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1997 Yard Project

Home Improvement

Larry must've dropped his cigarette...

Out with the old
on our Day One,
20 March 1997

I'm posin' while Kyle compresses the railroad ties

Moving creosote ties:
Emmer heavy, dood!
20 March 1997

Larry skimmed the remnants a bit

Grinding down pea:
Larry at the helm
20 March 1997

Vroo-oom, vroo-oom

Larry dredging, and
Ben laying base
21 March 1997

'I'm your Uncle Larry. Remember me, sonny boy...'

Uncle Larry & Eli
moving the Earth
21 March 1997

Larry Morrell brought his tractor over and went over the operation of it with me. I had a little trouble translating my ideas into
physical action. Larry took great pains at trying to make me teachable. I did my best, but over the course of the project,
I nearly buried myself twice. Somehow, I managed to get lucky and survive. Larry wasn't the only kind soul looking after Alissa
and I. Kyle West also helped me to move the old greasy railroad ties out of the way, stacking the base tiers of our retaining wall
with me. Merrill (my father-in-law) was tractor-side on Day One. Everyone helped me, because I knew nothing.
Afterwards, I spent a month working random pieces of riprap into a multi-tiered feature. Many hours of toil and many, many
Walkman batteries went into the reconstruction of our backyard. The project began in mid-March, and ended sometime in June, when
the sprinkler system was functional. Doesn't sound like a long time I guess, but my youngest kid went from toddling to climbing
the boulder we referred to as "Big Moe" in that short time. My wife was happy, and my many neighbors were a tad bit unhappy...

Someday, you'll get it, Nephew...

Kiddy Ride:
Larry & Eli
21 March 1997

'Keep your knees low when you're lifting!'

Pass the big baton:
Kyle, Ben and Eli
21 March 1997

All this for $2 per hour!?

Larry loading up
the tractor bucket
21 March 1997

This is where the strawberries will grow!

The Berry Patch:
Where the food is
29 March 1997

'Enjoy this ride, My Son!'

Ben & Eli
on the tractor
1 April 1997

I had started the project, trying to gather the 12-inch-deep pea gravel with a shovel and a wheel barrow, in February.
That was crazy. No way. I started at the same spot I had repaired a hole in the fence the previous April 11th, when
seven-year-old Jessica Dubroff had crashed her airplane onto Kornegay Court. I mulled over many things while my hands were busy.
Soliciting help from Cheyenne Sanitation, the boss, Mr. Felix Peņa, told me he would be very interested in purchasing my
used pea gravel. The following morning, a diminutive Mexican-American gentleman in a pinstripe suit, wearing a very smart
porkpie hat (Felix Peņa himself) surveyed my back yard, and agreed to buy my pea gravel. My shovel sighed. Mr Peņa said he
appreciated that it was "very clean," and offered the use of his crew and equipment for a modest fee of $300. Without a
second thought, I agreed. I just wanted that junk out of the yard. His efficient crew took down a section of my fence, and
using a Bobcat loader, transferred all of the stone into two large dump trucks. Mr. Peņa went over the details of his purchase,
and after agreeing to pay me $200 for the gravel, I wrote him a cheque for $100. It felt like a bargain at the time, and as a result,
my wife assumed complete control of the family finances. This was the day that I henceforth recieved a fixed allowance, and
relinquished possession of the checkbook. Everything worked out okay, after all.

I laid down a run of riprap this day, but it was wet & cold, so I stopped.

Work stoppage:
A day off!
4 April 1997

I had to tamp the earth down with a 4x4 post before the backfill.

Tamping the terrace:
Backfill prep
23 April 1997

We planted a tall birch tree which died shortly after it planted (disease).

Live plantings:
Doomed, plain birch
9 May 1997

I realized I should be climbing on this day.

Live plantings:
"What am I doing!?"
9 May 1997

Stacking rocks is meditative for me. I am inundated by random notions, uncontrolled. I just stack rocks. I hardly
noticed that Kyle West was helping me, and I didn't notice that he had gone home each day. Alissa would just appear,
and I would stop. The next morning, I would rise, drink coffee, and once again begin stacking rocks. This rock,
that rock. The walls became taller, and the sun tracked across the sky. Eventually, after tamping behind each retaining
wall, I would backfill with the huge piles of fill dirt that we had purchased. Alissa started buying plants & trees. Flagstone
walkways appeared. I know it was me who moved the stones, but I believe Alissa began to shape the yard project too.

This was around the time I trenched a new sprinkler system

Late Spring, during
garden planting time
15 May 1997

The boys liked to climb the big boulder.

Taylor climbing
"Big Moe" boulder
1 July 1997

'I'm on top o' the wo'ld!!'

Success! A wild,
primitive gesture
1 July 1997

Northeast side of our lot on Plainview.

End of summer,
the sunflower house
31 August 1997

She wanted a big boulder in the yard, so we selected what I called "Big Moe." The gentleman who brought it
all the way over from the plant nursery on a forklift (about ten miles) probably thought I was crazy. Heh-heh-heh.
The rock work done, we began planting: numerous river birch, a few cottonwoods, and a big, doomed birch. I had
also fashioned a separate vegetable garden, which did quite well. By the end of summer, her sunflower house made
a big impression on anyone who saw it. It was my first attempt at sprinkler installation (a weird success)...

Once the sprinklers were in, everything just leafed out like crazy.

Another angle of
the terraced yard
31 August 1997

Alissa added alot of colorful plantings this first summer

Eli & dog Mischa
in the back yard
31 August 1997

I had several tons of rock left & fashioned this little garden

The crescent garden:
of left-over granite
2 September 1997

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...

Alissa, Eli, Jenna,
and Taylor out back
2 September 1997

Because of the warm weather that year, Alissa's plantings flowered like crazy. All I know is we had alot of lettuce
and kale that year. This was our fourth year of marriage, and I was learning how incredibly adept my wife is at
growing so many different kinds of things, in Wyoming, of all places. Flowers, fruit & vegetables... and sunflowers.

Part One, the biggest project we'd done yet...

She thought I'd
gone crazy. Drawn
May, 1997

Part Two, the biggest project we'd done yet...

Not totally perfect,
but it was okay
May, 1997

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