In Up To His Neck
Charlie and me had a nice weekend together. Didn’t do anything special, just a few errands on Saturday morning, a walk with Scamp in the afternoon and then down to the Bonanza for supper. On Sunday, church, of course, and in the evening we scooted over to the DQ for Peanut Buster Parfaits.
So I’m sittin’ here this morning, thinkin’ about how lucky I am, considering we almost didn’t make it to the altar. Forty years have passed, but God, I remember it like it was just yesterday.
Charlie was workin’ in a big sand pit on the edge of town. We didn't have much money, so he had to work right up to the last minute. This was Friday, and we were getting’ married Saturday noon. Money or no, I took the day off to take care of some last minute stuff with my mother. Spent the mornin’ filling these little silver mesh bags with Jordon's candy coated almonds, tyin’ them with a silver ribbon. That afternoon, my Mother, the bridesmaids, and me were going to go decorate the Fish and Game, where we was to have our reception.
Charlie was operating the power shovel in a sand pit. I don't know if you know, but a sand pit has corners. He was workin’ in one of them corners, two walls of sand going up thirty feet either side of him. Shovel operator's job is to fill up trucks with sand. Trucks go off, dump it, come back and start all over. While the trucks are gone, he bales up the sand to get ready for the next truck.
So Charlie was in the pit alone. (You'd never have that nowadays with OSHA and all them regulations.) He's baling up the sand, waiting for the trucks to come back, when the chain that operates the shovel come off the shiv that holds it in place. Now normally in that situation, the shovel operator is supposed to back up and swing the shovel over onto the ground. But, Charlie’s kind of impatient by nature. He just puts the shovel down on the pile of sand, gets out of the cab, grabs a sledge hammer and walks up to the shovel. He takes one good swipe at the chain, and the rumblin’ starts. Charlie doesn't even look back. He just starts a runnin’, as the walls of sand come pouring down like an avalanche. The sand must of grabbed his feet, and down he went with his arms out in front of him. And the sand just kept a coming.
In the meantime, I was back home, takin’ a little break from the wedding preparations. I'd felt bad having the day off when Charlie had to work. So I fixed him a couple of nice BLTs on white bread, plenty of mayo, just the way he likes it, and went off to the pit to surprise him. I remember, I had on white shorts and a little pink and white-checked sleeveless blouse.
When I got there, I could tell straight off something was definitely not right. Too quiet. Usually, there's such a racket. I get out of the car, walk to the edge of the pit and look in. At first, I thought it was deserted.
"Charlie? You there?"
Nothin’. That's when I see that the power shovel was half buried in the sand. Three feet of it in the cab where Charlie was supposed to be. I felt my heart go right into my throat.
I never been scared as that my whole life. I just stood there, shakin’, listenin’, little bits of sand tricklin’ down the pile.
Then, I think I hear Charlie's voice. I'm lookin’ all over, but I can't see him.
"Over here," he says.
Thank God, I'm thinkin’, he's alive. Now Charlie always told me, “Don't move too fast around sand.” So I didn't know what to do. I just stood there, frozen. Finally, I crane my neck around the bucket of the power shovel, and there's my Charlie, just his head, sticking out of a frigging mountain of sand!
"Charlie, is that you?" I yell.
"Who do you think it is?"
I didn't know what to do. I just stood there.
"You bring any lunch?"
"Charlie, don't you think we ought to dig you out of there first?"
"Nah, I'm fine. Sand's stopped moving. The boys’ll be back any minute with the trucks. They'll get me out. I don't want you messing up your clothes."
So, I tippy-toed over to him. I tell him I didn't give a hoot about my clothes. His neck was kind of arched out of the sand, his face all dirty.
"What you got?" he asks.
"Couple BLTs on white bread, plenty of mayo. Just the way you like it."
"Sounds good. I'm hungry as a horse."
"Charlie, how do you think you're going to eat a BLT like that."
"You, sweetheart, are going to feed me." he said, smiling.
So, I sat down next to his head. Wiped off his face as best I could with a napkin. Opened a bottle of Moxie and give him some. I figured he must be some parched. Then I unwrapped the wax paper from the sandwich, broke off a piece, and started feedin’ him. It was some strange.
"Ida, nobody in the world makes a BLT like you."
"Don't talk with your mouth full." I sounded just like my mother. And we start laughin’. The whole thing was just so silly, you know?
Charlie goes, "This gives new meaning to the word sandwich."
"Stop it! You're going to make the sand start up again." We're crackin’ up.
"Charlie, you know how funny you look?"
So he tells me what happened. How he wasn't thinkin’, got impatient. How fast the sand come and buried him. Can't even wiggle his toes. How long he lay there, listenin’, hoping the sand wouldn't cover him completely. Praying he could join me on our wedding day.
"Ida,” Charlie says, lookin’ up a me, “I wouldn't miss tomorrow for the world."
That's when the boys come back with the trucks, and everybody pitches in to get him out. Billy Charpentier's digging, and he says, "Charlie, you having second thoughts about tomorrow?" And the rest chime in, ribbing Charlie about not having his mind on his work. See, they'd all made mistakes, and they knew he'd learned his lesson.
By and by, they get him out. He's a little shaky on his feet at first, but eatin’ the rest of his BLTs must of helped, ‘cause before I know it, he's back helping the boys dig out the shovel. He’s a keeper, my Charlie!
That’s it for now. Catch you on the flip side!