And then we bumped the barrel back home. 

That’s kind of an awkward sentence, but it’s an awkward situation. 

We have a large metal barrel on our farm. I don’t know where it came from, and I have no idea what it contained. It’s shaped unlike any other barrel I’ve ever seen, and I can’t find any identifying marks on it.  As far as I know it could contain anything from pickled cabbage to plutonium. 

My family has lived here since 1880, so unless some fur trader dropped it off his canoe in 1875, it’s our problem. For a few decades, the barrel sat in a corner of our old barn, but the barn is gone now so I moved it to the corner of my machine shed. As long as it didn’t explode or start leaking toxic gases, I had no issue with leaving it there forever. 

Then I got tired of pushing our canoe through ten feet of shallow water and mud and decided a floating dock would enhance our entire slough experience. 

I understand that there are people, decent people, who in this situation would just waddle on down to the dock store and buy a dock. 

I am not one of those people. 

I investigated and discovered that the dock I wanted would cost more than my first car, which is my cut-off point for purchasing recreational equipment. 

If you’re trying to sell me something fun and I say, “Wow, that costs more than my first car,” it’s not looking good for you. 

I could have just built a regular dock, but I lacked the ambition to drive pilings down through about ten feet of swamp muck to solid ground.  Then I saw that barrel sitting around doing nothing and a couple hours later we had a dock, more or less. 

It served for a few years, but a two-year drought left it high and dry, with the barrel still intact and poking up through the rotted plywood decking. About that time my wife suggested we needed a new rain barrel and I don’t have a problem with that.   

Except I can’t get the damn barrel open.   

It has a screw in bung, which I’ve broken a couple of screwdrivers on, and the only other barrel-opening experiences I’ve had involve things that make sparks. That could be a thing, what with me not knowing what’s inside. 

I still sense some family disapproval about the way I purified an old gas barrel a few years ago. Dropping the lighted sparkler down the filler cap was, I agree, perhaps not OSHA approved, but it was effective and, I have to say, spectacular. If I had dared to tell anyone I was going to do it, I’d have a corroborating video, and I’d be doing very well on YouTube right now. Sadly, it was just me and the little dog, and she was at a dead run for the next township. 

That was a little dicey, and I know how gasoline reacts. The mystery drum...not a clue. So, torches, grinders - all that stuff with sparks and flames should be off the table. 

I thought the whole problem went away after we got ten inches of rain in a couple of weeks and the mystery barrel floated out to sea. I saw it first when it was about twenty feet from shore and thought, briefly, about plunging in after it. 

Our slough is a mile long and a half mile wide, with all sorts of nooks and crannies. I assumed the barrel was no longer my problem, but yesterday my wife and I were canoeing, just enjoying a lovely Sunday in October, and, there on the horizon, was an ungainly lump of metal bobbing in the cattails. The voyage home was a lot slower, bumping the barrel every twenty feet to keep it moving, but eventually we docked, and I drug it up on dry land. 

Now I suppose I have to go find some sparklers. 

Copyright 2021 Brent Olson