on the boulder. The boulder’s front edge dug into the clay as he budged
it south till it wouldn’t go any farther. So he got on one corner of it and
pushed there, and it swung around a little. Then he pushed on the other
side, and it swung the other way. In this way, Lopat edged it forward. After an hour of finagling, coaxing, and pushing, he had it fully on Brown
& Lambrecht’s real estate. The clay it had rested on was a mess of gouges
and scrapes that took another hour of straightening out till we could put
down the sub-base gravel. Occasionally I looked to where the sawcutter
had been cutting the new concrete pavement, till finally the light from
his truck went away. I got out my level, set it up, and helped Lopat with
the grading. Bucket after bucket of coarse aggregate went down and got
smoothed out as Lopat back-dragged his end loader bucket and O’Malley compacted it with the base roller. In the feeble light of my pickup’s
headlights, it looked pretty good.
Suddenly, though, there was a commotion to our south. Lopat and
O’Malley sat on their machines. A fleet of headlights came charging our
way, trucks with flashers and high beams. They descended upon us till
we were in their spotlights, like insects in the glare of a kid’s magnifying
glass before he burns them to a crisp. A swarthy guy in Carhartts swung
open his truck door and strode up to us. “What’s up?” he shouted. Behind
him, far behind him, something heavy buzzed. It sounded like a tank.
“Returning something to you,” I said.
“Are you a wise guy?” he asked.
My experience with confrontations was that as long as you kept
asking questions that made the other guy answer, you were OK. Once
you fell under his spell and started answering his questions, you were
doomed. “No,” I said, “You want your rock back, don’t you?”
“It’s not ours,” he said.
Other men got out of other trucks behind him, till the dimly lit grade
was full of bib overalls. The buzzing behind him grew louder, the buzz
of something with bright headlights. “We’re not taking it back,” he said.
“Taking it back?” I said. “Yes, that’s the idea.”
The big guy smiled. “We’ll see about that.”
Then the buzz of the bright lights finally showed itself for what it
was. Until now, those truck lights in my face had hidden what it was.
We could only make out a big thing coming at us and the brightness of
artificial light. Now I saw it—a giant Caterpillar bulldozer D9, a huge
machine with that high rear sprocket that makes it look like a tricer-
atops. Those shadowy figures standing behind Carhartts all got in their