Breaking Big Rocks into Little Rocks

There was a saying in the Army that went something like “It ain’t that bad boys, we could be breaking big rocks into little rocks” that helped us get through some of the more menial repetitive tasks we had to accomplish from time to time.

I now know how shitty it can be to break big rocks into little rocks all day. That’s what I did on Saturday and Sunday this past weekend. Broke big rocks into little rocks. (Ok, I wasn’t doing all the work by any means, I was just one member of a team of hard laborers.)

Why was I breaking big rocks into little rocks you might ask?

Because I was helping Josh build his deck, of course. You see, the soil in Central Texas consist of about 3 inches of dirt, then 6-8 inches of rocks, and then clay.

Josh’s Dad was teaching us the ways of building a deck, and he said that the posts that were on the edge of the deck needed to be put two feet into the ground. Us young pups know when to listen to an old dog, so we set about digging holes two feet into the earth on Saturday morning times 10, and after about 45 minutes we had one hole dug, and one hole partially dug. Josh and I promptly headed to Home Depot to rent a jack-hammer. Whilst there, we also picked up an auger, to maybe make our lives a little easier.

By the time I left on Saturday around 1:00 p.m. (I had a wedding to attend that afternoon, remember) we’d dug maybe 6 of the 10 two foot deep holes we had to dig. I felt horrible for leaving early on one hand, and glad I’d made previous plans on the other… My shoulders and hands were killing me, and I was already sunburnt.

You see, the process for digging a two foot hole with a jack hammer, auger, post hole diggers and a shovel goes like this:

1. Use the auger to dig a rough indention into the first two inches of soil.
2. Use the jack-hammer to break big rocks into little rocks.
2.a. (optional) Rest for 15 minutes before trying to dig the jack-hammer out of the dirt.
3. Use the post-hole digger, or your hands whichever is most productive, to remove said smaller rocks.
4. Use the auger to remove the little rocks, and see if you’ve made it through all of the rocks.
5. Use the jack-hammer again to break big rocks into little rocks.
6. Repeat steps 2-4 until you hit the clay.
7. Use the jack-hammer to break up the clay a little, or the auger, if it’ll move the clay.
8. Remove the remaining clay and rocks from your hole, and pray that you’ve gotten two feet deep.
9. Rest 30 minutes because its 100° outside and there’s no clouds or breeze.
10. Repeat for next hole.

Digging post holes in Central Texas sucks. Especially when you’re almost 30 and way out of shape. Thank goodness for peach-tea to keep you going.

Anyways, I returned to Josh’s house on Sunday and Josh, Keith and David were already hard at work in the backyard. They’d finished up all of the deep holes, and were starting to lay out the joists that would support the deck, so I pitched in, and by 5:30 p.m. or so, we had built what looked like a deck. Oh, it wasn’t 100 percent complete, but by golly, we were done. Exhausted. Finito. Done.

Christine and I drove home, where I promptly took a cold shower. I was pretty good and sunburnt, and smelled like rotten dirt. Ever smelled like rotten dirt? Yeah, that was me. My body hurts now in more places than I can remember, and my arms and neck are pink and puffy.

That’s the last time I ever build a deck in Texas in June… and for that matter I won’t build one in May, July, August or September either… February? I’ll think about it.

All in all, it was fun working with Josh, his dad and his brother, and it was really nice to see Elise out there helping out where she could… though I can imagine it was frustrating working with three tired, sweaty and grumpy guys… Janice pitched in keeping us hydrated and wearing hats and sunblock… it was a team effort.

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