Monday, July 17, 2006

Stuck in the Mud

I walk through a construction site with mounds of fill dirt ready to be spread out and pounded down for a parking lot. Construction in Las Vegas has a large emphasis on dust control, it is a desert after all. I had good sandals along so I had enough sense to just kick them off so that they would not get dirty as I walked through the wetted down dirt piles. I was prepared for a little mud but not the depth of mud I encountered. Suddenly I sank up to my knees in the mud. I had some serious flashbacks to growing up on the farm in Indiana and getting in a similar predicament 35 years ago and not being able to get out without help. Panic flashed through my mind quickly after the initial surprise and I fought to keep it down.

I drove my little Ford Ranger through that same, under construction, parking lot to survey the progress. I stopped to snap a few pictures and then attempted to move on. As I pressed the accelerator the truck did a little motion forward but made most of its motion DOWN as the wheels sunk into the fresh dirt and my truck attempted to get itself stuck. Again the flashbacks to the many “stuck” times on the farm and the same panic that attempted to flash through my mind.

It took a while growing up on the farm to control the panic, to control the fear at what dad would say when you got his tractor stuck in the field, and, while fearing for your life was not a problem, fearing that you would sit there for hours and hours until someone came along was. I took a while to realize that when you were getting stuck, that moment your realized it, you would just STOP and don’t move. My tendency was to thrash around and quickly extricate myself but rarely did that work, in fact, it often made things worse. Stop and do things slowly and methodically and you will find yourself on solid ground again.

I carefully lifted one leg out of the mud and took a tentative step backward without sinking in my other leg further. I did the same a few times, slowly backtracking until I was on solid ground again. I took my foot off the accelerator and fought back the urge to “gun it.” I put it in reverse and rocked back, then forward, then back, and methodically, rhythmically I finally moved out of the hole I was in and didn’t stop again until solid ground.

Our tendency when stuck and in a rut is to thrash and fight, but I find in life, just as on the farm, they will only get you more stuck. Control the panic, slow everything down, analyze the situation, and then slowly and methodically work your way out of the mud. And if that doesn’t work I would call in the expert, dad, on the CB radio.

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