Saturday, October 25, 2008


Since I arrived in country I've heard dozens of stories about the rainy season mud. It was prsented as the horrific, epic, man- and truck-swallowing morass of goo.

It's nothing. I mean it's mud and there's a lot of it and it's thick. If momma told you not to get your feet wet, you'll get in trouble. It might be a good idea to leave your shoes outside...but it's just mud.

Which got me thinking. People aren't used to mud. A lot of the people here, outside of camping or mountain biking (both recreational activities where you take the weather into account) probably have spent most of their lives on pavement and in places engineered to draw excess water away. It's not that this mud is special, this is just the most serious mud they have seen.

Cue the music and fade to flashback: Where I was raised it was a mile and a half to the nearest stretch of pavement. It rained there sometimes and between the dirt roads and the animal enclosures and having to tend a garden (deep rich soil makes for deep rich mud)we got a lot of mud. We drove in mud that was slicker than black ice and pulled vehicles out that were buried up past the axle.

One of my best memories is of a varsity football game in Spray, Oregon. Spray played in their rodeo arena. It was their homecoming game and there had been heavy rain the night before. The entire football field was deep, thick, nasty horse and cow shit mud. It was the funniest game I ever played- we were only able to move in slow motion and at the same time we couldn't stop. It was hilarious and we had the added bonus of ruining Spray's Homecoming by stomping them. Take that, Rocky!

Mud here is mud, no doubt about it. There's probably a ghastly amount of fecal matter in it, too. But it's just mud. For the fantasy writers out there- this was normal: slow and uncomfortable and slippery and things getting stuck.

Mud and chaos and blood and stuff- the regular stuff seems epic if you are seeing it for the first time. Sometimes we don't appreciate the distance that civilization has managed to keep 'normal' away.

200 years ago if you had a sibling, it was a less than 50% chance that you and the sibling and the mother would all be alive at adulthood. People write and whine about the trauma of losing an elderly parent when, in most of human history, few got the chance to be elderly and by the time that became a problem you would have washed and prepared other corpses, people you knew and were related to.

Same with violence (I really hate not having my library here) an anthropologist working in (melanesia, micronesia, indonesia or polynesia) was impressed with the peaceful tribe he was studying, since he hadn't seen a murder in the months he had been there... until he started asking and found that almost every woman in the tribe was a widow whose previous husbands had been murdered. Same with war- how would we deal with something like Sekigahara today with 60,000 killed in six hours hand to hand?

Sorry, off the subject of mud. But the principle is the same- normal measured by your experience can make things seem epic that are just normal. That's the way it is. Not much pavement, no storm sewers and you get mud. Mud is slippery and dirty and you can get stuck in it. The epic thing isn't the mud, it's a society that has been able to bring itself to a place that people are shocked and horrified by mud.

It's a very good thing. Just a little weird from my point of view.


Kai Jones said...

It's not just mud, it's lots of things.

Anonymous said...

"Mud is slippery and dirty and you can get stuck in it." That's what I love about it, especially the getting stuck part. I try to get my RWD truck stuck when I can, but the gooey mud out your way sounds better suited for that activity than the grainy stuff in my area.

Anonymous said...

I teach a kids martial arts class. It's clear that when the kids come in that most of them really haven't experienced much, if any pain in their life, it's so scary and foriegn to them. We remind ourselves that this is a very good thing.

And it's our job to introduce them to the concept of bad things and bad guys, gently but surely.

Unknown said...

You needed to come over to the valley and play in the clay soil they call dirt over there! :) THAT stuff STUCK! to everything! LOL I love the story of the football game. Will have to tell the boy that you've played on worse fields than he ever dreamed of. What is it about small town life? lol Take care

BFG said...

Everything is about perspective when you boil it down. I think it's why I moved away from making value judgments, they just seemed to be so... inarticulate.


Steve Perry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Perry said...

Mud. I grew up in Louisiana. Sank to my belly button on the banks of the Mississippi once as a wee lad and had to be dragged out by a chain of Boy Scouts who happened to be there.

I got your mud right here ...

Kami said...

Holy crud, Steve! Yikes! Your mud can definitely beat up my mud with one, er, stick? tied behind its back.

The mud at my house forms shiny clumps and if you dig to the red clay layer when the weather is wet, you can make some okay pottery with it. It needs that soaking time underground to work, though. If the weather is dry and you dig it up, wetting it just isn't quite the same. It doesn't have that stickiness.

Mud can be good. Steve's mud, though, not so much. Way not so much.