rumors of progress at Roundrock

The dogs and I had gone down to my little cabin on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks on Wednesday, more or less spontaneously, because I had this notion that we could spend the night and I could hear the whippoorwills. (It was too hot for that and we later retreated to suburbia where there is air conditioning and running water.) But as I was sitting in the comfy chair on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake I could hear a vehicle coming down the road toward the cabin. Good Neighbor Craig sometimes does this when he has news (since I get no cell signal at the cabin) or just to visit. And there have been times when I’ve heard vehicles approaching only to hear them stop and reverse once they get within sight of the cabin (or, more likely, within sight of my red truck parked by the cabin). I suspect they are folks who are just exploring or maybe want to throw a line in the lake, but they see the landowner is present and decide to retreat.

This time was different. The sound continued, but it did not continue down the road. At first I thought it was my new neighbor to the north, doing something on his land, except that I noticed new growth coming up in that field as I passed it that morning, and it seemed unlikely that he’d be taking something mechanized there to smash it. So I rose from the comfy chair and steered my feet toward the sound. Far ahead through the trees I could see a big red machine moving into the forest beside my road, and as I grew closer I could see that it was digging up the ground in there.

I was alone (except for Flike, who’s a big baby, and Queequeg, who I’d sequestered in the cabin), but if this was an interloper with timber trespass plans, I was going to have to confront him. When I got close enuf, though, I recognized the man in the cab of the big red machine as the man I had spoken with a couple of months ago about repairing my road and spillway. So what was he doing digging up the ground in the trees?

I don’t know how soon he spotted me watching him, but he finished what he was doing before he jumped down from the machine to say howdy.

It turned out that he had just dug the first of three trenches off of the main ditch coming down beside the road. The point was to bleed off some of the water that comes down the road so it doesn’t continue down to the dam and erode the spillway. The north spillway has been a problem since it was first built fifteen years ago. I’ve had it “repaired” several times, but we were apparently fixing the wrong problem. It was never the water from the lake that was eroding the spillway but rather the water racing down the road that hit the spillway from the side and chewed into the dam itself. So the fix had to begin with diverting the water coming down the road, and the three trenches he dug were intended to help with this by diverting the water before it got to the spillway.

Now, I’ve been waiting for three years to get this problem addressed. I’d hired three people to do it in that time, and each time they did a little initial work and then disappeared, not returning my calls or texts. This fourth man is the one who built my cabin, and he seemed pleased to be invited back. Even so, the weather was not always cooperative, and I suppose he had competing work around the county, but I began to fear that he would be a no-show again. And yet there he was, doing some initial work.

He and I spoke at some length about what still needed to be done (a culvert put in at a muddy spot farther up the road; some gravel for other parts of the road; repair to the spillway itself, which involved hauling large rock about as far into my forest as you could; and maybe another water diversion feature up by the cabin). It was all ambitious, and he spoke of some family issues that might intervene as well as the storms predicted for later in the week. I was just glad that work was finally begun.

He dug the three trenches (and a fourth farther up the road at that muddy spot that I didn’t see until I left), but then he had to get home (those family issues). I returned to the cabin and the comfy chair, noting how high the sun was still in the sky and how long it would be until the whippoorwill sang and how miserably hot it was. (The thermometer on the shady porch had been fixed at 90 degrees all day; it was worse in the sun.) So Flike and I had a conversation about maybe just going home instead of spending the night. He favored this, so I began packing our gear.

We drove out, past the three new ditches and then the fourth one I hadn’t known about way up the hill, and then on home. I called the day a good start on a long-needed project and thought I would stay in touch with the man as much as I dared to nudge him along for the other bits that needed doing.

Except that he sent me a text the next evening saying all of the work was done! Three years of waiting and frustration seemed to have been addressed in a day and a half of work.

I was tempted to jump in the truck and hustle down there to examine it, but Friday morning began with strong thunderstorms in Kansas City that were moving in the direction of Roundrock. More rain is forecast for Saturday. On Sunday, my wife returns from a long stay in St. Louis (to care for Small Paul). So the soonest I can get out to my cabin and all of the road work is Monday of next week, which is fine since the temperatures will have moderated some by then. And before, I might have added a few days to that delay since I would not want to drive on my poor road so soon after a rain. But if the fix is in, that won’t be an issue any more.

So I’ll occupy myself by pulling weeds from my garden in suburbia until I can return again.


Here is a pretty good picture of the beaver lodge across the lake from my cabin. Thought I’ve seen plenty of signs of the beavers, I have yet to see the little beasts themselves.

The dark spot to the left of the pile of sticks in the above-water entrance to their den. I suspect they have an underwater entrance as well.

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