Ox Is In The Ditch Meaning

(idiomatic, chiefly southern US) This is a big problem; there is unavoidable or demanding work ahead.

Example: 1904, Clifton Johnson, Highways and Byways of the South, Macmillan, p. 169:
  "The ox is in the ditch," said she, referring to the New Testament excuse for Sabbath work where the need is great, "and Billy must mend this gate if it is Sunday."
1987, George Reedy, "Can the President Still Lead?," New York Times, 6 Mar. (retrieved 7 Nov. 2008):
  In talking to his staff, Lyndon B. Johnson always announced the onset of catastrophe with the statement: "The ox is in the ditch!"
2001, "Senators seek Postal Service overhaul," USA Today, 15 May (retrieved 7 Nov. 2008):
  "It's obvious that the ox is in the ditch big time," said Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. The Postal Service is projecting up to $5 billion in losses over the next two years.
2006, Fred Harris, Following the Harvest: A Novel, ISBN 9780806137131, p. 71:
  "You oughtn't to work on the Lord's Day, son," she told Dad both times. Dad's response was always the same. "The ox is in the ditch, Ma."