IRFD 4: Lonesome mud

rock bridge

International Rock-Flipping Day, September 2, 2007This is the rock bridge I cross a dozen times a day on my way between my house and my parents’ house. It’s a ten-inch thick, four-foot long slab of Juniata sandstone, bashed from its resting place in the middle of the Plummer’s Hollow boulevard by my Dad’s bulldozer during a major road upgrade project back in 1994, and installed by yours truly, with tractor, a few months later. It spans a drainage ditch where water only intermittently appears on the surface. But since we let the lawn revert to weeds (around the same time we improved the road), the surrounding area has turned into a wetland of sorts, and one can often hear lonesome water gurgling a foot or two underground.

My first impulse — being the sensitive, poet-type guy I am — was to let the bridge keep its secrets to itself.

bridge meets bucket 1

My second impulse was to get out the heavy machinery.

bridge meets bucket 2

Dad volunteered to operate the bucket while I snapped pictures. Kids and adults gathered ’round for the momentous Flipping of the Bridge. My cousin Jeff said he hadn’t felt so much anticipation since Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone’s vault live on teevee.

under the bridge 1

The bridge-rock came loose from its moorings with a minimum of fuss. The backhoe stood it on its side with one metal finger. It seemed safe to approach.

under the bridge 3

We found… mud. The adults jeered. But Devon and Morgan seemed able to appreciate its finer qualities. This wasn’t like finding some low grade of bituminous in your stocking on Christmas morning. This was good, dark, rich, mud.

under the bridge 4

Could we get another shot of that, please?

Who knows when I would ever see the underside of this rock again.

under the bridge 2

Jeff took the camera and got a picture of me as I lay on my belly, taking one last, long look before we set the rock back down. Wait, what’s that? Something moved!

under the bridge 5

A cricket clung to the underside of the rock, its antennae twitching. This was, unless I am mistaken, the northern fall field cricket, Gryllus pennsylvanicus. You’ve heard them, I’m sure. This species calls all day and most of the night, and like many crickets, seeks out places with good acoustics in order to play its lonesome song and draw as many groupies as possible; the long, narrow space between the rock and the mud might or might not qualify. I’d hate to think we raised the roof right in the middle of a rock concert.

The bridge didn’t quite return to its original bed at first. Dad had to use the back of the bucket to push it into place.

tractor ride

The kids quickly forgot their disappointment. I’m sure they will long remember the scientific lessons and natural wonders of their first-ever International Rock-Flipping Day.

The last in a series. See also Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. And don’t forget the check out the other participants’ blog posts, linked to at the bottom of Part 2.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

8 Comments


  1. Hmmm. I looked over our cliff and its big boulders, but I thought, “Dave wouldn’t approve if we took the tractor to those…” I misjudged you. Of course, those boulders are buried so deep, there’s probably nothing macroscopic happening, and I really like them the way they are.

    This has been fun! What’ll we do next?

    Reply

  2. I dunno. It’s someone else’s turn to play ringleader!

    I guess the attraction of the bridge rock was that it was a big-ass rock that we could still tip and replace with relatively little disruption. Also, I wanted to get in touch with my inner redneck.

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  3. Well, that was just fine. Just fine. And thanks for the Fall Field Cricket. That was fine, too.

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  4. As a finale this mechanical turning over of a huge slab was pretty impressive, Dave, especially for those of us on quarter-acre lots with no space for a riding lawnmower, let alone a bulldozer.

    But the end result may not have been so different. My foot knocked over a rock while I was watering and there was a big black cricket.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

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  5. Thanks, Annie (and Anonymous). I wasn’t sure how well this post would go over!

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  6. I’m sorry you had such a disappointing rock-flipping experience. Don’t give up though, rock-flipping often reveals some very interesting finds for young bug-hunters.

    Reply

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