The Desert Gives up its Secrets (and so does the Swamp)


It is said that the desert gives up its secrets - wait long enough and objects (lost cities, treasures, etc.) claimed by the desert sands will one day reappear. The following true story shows that the swamp does likewise.

Shortly after being married I received a set of Makita cordless tools - a drill and circular saw - from my brother-in-law Mitsuhiko Wakayama. Mitsuhiko-san works for Makita (I think he has now worked his way up to the number 2 spot) and sent me this wonderful gift (although I think it was a used floor model - no matter).


I was married in 1987, and so received these tools circa 1990. Around this time we moved to Eugene, Oregon and I used these tools to build a cedar gazebo (which came out really good by the way):


A younger, virile Dr. Blaber building a gazebo with his bare hands (and Makita cordless tools) in Eugene Oregon (circa 1991)

These Makita cordless tools never failed me. Once every 5 years or so I would have to buy new batteries, other than that these tools always worked and required no servicing whatsoever. In May 2016 I used these tools to build an observatory command center. You can find a link to that story here.

The Blaber Observatory Command Center (OCC)

At the end of one particular day, while putting my tools away, I discovered that I had lost the chuck key to my Makita cordless drill. I had had this tool for 26 years and never lost the chuck key. I was quite distraught and spent a half hour looking all over the place. What was disturbing was that it could not be far away; however, although I looked everywhere I sadly could not find it. I ordered another one online, but it was the wrong size (turns out they make a big one). Thoroughly frustrated, I just used the chuck key from my electric drill.

October 16 2016, a full 5 months after losing my chuck key, I was at the swamp to check on the mowing of the property (a service that my neighbors there perform for a very reasonable fee). I had been there an hour and was drinking a Rock Star energy drink when a powerful urge to urinate swept over me. The nearest toilet (gas station) is about 3 miles away, and I think nothing of urinating on the ground at the swamp. Actually, that is not entirely correct; I think a lot about urinating on the ground in the swamp. There is something extremely satisfying about being able to urinate outdoors on your own property (of course, this does not extend to defecation - which is disgusting). Before casting aspersions for such behavior, I would like to point out that my game camera has photographed wild boar, coyote, bobcat, deer, bear, armadillo, vultures, and other assorted wildlife in the area, and I have evidence (scat) that they leave here and there. So, when I urinate on my own damn property (15 acres of swamp) I feel a kinship with nature that is but a primeval memory for most people. Normally, I go to the edge of the gravel road, look around to see that I am alone (don't need any pictures on the internet), unzip, and commune with nature. However, I noticed an ant's nest on the edge of the gravel. I do not want to make life miserable for such industrious creatures, and so decided not to give them a deluge of Mike's recycled Rock Star (although it is indeed rich in B vitamin). I therefore, atypically, urinated about 3 feet away from the edge of the gravel. Looking down I searched for a target. I think most guys do this as a form of accuracy training (use it, or lose it). I noticed what looked like a twig in the gravel and aimed right for it. I don't like to boast, but I could not have achieved greater accuracy even with a Norden bombsight. As I analyzed the twig, it seemed that it might actually be a rusty nail. This made me want to really douse it since the urea would speed up the corrosion and render it less of a threat to tires. Gazing further I noticed another apparent nail, this one was curiously exactly 90 to the first nail, making a perfect cross. Suddenly, sequential waves of joy, mysticism and horror swept over me: 1) I had found the Makita chuck key! it was given up for lost, forever, but there it was; 2) how amazing that the swamp had given up its secret after all these months - what were the chances that I would be urinating exactly at the spot where the lost chuck key was hiding - and what role did the ants play in this mystical revelation?; 3) but, horrifically, I was also peeing all over my chuck key (I mean all over, up and down, over and over, with extreme precision). Now, my rigorous biomedical training reminded me that urine is sterile (unless you have been doing things you shouldn't), and so all I needed to do was rinse it thoroughly and it would be safe to handle. Fortunately, I had some bottled water and gave it a good rinse. Then, used a towel in the observatory to clean off some of the rust.


The prodigal chuck key after 5 months in the swamp and a golden shower

Here are images of the Makita cordless drill, lonely without its chuck key, and then the reunited pair!



What a remarkable day it was in the swamp - a place that is very special to me.