll leap off, thinking the engine is blowing up, and once again watch the mower go down the hill unattended.

All things considered, this fall I may try jackhammering out the bottom of a row of potatoes and holding a sack. If it works, that will make three advantages of living up here with the eagles.
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Title Annotation:disadvantages of living on a hill
Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Sep 1, 1991
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