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Marines and Horse Manure

May 11, 2009
The pass of Salang, approximately 3800 meters ...
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As I have indicated in the past, my brother-in-law is a US Marine.  Today he boarded a plane to take him to Afghanistan.  Although we have known for a while (he has been enlisted for about a year), his going is still hard.

My wife, his sister, waited for his final call all morning (a three hour time difference playing into the mix), and when it came it was short: “I am waiting to get on the bus.  I will see you in 7-8 months.”

I thought my wife had taken the news of the call really well, telling him to be careful and to keep in touch.  So, as a way to distract, we went to the local fair grounds where they rent out horse stables to some local harness racers.  It is also a good place to find free manure/compost.  With little brother’s truck, we for another load compost: really me and a pitchfork working to fill up the truck while Lovely Wife and Pookie (now eight years old) go to talk to the horses.

The manure is housed in a concrete box that has one end open.  Situated on the side of a hill it resembles a walk-out basement.  The top of the closed end is level with the ground at the end of the barn, which makes for an easy wheelbarrow ride straight out and into the concrete bunker.  By pulling into the opposite, open end, I can scoop and go with relative ease.

I was doing just this, straddling the open tailgate with knee-high waders, shorts and a t-shirt with one foot on the truck and the other sinking into the compost.  The truck was about half full when I noticed that Lovely Wife was standing at the top, crying.  From my vantage point, my head was level with her feet as she stood just back from the ever-crumbling edge (I was pulling from the center of the pile–it is where the best heat occurs).

“My little brother is going off to war,” she says.  “I tried to be brave.  No one wants to hear their sister cry when they are going away.”

“I’m sorry, honey,”  I say.  “I really am.  I would give you a hug, but I am standing in horse shit, with compost fumes and dust floating up.”

That pretty much summed up our morning.

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