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Red Winged Black Bird on a fence post in a field.

Sinkhole

2008-06-30

Category: General

Throughout the Flood of 2008, as it is being called, I have commented that my neighborhood has been rather unaffected. My residence sits uphill, a full two hills away from the river. Other than the news coverage, the water restrictions, and the more recent odor, I would have not noticed that any flooding had occurred. It seems, though, that things may change. Water will have its way.

The other evening I came home and parked in the southeast corner of the parking lot of my apartment building. On getting out of my car I noticed that there was a hole in the pavement of the lot. At about twelve inches by eight inches, the hole waited the unwary foot to find it. (Please note that, since I could identify the item in question as a "hole in the ground" it does suggest that I know the difference.)

The hole stood out of place in what is usually a rather nice bit of paving. I looked more closely. The asphalt that would have filled the hole sat a good ten inches down. More importantly, the earth that normally supported the parking lot had left that area for parts unknown. The volume of missing dirt measured more than the hole in the asphalt and continued to be missing at an angle that ran under the space on which sat my car.

A mixture of reasoning and paranoia caused me to quickly move my automobile to another, less holey area of the parking lot. Then, to encourage the safety of my neighbors, I pushed the communal dumpster into that parking space. With this done, I telephoned the land lord to let him know of this new hazard.

It occurred to me that the positioning of the dumpster may confuse those with no knowledge of the hole, so I printed a couple of signs of Warning and Explanation and affixed them to the common doors of the building where they would be seen by the neighbors in their various comings and goings. With that, I felt that my civic duty was fulfilled in the matter. I went about my business.

Strange holes in the ground have always provided both fascination and dread for me. There have been too many incidences where such phenomena have posed a secret danger. Those who have read my poem "Wormslurp: Based on a True Story" may have gathered that it was my young leg that slipped through the back lawn of my home and into the hidden well. In another "well" remembered tale, I tossed a boomerang over a fence onto a recently mowed lawn while I climbed the fence myself. Several days of methodical searching could not find the boomerang which, as some have suggested, may have finally returned to a previous owner.

I must also use great care when hiking in natural environs. It seems that holes in the ground lurk beneath every bramble and blade of grass. Tree roots can often hide exquisitely mysterious caverns, though I decline any invitation to such places. Once one's paranoia is particularly stoked, one finds all manners of entrances to the beneath lurking in the world.

The main problem with the hole in the parking lot is the escape route by which the soil made its egress. No obvious flows or channels reside in the vicinity. That means that there is something hidden beneath the ground. It may be as simple as a small channel that runs along a storm sewer pipe in the area. On the other end, Iowa has been known to expose the occasional lime stone cavern that may have gone unnoticed during the human presence in the area. Such a void could take in far more than just the small block of asphalt as is seen; it could swallow the entirety of the neighborhood.

This neighborhood holds a particular place in my heart. I've lived in this apartment for about seven years, and I lived in a house not half a mile south of here for the twelve years previous. Being gobbled by the earth would sadden me greatly. It would also be a damnable inconvenience.

The following morning someone, presumably the land lord, placed a saw horse over the hole itself but left the dumpster in the parking place. I imagine that, with the overload on local contractors caused by the Flood, it may be a while before we see repairs. In the mean time, I am sure that my co-residents in this building will pull together to park as far apart from one another as they can without leaving enough room for anyone else to park as well.


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