With the large amount of time I have spent in the woods lately, it would be unjust for me not to mention the forest folk I have become acquainted with. No, I am not referring to elves and sprites, but I have been in some magical places that if such creatures exist they surely call such places home. I am referring to the people who I have shared work with over the last few weeks, clearing trails and roads of blown down limbs and trees from a fairly severe storm we had this past June.
For instance there is Mark. Mark fights fires for the US Forest Service in the summer and teaches people to ski in the winter. He is a beast with a chain saw and remembers about 97% of the jokes he has heard in his lifetime (which is more than a few because he is in his mid-fifties). He eats hot peppers in the same way people generally eat apples (I mean that literally!) and tunes in to NPR in the truck every morning. Did I mention he wears his hair is cut in a Mohawk and and he has about six inches of braid hanging from his beard?
And there is Andy. Andy repairs musical instruments for a living. I watched him carry a chainsaw eight miles one day, refusing every offer to give him a break. Andy remembers 99.4% of the funny lines he’s heard in movies or from comedians and still laughs at the retelling. He also offered to let several of us camp on his property for free. Pretty generous, when you consider how people camping for a week while working tend to smell.
Then there is Sarah. Sarah is a flower child. She grows them for a living. At least she did until her crop failed this year and she decided to take the summer off–a decision she described as less than lucrative but that she doesn’t seem to regret. Sarah is easy to talk to and just seems to enjoy being alive. She isn’t afraid of work and utterly ignores the fact that she is the lone woman in the group. She is probably better on the crosscut saw than I, but don’t tell her I said that. She is off on an adventure out west when she is finished working this gig with the USFS.
Also there is Adam. Adam is into telemark skiing. He is currently letting a kid from out west stay at his place for free. A kid he had never met until his brother showed up at his door with this kid in tow. Adam looks at the forest with the wonder of a child, and is easily distracted by interesting plants and mushrooms and the like. But he will work hard when the need arises, and is sometimes heard singing while he does.
Then there is my own son. It has been such a pleasure watching him pitch in and do work. In his own way, he loves the woods every bit as much as I do, as well as the things that live there. He grabbed a black rat snake along the trail the other day, and it grabbed him right back. He calmly pried it off and after admiring it for a bit turned it loose on its wild way. He came off the hardest day on the trail pumped up and ready to do it again. Ah, the fire and fitness of youth!
My words don’t do these people the least bit of justice. Each has been a pleasure and blessing to be around. They all smile most of the time. They all laugh easily. They all tell good stories. They all pitch in and share loads and food and water. I’m really gonna miss them, and maybe that will give them a bit of the justice my words can’t.