There & Back Again

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Tuesday, June 25
Louisville, Kentucky
90° Hazy Overcast

I took a 650 mile side trip to Beaufort, South Carolina with my friend Jane to visit her home there. The visit included home maintenance, yard cleanup, packing, and moving. A season’s worth of leaves and moss had to be shoveled off the roof. My New England snow shoveling expertise came in handy. But I must say it is a striking difference shoveling moist leaves and moss in 95° and 99% humidity, than moving snow in 5° weather.

Getting the debris off the roof means picking it up from the yard, decks, and walk ways. That took some time. Then the yard work began: cutting back the overgrowth, trimming shrubs, and finally mowing the west 40. I pulled the cobwebbed mower from the back of the shed, a 160cc Toro. That’s 10cc’s bigger than Ruby. An encrusted semi-filled 5 gallon gas tank sat nearby. With some manly persuasion and the use of a manual choke the engine roared to life. All of the engine is used to spin the blade, none for driving the wheels. I pushed that mower through the overgrown west 40. It took two days.

It was not straight forward mowing. The yard was littered with branches and moss. Another six weeks and the property would return to lowcountry primeval, good only to gators, snakes, and pirates. I had to walk around picking up sticks and matted moss before running the mower through. New fallen moss was easy. It sits up like it is ready to be blown somewhere else. But it doesn’t blow anywhere. It stays where it is. It may be a little sticky or it may employ a velcro evolutionary track, I don’t really know, but I learned this on the roof: Spanish Moss stays where it is. No tumbleweed this.

Older moss turns translucent gray and lays flat. Other ground cover grows up through it. It can easily go unnoticed. I used a small 6 inch shrub rake to grab hold of this moss and lift it up. I would expose several square feet of soil and a stick. There is always a stick under the moss. I deposited the catch in a large plastic gardening wagon I pulled around. I felt I was fruitlessly disturbing the natural order of things. If I stood still long enough moss encircled my feet and returned my work boots to earth.

I expanded a creation myth while interacting with moss. I now know in the beginning Spanish Moss spread across the firmament’s universal stick until it covered everything. Then, the Mighty Elk walked upon it. In it’s antlers rested a tortoise… but you know the rest. The lowcountry plays with your mind.

As I said, it took me two days to mow the west side of the house, plus the front out near the road, and one little hidden place with a statue and a bench. There was more to do, lots. I ran out of gas for the mower and energy for my body. My every pore was pumping out water as fast as I could drink it in. It’s a sensation I really like, having felt so little sweat in New England. Unlike New England where weekend warriors plan to mow grass and clean gutters at three in the afternoon, in the lowcountry one must stop heavy outdoor labor in the afternoon. The effect of heat and humidity is debilitating.

Jane wants to sell her Beaufort, SC home. Her business is in Louisville, KY now. On this trip she cunningly planned to have me come along and drive a truck of her furniture back. I agreed. She organized a truck rental and for two men to come and load it. The first problem was the truck. It beeped. It was signaling something wrong, but not flashing anything on the dashboard. The 1-800 customer service provided no service at all. The mother and daughter truck rental company had no other trucks. The beeping was intermittent so we decided to chance driving it rather than waiting two days for a different truck and reschedule the loaders.

The loaders were a father and son team. They were eager and good natured. Despite his size, dad was out of shape and son was inexperienced. Additionally, dad expected everything to be packaged in boxes ready to be rolled out on a commercially sized hand truck. Jane had packed kitchen pots and pans in one overloaded box. There was no hand truck. When she pointed out what was to be done, dad, whose name is Roger, almost quit on the spot. There was large stained glass to be taken down, a bed the size of Rhode Island to be dismantled, couches, end tables, wicker porch furniture, and a motorized steel chiropractic table, all to be hauled out into the truck.

Jane went off to locate a hand truck. I assuaged Roger by letting him vent both words and sweat as we carried the small light things out to the truck. I showed solidarity. I sweated. Moving is hard. It gets harder with age.

Large framed stained glass panels had to be taken down from their ceiling hooks and somehow safely packed in the truck. Given our amateur abilities I had no faith whatsoever they would make the trip whole. Additionally, there was a chiropractic adjustment table. It is a complex motorized steel contraption, something only slightly tamed from the inquisition. It weighs a ton. We lifted it up on end and onto the commercial grade hand truck Jane acquired. It was a tenuous balancing act, over lips, ledges, steps, and across uneven walkways. Toes and fingers in tact we got it into the truck. Lastly came the enormous mattress, an unwieldy mass of comfort.

Stained glass was precariously put on the mattress surrounded by pillows and cushions. The last small items were wedged in and the door closed. We rolled out of Beaufort at 3 p.m. Roger and D (the son) were in high spirits at the end. It was a job well done. I enjoyed having the opportunity to talk with someone from the lowcountry whose family had lived there for generations. No more authentic dialect could possibly be heard. I also appreciated the truck’s air conditioning.

The drive back took two days. I cringed and worried with every bump. We arrived in Louisville about 24 hours after we left South Carolina. I parked the truck at Jane’s office. She recruited to men for unloading through a temp agency. We would do that tomorrow.

The next day the two men did not show up. I enlisted a strong young fellow from Jane’s apartment complex. She got the fellow from the office next to her, to join in too. The four of us unloaded the truck’s contents into a rental space. Not as hot as SC, but the sweat poured out of all of us anyway.

Jane and I returned the rental truck. One last fill-up. The gas cap was missing. It had always been a loose fit. I assumed it was the cause of the beeping. The truck company man wanted to charge $22 for a new cap. The frustration and stress of moving came over Jane and she let him have it. I felt sorry for the guy. He insisted the cap was not the cause of the beeping or a light would show up on the dashboard. We pointed out that there was no gas cap at all and nothing on the dashboard indicated a problem. He gave in and waved the extra fee. Jane deflated exhausted. It took me a few hours to unwind. We both fell asleep on the sofa about ten minutes into some movie. The move was over.

No glass was broken in this move. The moss and the elk and the tortoise all worked in harmony.

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