“How did you do this?” my wife asked, holding a pair of mud-stained sweatpants I had thrown in the hamper.
“There’s a story behind that,” I replied.
The road where I walk the dogs forms a loop surrounding a central high ground. When they built this road, they raised its grade a couple of feet and placed wide drainage ditches on both sides, with culverts leading from the interior to the exterior of the loop. But this system has proven to be insufficient. During the rainy winter months and well into spring, the ditches and much of the adjacent area remain full of standing water. Many of these are now wetlands protected by the city’s Critical Areas Ordinance, so the drainage system cannot legally be improved.
I have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, I’m irked that a botched engineering job has become eternalized by statute. On the other, I enjoy all the wildlife we see on our walks. Just today we spotted two mallards swimming in one of the wider ponds. Of course, they flew off as soon as they saw two Labradors approaching.
Halley and Harry like these wetlands, too. Even though we give them plenty of pure water to drink at home, they prefer the thick, dark concoction of algae and who knows what else that’s been blending naturally for months. They get in up to their shoulders and eagerly lap it up — I’ve often wondered whether it might contain some fermented material.
Being so close to the road where cars whiz by at twice the posted speed limit, I don’t let the dogs off their T-leash. But the six-foot lead is long enough for me to stand back from the bank of the ditch while they enjoy their swim/drink.
During one of these sessions today, something on the opposite side of the ditch caught Halley’s attention, and Harry dutifully followed her interests. I dug my heels in and pulled back on the leash to keep them from going too far, but with all the rain we’ve had this year the ground was much softer than I had supposed. My feet began to slide towards the ditch. I called to Harry and Halley, but since they could feel that I was giving them more lead they assumed they had permission to continue their pursuit on up the opposite bank.
I should have jumped over the ditch, but I realized this too late to have enough of a running start. At least I managed to keep from toppling in face-first as my feet slid off the embankment. I tried to sit down on the bank, but quickly descended into the muddy water, feet first — the tops of my waterproof boots submerged about an inch below the water line.
At that point, I lost all command of my vocabulary. If the school bus hadn’t just picked up all the local children moments before, they might have received an early education in a dialect of English based largely on the Saxon tongue.
My indiscreet remarks drew Harry’s attention. He leaped back across the ditch, trying to be helpful. But Halley didn’t join in his return flight, so their T-leash brought Harry up short of the bank. He’s grown a lot over the last year, and all 70-odd pounds of him came down on his front paws right in my groin.
Strange thoughts cross your mind at a time like that. I was suddenly reminded of the wise words of my high school football coach. “Yes,” I thought, “I should always wear a cup.”
I climbed back up the bank, inventing new words and reusing old ones, but I slipped a couple of times and so muddied my knees as well.
“And that, my dear, is how I produced the unique pattern of mud splatter on the garment that you’re holding: mud on the knees and the bottom of each leg, a big spot on the seat, and two paw prints in the crotch.”