Monday, January 18, 2010

Old Milk Jugs

On the drive into work today I saw something white tied to a tree and it reminded me of something from my youth.  In the fields above the house I grew up in there are old white milk jugs tied to the fence at equal intervals.  To the untrained eye one might wonder why apparent refuse would be tied to the fence.  To one who understands their purpose it's simple.  On the opposing side of the field equally spaced "risers" stand above the ground.  These "risers" are valves to a water line from which our irrigation water comes.  A "saddle" or valve opener is required to open these valves and release the water.  Our sprinkler pipes are three inches in diameter and are held together with a rubber gasket that clamps down on the inserted pipe when the water is flowing and fills the pipes, a plug at the end of the string is held in place in like manner. Water is precious and it's critical that each part of the field get it's equal share of the water so that it can grow and thrive.  If the pipes aren't straight this isn't fully accomplished.

Those old milk jugs were attached to the fence on the opposing side by Grandma and Grandpa Olson and maintained by each of us who changed the pipes over the years.  They acted as a target, a goal, even a beacon if you will.  Without out those jugs it was difficult to get the pipes lined up straight.  If one had been knocked off by a cow or a horse you could try and find another land mark but all the fence posts looked the same, the trees are hard to distinguish, and if it was early in the morning or late in the day and the light was dim it was only a white milk jug that would stand out for you to set your sights on.  Without them you'd usually end up with zig zags or a line that veered too far to one side or the other, leaving a strip of pasture un-watered until your return trip across the field.

I share this because I think it's a lot like life.  Our parents and grandparents can get us started and give us direction but eventually we need to maintain that direction on our own. We need something that stands out to set our sights on.  We need something to shoot for, a light to follow, a beacon to look to.  We need Old Milk Jugs and everything they represent.