36 / 365 – Creeping lake

JACK HARALDSEN

Winter mornings, we’re not doing much in the way of big projects. I’m driving out west and south, hoping we don’t have frost heaves in the road that will blow out truck or car tires, or heading down by Devil’s Lake, where the lake us rising up and eating away roads. Most of the roads are county roads, so they’re not my jurisdiction, but I have a couple where the lake is lapping at them. A quick Spring thaw or a lot of rain will push the lake over the road, and flood it out. We’ve put a dike up in a couple of places to try to keep it off, but it’s been rising for six or seven years now and the weather guys say it’s going to keep coming. It’s already swallowing one town, Church’s Ferry, down on the north shore, east of the town. Just coming up around all the buildings. Most of the businesses have closed. They had a church, it was hanging in there, something like 30 people left going there on Sundays. They were going to put a fence around it to try and save it, but I think they’re giving up and going to let the lake take it now. There’s another town on the west side, they’re talking about moving all the buildings a mile further out, away from the lake. It’s crazy times. I’ve heard some farmers say they’re losing their land to the lake, so they’re thinking of starting up something for fishing in the summer or hunting in the fall. Go from being a farmer to an innkeeper, just like that, not because you chose it but because all you’ve got is the land and the land is changing. It’s crazy what’s happening to this place. And of course my job is to keep the roads going through, help them connect all these places, even while the lake and other things are making some of the places disappear.

I don’t really have to be down that way as much as I am. My boss, the guy who manages all of us regional guys, says, “Don’t you live up in Jericho? Seems like you’re never up there.” A lot of guys use the winter to stay at home, work through all the paperwork in the office, spend more time with their families. Because summer’s coming, you know you’re going to be away a lot. My family is all gone … Chris, well … The others at college. Nothing really back home. A big empty house. I guess some people like to sit around and watch TV. Now that they have these satellite dishes, I’ve heard there’s people who will sit around all day and watch different cable TV shows from around the world. You could just sit there all day and change channels, which a different channel every half-hour. I’m not really the type to just sit there and watch TV like that. I like getting out, getting out on the road and checking up on my places, grab a cup of coffee in this town, stop for breakfast in another. I like to be on the move. Don’t stay in one place, get too settled. “Don’t let the green grass grown under your tires,” a friend of mine used to say.

On these mornings, when I’m on my way, it’s twilight, the snow glows deep blue all around. Deep blue and you can see for miles. That’s when I think how much I love this country. Sometimes the wind bumps the truck around, throws it toward the centerline or the shoulder. We put rumble strips on there in this state, so it’s always jarring. You’re driving along and it’s a quiet morning — most days I don’t even turn on the radio. And the world looks deep blue and I’m squinting, trying to see what’s new, what’s going on, and suddenly — BRRRRRRR — you hit a rumble strip and it’s a deep growl from a machine, yelling at you to get back in your lane.

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