Kevin Woster

Kevin Woster

So far this summer, I’ve only run out into the street in front of our house waving my arms and shouting two or three times.

Well, maybe five or six. Seven at the most.

But I was headed for double figures until the water truck showed up. More on that in a minute.

First, have you noticed some complications in this year’s construction season? If not, you must not have an assortment of yellow dinosaur-like machines growling and spinning and tugging and digging out in a street near you.

The machines are operated by appropriately muscled workers in helmets and brightly colored t-shirts. They’re good guys. And some of them are hard at work, whenever the monsoons of summer allow it, with a re-construction project on our street that has been overdue for 17 years.

Longer than that, actually, but that’s how long I’ve lived here, and how long I’ve been complaining — generally without waving my arms and shouting — to city officials about the sad state of the street and especially the flooding we get at our house with each generous rain.

Flooding is what you can expect living down gradient from hilly residential areas constructed long ago under a simple drainage plan: “Look out below!” We do, but we still get swamped.

As I might have mentioned before, I first witnessed the results of that plan on the evening of July 8, 2002, the day Mary and I were married. We hosted a backyard reception that featured delicious roast pork, sublime music by Hank Harris and, a bit later in the evening, a gully washer of Old Testament vigor and proportions.

After surveying the mess the next morning. I shared my concerns with city officials. They were sympathetic even as they warned me that our street-utilities project, while needed, was a ways down on a long, tortuous list of other needed projects here in town.

This year we reached the top, just in time for the rains to start. The whole region is saturated, of course. But our street project is further complicated by the boggy drainage corridor into which crews must dig to replace utilities.

It’s a mess. Yet, it’s not the muck that prompts my arm waving and shouting. Oddly enough, it’s the dust. Oh, and the drivers, some of whom drive too fast for safety in a construction zone, churning up a cough-inducing dust plume that hangs above the front yard and drifts in through any open window.

How can it be dusty during such a wet summer? Well, Black Hills firefighters like to say that even in a wet year we’re only a couple of days of hot wind away from a wildfire. And even in a miserably drenched construction season, we’re only a couple of hours of sun and vehicle traffic away from a mini-dust bowl on roughed-up streets of dirt and gravel.

Most drivers notice and slow down. With the rest, I’m occasionally inspired to abandon my duties in the front flower beds and hustle over to the street, gesticulating like a deranged traffic cop and calling out: “Slow down! Please!”

OK, not always with the “please.”

But good news came last week as I was carefully tossing the retrieving dummy for our springer spaniel in a safe place away from the dust and din out front. Cody, an amiable-and-skilled operator of all machines great and small, strolled up to say they were bringing in a water truck.

“We’ll run it through here three or four times a day,” he said. “It ought to help.”

Heck, yeah, it’ll help. It’ll help keep me from breaking double figures with my dust dances out in the street.

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Kevin Woster writes a blog and offers radio commentary for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He can be reached by emailing kevinwoster@rushmore.com.

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