PENDLETON — Every year, teams of adrenaline-charged Pendleton High School girls jump into a muddy pit for a slippery tug-of-war combat. The girls begin the slimy tug fest in pristine costumes that quickly darken to chocolate brown.
It’s all good, not exactly clean fun to raise money for charity and school organizations.
It’s Mud Wars.
On Wednesday night, to music pulsing from the Happy Canyon Arena speakers, teams scrambled into the ooze and squared off at opposite ends of the mud pit. Some girls would likely lose socks and shoes to the muck, despite carefully duct-taping them to their bodies.
The hourlong competition would progress more speedily than construction of the pit earlier that day.
The work actually began a week ago when 150 bales of hay arrived at the arena. Kelly Springer, who works on the school district’s facility crew, arranged them in a double border around a long, belt-shaped space. Then came a plastic liner, 36 yards of dirt and lots and lots of water.
On Wednesday morning, Springer and colleague Thad Baum donned waders and stepped gingerly into the pit. They carried shovels and rakes to coax the water and dirt into a more gelatinous, pudding-like consistency. Rocks needed to be removed. Another crew member, Bryan Franklin, used a front-end loader to dump dirt into the soup like flour into gravy. The clock was ticking.
“It’s crunch time,” Springer said.
He speared his shovel deep into some packed dirt that he tossed into a watery portion of the pit. Several yards away, Baum did the same.
By wandering around in the muck, they functioned as human blenders. Baum took a break from digging to sidestep through the mud, looking like an old-time winemaker stomping grapes.
Later that afternoon, Baum, Springer and Franklin and other crew members were tired. Removed rocks filled the bottom of the front-end loader bucket. The mud pit was beautiful.
As Baum peeled off his waders, he declared the pit “as close (to perfection) as it’s going to get.”
That night, the pit did its job as a slimy, sludgy battlefield for 17 tug-of-war teams.
The day after, the crew will start making the pit disappear.
“There’s a horse show here on Sunday,” Springer said. “We have to get it cleaned up fast.”