Friday, August 15, 2014

San Angelo Bar

They Won't Sell You a Beer at This San Angelo Bar!

Although their name sounds more like somewhere you might catch a Los Lonely Boys¹ gig of a Saturday Night, San Angelo bars are pretty much as far from beer halls as you can imagine. Sometimes called a "rock bar" (alos a venue where you might see Los Lonely Boys play, I guess), a San Angelo bar is essentially a seventeen-pound steel pencil. You can't buy a drink at one and you most likely won't hear any music, but when it comes to prying out a rock or busting through a hard streak when you're digging a post hole, you sure can't beat one.

Post holes are exactly why I have one - digging new holes and busting the cement out of old ones. I’m talking situations like a recent fence repair, courtesy of a 60-mph wind and a string of rotten, 20-year-old posts…. not to mention 95-degree heat.

Mine is the classic San Angelo bar design manufactured by Ludell Tool. A drop-forged steel bar with a one-inch hexagonal cross-section, it's seventy inches long and came painted with dark green enamel (newer bars are black). One end is pointed, as if the bar had been plugged into a super-sized (and super-tough) pencil sharpener. The opposite end is flattened into a dull chisel point 2½" wide. All told, it weighs seventeen pounds. Because it’s long and solid, a San Angelo bar is perfect for prying loose a heavy rock you encounter when digging. The pointy end can pierce dense, hard layers of soil, which is especially useful for digging post holes. Seventeen pounds of hardened steel launched two or three feet onto that point does a fine job on tough soil layers: a former neighbor once punched through what he thought was rock with his rock bar only to realize he'd poked a hole in the top of his septic tank!

If you’re curious about why they’re called "San Angelo" bars you’re probably not familiar with the soil profile around San Angelo, Texas, and similar arid lands. Lime leached from the soil re-precipitates at depth to form a tough layer called caliche a few inches to a couple of feet down. Small wonder somebody around San Angelo came up with this heavy, pointed bar! Where I live now in Houston you don’t run into many rocks, but the chisel end is handy for punching through the gummy clay layers typical of the Gulf's coastal plain. It’s also good for slicing through roots as you dig.

I’ve used my rock bar for breaking through thick ice in northern climates, though I had to be careful not to destroy the underlying pavement. I suppose one could be used for an ice-fishing spud, too - as long as you don't let go...

¹ TejanoRock band from the west Texas town of San Angelo; perhaps best-known for the song "Heaven," a minor hit in 2004
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