Monday, October 03, 2005

Don't Just Stand There

Last Wednesday afternoon I was curled up on my couch with my favorite soft zigzag afghan (which Dolly crocheted for me years ago) and a Sweetwater County Memorial Hospital thermos mug (which Mom got during surgery to remove a bad parathyroid) full of hot Tang. Thursday afternoon I was at the bottom of a fifteen-foot trench, wearing blue coveralls, rubber steel-toed boots and a hugger-orange hardhat. Friday night my sister and I and some of her giddy BP coworkers drank our way steadily through Evanston’s limited social bill of fare, from Michael’s to Kate’s to the delightfully trashy Legal Tender, where we surrendered shortly before last call. Saturday Mom was around and Sunday there was my day job and a coffeehouse in Kemmerer, a fantastic night I want to talk about in depth later.

At the bottom of that muddy trench on Thursday, I was moving football-sized rocks off the surface of a submerged pipe. I got super dirty. And I loved it. Later the vertical wall of the trench nearly collapsed on Oop. There was a tearing sound, and a rumble, and Oop was up and out of there before four cubic yards of heavy earth splashed into the shallow pond he’d been standing in. I’ve never seen anybody move so fast.

Seems like everybody I know is off on an adventure right now. Even Mom, who is living it up with her cousin Kathleen in Monterey this week. I sent the Olympus with her; we’ll see what comes of that. She’s not as snap-happy as I am.

I also learned to run the backhoe last week. You will be amused but not necessarily surprised to hear that I’m fairly good at it, but not as good as Bruce or Hewey, who have each had years of experience. You don’t realize how reminiscent of a live insect a backhoe can be until you watch somebody who’s good at it. Imagine an operator to whom the controls of a piece of equipment are so familiar that he makes the movements of the machine incredibly deliberate and smooth, making it look like it moves naturally, under its own control. Eternally ball-capped Bruce (who has extraordinarily squinty, twinkling eyes) was easily scooping the sloppy mud from between a manhole and tank with the big yellow Case Extendahoe, two rough hands on the four long levers (the City won’t spring for one of the joystick versions) that control the bucket, the main hydraulic boom lift, and the extension and lift of the second hydraulic boom, and his feet on the wide pedals that swing the main boom from side to side. A backhoe, if you’ve never been around one, also has a scoop bucket on the front (like a tractor), but the seat swings around to the back where the hydraulic bucket controls are. There are two hydraulic arms behind the main tractor tires. They resemble short, doubled-over grasshopper legs with flat feet at the knee, and they allow the driver to stabilize the vehicle while operating the hoe. When Bruce set them down and lifted the rear of the machine up, I was reminded of movie footage of people mounting a kneeling camel, and when the camel stands up the rider bobs precariously back and forth until the camel gets his footing. Then Bruce extended one of the grasshopper legs forward and the whole machine slid to the right, and it looked curiously alive. Like Bruce was riding a very hardworking yellow dinosaur. I remember an amusing exercise in a college drawing class (called Concept Visualization), where our teacher asked us to sketch a piece of heavy equipment based on the bug of our choice, with elements of the insect’s body and range of motion. I remember thinking, “Lady, they’re all like that.” I’ll try to find that sketch for you, and if I can’t, I’ll recreate it. It turned out very thought provoking, and a delightful challenge, but I can’t remember what bug I used. The point of all this was that, while watching these things move, it appears that they are not under the control of the little man in the cabin, but living things instead. I’m not sure it would come across unless you saw it yourself.

I’m tired tonight. I owe two people long phone calls full of hearty, confiding conversation. There is some house shopping on the horizon. There is the holiday card contest and NaNoBlogMo (National Novel Blogging Month) in November, and some Water Treatment Plant tours to give to high school students, and my new digital art tablet to master, a Tim Burton movie to see at least six times in the theater, and a Medieval Festival in Evanston and Oktoberfest in Rock Springs and two Woody birthdays this month. But first there is Halloween, and you know what that means: lovely, languid October will be sacrificed to the holiday gods as Morgan and I spend every spare moment feverishly preparing costumes and props for our annual bash. It won’t be in the boardroom at the nursing home this year, and two beloved members of our cast are gone. But there are some exciting reasons to bet that this will be the best one ever.

Evanston’s Red Devil football team stomped the Laramie Plainsmen 32-0 at the homecoming game Friday night. And I have Tangerine Speedo stuck in my head.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it just me or is the thought of girls doing labour work kind of a cool thought? I guess coming from a rural area where the wives of farmers are getting down and dirty on the farm is the norm and having three sisters who are more than capable of anything just makes me respect that even though girls may be weaker physically and mentally they are by no stretch of the word incapable of footing it with the boys.

City girls are dumb because when you mention labour type work they look at you as though they just broke a nail thinking about hard work. City girls are dumb because they sell themselves short over looking fashionable and spending up large at clothing stores.

And you're right about watching digger drivers. When dad was getting the foundations for his house done the digger driver was an 18 year old who was already the New Zealand champion digger driver. I remember dad level siting the site and he asked the driver to take an inch off in one area. 1 perfect inch later and the site was perfect. I don't know if he was using laser sights in the cab but either way there is a sort of poetry in motion when you see an operator working at one with their machine.

October 4, 2005 at 4:45 PM  
Blogger JOB said...

Hey A,

How have you been ... seems like things are moving in the right direction for you. I hope to hear from you soon and I do miss our conversations that we used to have. Anyways continue to do what you do best !! Live Life !!

October 5, 2005 at 11:51 PM  

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