week eight: toeing the line

summer 2018

I rarely put myself into situations where I am cognizant of my own mortality. This is not to say that I don’t put myself in danger–I do many dumb things–but rarely am I fully aware of the riskiness of an action.
This was not one of those blissfully unaware moments.
The problem with pivots, you see, is that they’re huge. This is a boon, of course, when they work because a single pivot can often cover most of a field, making irrigation much simpler. The downside of this fact is that when they break, fixing them is a more complex issue. If a wheel line gets stuck in the ditch or someplace, you can walk over in your rubber boots and–so long as it isn’t filled with water–lift it out. If the pivot gets stuck in a ditch or someplace, you have to go get a tractor.
Thus, I was faced with my own fragility after a pivot broke. Not only are these things long, but they’re tall, ten-plus feet in the air, with sprinklers hanging down from the main pipe by tubes. If these tubes fall off of the pivot, water becomes an effective shovel, creating a small ditch as the pivot circles the field. If left for too long, both the crop and dirt below will be devastated.
This is, of course, what happened, and so I was hastily dispatched by my uncle to remedy the situation. My instructions were simple: turn off the pivot, turn off the pump, climb up and reattach the tube with a new clamp, and then turn it all back on. The first two stages of the mission were simple enough; the pivot-scaling was where it got hairy.
Generally, I’m fine with heights–I even like them, to a certain extent. I’m happy to climb ladders and scale trees. My favorite amusement park rides are the ones where they strap you into a seat, slowly lift you up about 100 feet into the air, and then drop you back down. Climbing the pivot was a lot iffier than either of those activities–or, more precisely, inching my way to the middle of the pivot on a cable about the thickness of my thumb. Ten feet isn’t too intense, but ten feet in the air with only a small cable between you and the ground, nothing to really hold onto, and the knowledge that you have to somehow reattach the tube to the pipe–a two-handed job–is intense. And that was what I had to do.
I didn’t realize how tricky this was going to get until I had scaled the side of the pivot and was getting ready to slide out the section.
‘There’s no way Lyndon expects this of me,’ I thought. So I called him. He did expect that of me.
“If I die,” I told him, “it’s on your conscience.”
“My conscience will be clear,” he replied. I wasn’t as certain of that as he was.
So I went out on a limb. Naturally, as soon as I got out of reach of the main support structure, the wind began to blow. Hard.
To say I was delighted with this development would be categorically false. I seriously considered dumping the tube and telling my uncle to deal with it himself if he was so confident about the whole situation. My better, braver half won out, though, and so I hummed hymns and prayed very, very hard as I scooted along the tip of the pivot.
I won’t go into details about the actual reassembling on the machine–except to say that I almost lost my balance while tightening the clamp–or about my journey back to the security of the support tower–I went to the wrong tower and had to go all the way back across to the opposite support. I will inform you, however, that the moment I climbed down from the tower and touched solid ground again, I shouted “praise Jesus!” and did a little happy dance.
At this point, I’m hoping that the remaining sprinklers remain intact. I’m currently a big fan of solid ground.

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