Sometimes protection is the real pits

Published on Thu, Aug 7, 2008 by Richard Clark

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Sometimes protection is the real pits

By Richard Clark

Over the course of my 78 years, no American presidents have personally impacted my life more than Franklin D. Roosevelt and George W. Bush. You could say they’re both alike in some ways. Protect America! That was their mutual calling.

While Democrat Roosevelt was president, I was living on a subsistence farm atop H Street hill. Our country was caught in a big war that lasted a short time.
With Republican Bush, I find myself living in Blaine. We are caught in a little war that’s lasting a long time.

During FDR’s war I lost one neighbor. His name was Raymond Kleer, and he lived at the corner of H Street and the Clark Road, now called The Valley View. We used to go fishing together.

He was a lot older than I, the army drafted him, and he was killed during military exercises. His name was placed on a stone in Lester Park. Oddly, we lost the park. This saddened me, but that was during our current president’s time.

During Mr. Bush’s war, I lost 22 neighbors. Nobody was killed; they merely emigrated under duress. Two of them had been very good piano students of mine. Two houses survived a ferocious attack, but the rest of them were destroyed. Directly east of me, my next-door neighbor and his wife fled to Kentucky.

Vigilant aircraft were on guard during both presidencies.

With thanks to Canada, Kittyhawk fighters purred above our international border during WWII.

Today, with thanks to the Department of Homeland Security, those noisy Blackhawk helicopters patrol the border.

Big tanks shook the earth during WWII;

Today, big bulldozers shake Second and B streets with enough force to throw my piano out of tune.

Now allow me to elaborate a little.

During Roosevelt’s time, the “New Deal” was on, and Whatcom County opened a gravel pit next to our property line.

And then a huge rock crusher moved in. County officials thoughtfully named it the Clark Pit, but we Clarks had to tolerate a pounding racket when that crusher’s powerful jaws were crunching rocks and kicking up clouds of dust that blew into our farm. Gravel trucks moved up and down our newly opened road, adding noise and dust of their own. Eventually the pit was stripped, emptied and abandoned.

During President Bush’s time, the Department of Homeland Security was organized, and last winter, a phenomenal border project opened next to my property line. The General Services Administration (GSA) began digging deeply into the dirt and shoveling it into huge trucks that hauled it away. They created a big pit. It’s clay instead of gravel, and I’ll bet it’s over 20 feet deep. But the GSA didn’t call it Clark Pit.

With two more years to come, I tolerate an awful noise while those monstrous machines are operating. They kick up clouds of dust that move right into my property. The big trucks move in and out, adding noise and dust of their own. For me it’s déjà vu. I’ve been through it before. Attempts to spray the street with water are hardly effective.

But there’s a good side to this story. Now that those houses and the Drug Enforcement Administration building are gone, I have a panoramic view of the bay. I can see all the way to Semiahmoo and part of White Rock. Still, I would rather see those wonderful historic houses standing in the barren lot. I miss my friends and those fine piano students that had walked to my home for their lessons.

The other day I became curious enough to ask where those giant side-delivery trucks were hauling countless tons of dirt. “Oh,” replied my neighbor, “they’re taking it up the hill and dumping it into the old Clark Pit.” That answer was the ultimate irony until I decided to verify it with Boss Construction. I was somewhat disappointed when the company receptionist said, “No, the dirt is being dumped into the empty pit on the east side of D Street.”

In some ways the presidencies of FDR and George W. are alike. Both presidents found themselves protecting America. But for me it’s been the pits. It’s a life of high decibels and horrible dust.

But there’s a good side to this story, too. About two years from now, when I’ll be 80, those noisy excavators, trucks and graders will be gone, and the nameless pit will be filled with a low and lengthy port of entry facility.

It will be a beauty. State of the art, you might say. I assume it will never be abandoned or—heaven forbid—blown up by terrorists.