Ceci n’est pas une pipe

One more sign of The Project: this may look like a picture of some old pipe sticking out of the ground, but I can tell you, it was a very expensive pipe to get stuck in. It is a (picture of a) 545 foot long pipe intended to bring water to the surface. The pump that will do so, and its surrounding well house aren’t there yet for bureaucratic reasons. The water at the bottom of the pipe is sufficient to irrigate our pasture and gardens if we can secure the water right to go with it. That business is drifting in its papery way from one desk to another in the Watermaster’s office. Until we hear the result of our application, we don’t want to invest in the pump. Water right: large pump; no water right: small pump. So, in the meantime, we have this attractive item sticking out of the ground behind the barn.

Here’s a view of the process of putting it there.

Well driller’s rig

You can imagine how it attracted the attention of the neighbors, grinding and spewing all day for weeks on end. One of them showed up with a forked stick, to offer us advice. By then there was water all over the place. Fortunately, he confirmed the site was wet.

The drillers found themselves in a mess of geology. They had the well logs of nearby holes for reference, but seemed to have been taken by surprise as they drilled through successive layers of sandy gravel overlaid by rock and other materials, and then more gravels. They were delighted to work through solid rock when they found it, and made good headway with the hole and the pipe lining. Then, inevitably it seemed, the drill would bust through the rock into sand and gravel, and the hole would collapse, and the poor fellows would pull the pipe out and pump in concrete to make rock where there was none. Then, boring down, they would find the drill running alongside a fissure through which all their concrete had run away. It took them weeks to make a hole they had planned to finish in days.

It sparked our interest in the ground below. We had known, from publications the County provided when we moved out here, that the surface soils are what is known as Jory Clay Loam. That’s a red soil, just short of clay. The loam rescues it from being actual clay, though there are times in the rains when it’s hard to tell the difference. It can be slick as goose slicky or, by August, as hard as adobe. What was coming up from the well hole, though, was nothing like JCL. It was ground up basalt from the look of it. We cast an interested eye toward Highland Butte, rising just to the north of our back door.

I had thought of it as a high spot. A hill. A good place to walk to for a summer lunch. But when I looked into it a little, it gave me a thrill to realize we are camped on the slopes of a long quiet volcano. Ages ago, at the turn of the Quaternary Period (about 1,800,000 years ago), this area was one fine hotbed. No sheep ruminated in pasture grass then. No mules wandered the woods. No hens chuckled behind no barn. This was the beginning of the Pleistocene Epoch, the time of “The Great Ice Age.” Think of Columbian Mammoths but no human hunters as yet. In Asia, Homo erectus had not yet tamed fire. If you were part of the early Pleistocene fauna, you might have found it comforting to snuggle up to the neighborhood shield volcano for a warm-up: your back to a glacier and your toes to a lava vent. There were almost 100 vents in the area of the northern Willamette Valley, coughing up a flow now called the Boring Lava. The Boring lava was mostly basaltic flow rocks, with amendments of tuff breccia, ash, tuff, cinders, and scoriaceous phases. They are light-gray to nearly black, more on the lighter side, and are given to columnar jointing and flow structure which in places results in platiness of the rock. That platiness is what caused the well drillers such troubles. Through the joints ran gallons of fill material.

I’d have preferred to have more scoriaceous phases. Scoriaceous is a good word, and I’d like to be able to use it more. Merriam Webster tells me:

Main Entry: sco·ria
Pronunciation: 'skor-E-&
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural sco·ri·ae /-E-"E, -E-"I/
Etymology: Middle English, from Latin, from Greek skOria, from skOr excrement — more at SCATOLOGY 1 : the refuse from melting of metals or reduction of ores : slag
2 : rough vesicular cindery lava
sco·ri·a·ceous /"skor-E-'A-sh&s/ adjective

Alas, we are stuck with columnar jointing and platiness here and not so much of the scoria.

All those volcanoes were not erupting simultaneously. But they would have been going locally and off and on throughout the area. They were not the Mt. St. Helens kind of eruption. Because the flows did not always move far from the vents, geologists believe the lava was viscous, not runny, and that the eruptions were not explosive but ongoing.

The USGS says, “The surface of much of the Boring lava has been weathered to depths of 25 feet or more. The upper 5 to 15 feet commonly is a red clayey soil that retains none of the original character of the parent rock. Most of these lavas constitute a vast plain and are thought to have originated in Highland Butte and associated smaller vents. Highland Butte is located about a mile south of the area in sec.9,T.4S,R.3E.” (They ask that, if I use their information, I give credit to USGS/Cascades Volcano Observatory. The online source for the information is: http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/Volcanoes/Oregon/Publications/Bulletin1119/boring_lava.html)

See the bold type? That’s us, even down to the red clayey soil.

Here is a map of Boring Lava vents in our area. Down at the bottom, number 73, is Highland Butte.

Named vents

In case you wondered, and everyone does, the Boring Lava is named for W.H. Boring, a resident of the timber town now known as Boring, Oregon. The townsite, originally called Boring Junction, was platted in 1903 and the Boring Post Office established in March of that year. Residents of Boring make the most of their faintly humorous town name. I suspect old W.H. had more going for him than his surname would suggest: he built the community’s first school on his homestead acres.

It’s amazing what you can learn looking down a 545 foot pipe.

Highland Butte today

This is a view of our Highland Butte today, in its setting of farms and forests, with few hints of its violent past. If you could see over the line of trees to the right of the Butte, just about where the slope runs into that dark green line, that would be our place.

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Not a pipe, either

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Published in: Uncategorized on June 10, 2007 at 2:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

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