Untitled (Marlboro Men), Stuart, VA
While taking breaks between grading student papers this week, I've been reading Rick Bass's The Watch. It's an engaging, if uneven, collection of stories. Here's a couple paragraphs from "The Government Bears," one of my favorites in the bunch:
When I was twenty-seven I was hit in the head by a man wielding a fourteen-inch pipe wrench. He was about a hundred pounds heavier than I was. Sometimes when I throw two fifty-pound sacks of feed out of the truck and listen to them hit I think about that. He was much larger than I was but I killed him.
It wasn't even over some woman, or a horse or a dog, or our mothers' names: it was just plain bad blood, that odd thing, right from the very start. I had worked with him about a week, and one day he said he didn't like me because my clothes were always too clean and because he said he had seen me looking down the creek like a crazy man, just watching it, when there was nothing there, in the middle of the summer. We were working up on the Big Black, drilling Tinsley Field: cotton everywhere, and the magic flat sky. Honeysuckle crept and smelled good right on down and into the creek: the water was muddy, and alligators lived in there. If you watched, you could see one every now and then.
I suppose these paragraphs remind me of some of the jobs I've had, like one last summer working for a commercial mowing crew. We mowed/trimmed the 481 bypass, which is 14 miles or so of four-lane connecting Christiansburg and Blacksburg, Virginia. I was fascinated by the change of view afforded by walking vs. speeding along at 65 mph--the angles of some of the bridges, the colors of the weeds and flowers growing in the median, things like that. I mentioned it to some of the guys I worked with, and they gave me odd looks. I don't think any of them wanted to cleave me in two, but perhaps I'm wrong.