It’s a dirty job, but somebody has got to do it.

It’s a dirty job, but somebody has got to do it.

That statement might sum up the attitude of a small, but dedicated group of Hannibal Y Men’s Club members who tend to the mud volleyball pits, located just west of the flood levee, near the intersection of North and Bridge streets.

“We have 107 members, as far as the core group that works in the mud, there’s probably 10 of us,” said Ted Sampson, chairman of the club’s mud volleyball chairman. “We try to train some of the younger, new members, but it’s not the most fun task. It’s the dirty work, I guess you could say.”

While Sampson has been a “mudder” for a decade, he points to Bob Sims as the club’s senior pit preparer.

“Bob Sims has been kind of overseeing that for most of the time the club has been in existence,” said Sampson. “It doesn’t seem like it would take much, but we have techniques we like to use each year to make the mud the quality the players like it to be.”

And what is quality mud?

“It depends on who you ask,” said Sampson. “Some like it runny so they can move around, but we like to keep it a little bit thicker to make it a little more difficult to play in. We want it to be a challenge for them. That’s kind of the whole purpose.”

While the tournament is annually scheduled on a handful of days around the July 4 holiday, work on the pits is ongoing throughout the year.

“It’s kind of a year-round process; It’s not a week-before thing,” said Sampson. “Two or three guys off and on throughout the year do things to try to make things right for the next year’s tournament.”

Periodically, weed killer is applied to keep vegetation from growing in the pits.

“That’s kind of what makes the odor it seems like, when we stir it (dirt) up and there’s a bunch of dead grass in it,” said Sampson.

Serious prep work for this year’s tournament started this week.

“Usually the Monday before the tournament is when we start our work week,” said Sampson. “The actual tilling of the pits we usually do about a week ahead. We’re a little bit later this year. We had them tilled last night (Monday) and watered down today (Tuesday).”

Sampson is satisfied with the condition of the pits.

“We feel like the quality of the mud is getting better each year,” he said. “We think it’s going to be good, quality mud, if that makes sense.”

When the prep work begins, all sorts of things are dredged up.

“They pulled out two or three old pairs of shoes today. We find glasses and everything else people have lost over the years,” said Sampson. “People use duct tape (on clothing) every year. We find duct tape in there, too.

“We used to find a lot of rocks, but it seems most of those have been cleaned out over the years.”

Once the tournament is over, the pits are not just abandoned.

“They let the pits dry out for a couple of days and they’ve got some drains that they’ll go in three to four weeks after the tournament to let the rest of the water out,” said Sampson. “Then we decide if we want to add more dirt to them.”