Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Marion County, May 2006 (Part V)

“We’re drillin’”, the man says, and a jet of muddy tobacco juice spews from his crooked mouth and lands at his feet. The statement is wrong on any number of levels. We’ve pulled beside a well-punching rig and four or five tough-looking customers are standing around. Their pick-up trucks are in the road and one of the larger ones is completely blocking our path. The men are smoking, talking, staring at the ground, but certainly not drillin'. Frankly, we don’t care what they do, as long as they let us by. But, so far, “We’re drillin’” is all anybody will say to us. So we wait in the idling truck and look at each other, wondering how this will play out.

As it happens, it plays out rather prosaically when, after a couple minutes of nothing much, an older man finally breaks away from the group and moves the truck from the road. We wave slightly as we pass and I watch in the rearview mirror as the men re-group. Carl resumes navigating.

Not many days afterward we meet Ricky, one of the drilling team, as he’s driving up a dirt road that we’re using to start that morning’s surveys. He gives us his cell phone number in case we need help—this has become a running theme—and tells us that at the very top of Aetna Mountain lives a family with two teenaged daughters. “They have no electricity,” he says. “How they get their water is anyone’s guess.” On top of the mountain is a long way from anywhere; there certainly aren’t any neighbors to get in the way. For the rest of our time in this place we will hope for a glimpse of what quickly becomes known as the “unknown family.” We believe that we see the mother and father on two occasions going slowly up the mountain in their red S-10. They do not seem happy to see us on either encounter. But it is the daughters we really want to run across, mountain nymphs tripping through dewy meadows in luminescent nightgowns. Perhaps chasing a fawn through the woods as they dance and sing, wildflowers wound into their flowing tresses. Certainly these Southern sirens would lead well-drillers and forest surveyors alike to their ultimate doom. Well, it does get tedious walking through the woods everyday and the mind tends to wander.

I wonder what the unknown family does in the winter when the roads get icy and there’s no way down the mountain for days at a time. Ricky shakes his head mournfully. “I just hope those girls survive,” he says. “I just hope they can make it through.”

Well, so much for one post a week. I won't make promises like that again since I know I can't keep 'em. I guess I'll just post when I can. I am an irresponsible blogger.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love the photograph of that old boat. I used to mountain bike and was constantly amazed at the strange junk I would run across in the woods. One of my favorites was the remains of a Ford Pinto.