Down in the Trenches

Remembering the Trenches, Now and Then

the hole





Down in the Trenches

Last weekend we took an extended long weekend at our country home.  Well deserved, I figure, as not only was it the Remembrance Day holiday, but also my November eleventh birthday!  Awesome, you may assume, a nice relaxing weekend away from work, watching war newsreels and movies on tv, and the laying of wreaths at the local war memorials, with some birthday cake on the side, right? Wrong.  Hubby had other plans.

Paul had been nattering on about having to replace the weeping tile around the foundation of our cabin and he decided that this was going to be the project for the weekend. “Okay,” says I, “Hope you have some male friends lined up to help with the installation.” (Ha! Fair warning, it ain’t gonna be me!)  So out we go over the Trans Canada Highway with a pickup load of construction materials and equipment.  By the time we arrive at the cabin, all of the ground surrounding the foundation had been dug up, leaving a five foot deep trench, right around the perimeter and mounds of dirt everywhere. It looked just like a scene right out of the battle of the Sommes.  The track marks of a large tractor had left scars in the ground, as if a troop of tanks had just rolled through.

Overnight, the turncoat weather decided to side with the enemy.  All night, the rain pounded on the roof.  Lightning lit up the skies like bursting mortar shells and the thunder rolled over us like a squadron of B 52 bombers.  As dawn broke, Paul stared morosely out at the rain streaming down out of the heavens.  “Better wait till it lets up a little,” was all he said.  Plans, instructions, and diagrams littered the kitchen table as he  plotted his strategy like a five star general.

Around about 0-eight hundred the rain started to let up and with no cavalry riding in to lend a hand, I got drafted to “help”.  Just enough water was rolling off the eaves to drip down our necks and the damp cold cut you like a bayonette.  In addition to the weeping tile, Paul had decided to put up Styrofoam insulation AND imitation stone siding, a job that would take most handymen at least a week with a crew of “helpers”.  Unfortunately, I was the only one that showed up for roll call, and I could see my weekend plans for R & R slipping away.

Armed with a hammer drill, an electric screwdriver, and   boxes of screw-in fasteners, we headed down into the trenches prepared to do battle.  The wind was blowing so hard that I feared that If it got behind me while I was carrying a sheet of insulation from the garage to the work site, I would be blown away out over the hills like a wayward paratrooper!  All you could hear was the whining of the drill and the flying artillery of screws being driven into the concrete block wall.  The black goop was still tacky, and every time we got a glob of it on our hands, it inevitably got smeared onto our faces and clothes, like some kind of crazy camouflage.  The only casualty we suffered was the loss of the chuck key for the electric drill, which got lost somewhere down in the dirt and leaves in the bottom of the trench, You can’t beat the camaraderie of brothers at arms, however, and as we paused to admire what we had accomplished at the end of the day, I was  thankful to have survived with all fingers intact and to still be able to hobble up the ladder out of the hole.

Many a time that day, as we endured the uncomfortable weather and the misery of having to be there until the job was finished, it crossed my mind about how hard it must have been for those brave men and women who left their families and homes, dutifully answering a call to arms to go to fight an unknown enemy on foreign soil.

Later that day, we watched the news reports of the Remembrance Day Services, and saw the pride and also the sorrow on the faces of the veterans as they relived the memories of those days of war and the struggle and the loss.  We felt, once again, the pain of the young soldier shot to death as he stood on guard at a war memorial monument in our nation’s capital, and we recognized the enormous debt of gratitude we owe these people, one that we must never forget.

I think next year I will grow some poppies…..



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