Got a real blue collar job cause why not. Couldn’t do the desk thing any more. Too impatient. Headstrong. Constantly clashed with the feminized office culture. Maybe I’m the dick but I’d rather work sixteens like a dog for minimum wage than put up with the kind of shit that goes on in an office.
Got picked up by an engine module in Southwest Colorado. Some of the best bosses I’ve ever worked for. They in turn pimped me out to a Navajo crew in Meth City, Arizona. Hotshots. Apparently this is rare for a first year guy. Lucky me. Got treated like shit the first few weeks. Clean the windows on the buggy, sweep the floor, take out the trash. Supposed to prove yourself or whatever. Sure, OK. It was obvious these Indians got a real kick out of it. Shoe on the other foot, etc. They let up after the first month. After I busted ass and outworked half the crew. Not the other half though. That would have been hard. As it was I never worked so hard in my life. Brutal, physical, stupid work. Second best job I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot. Only thing I liked more was pot smuggling. Hard to beat that. I should’ve done this while I was in college, not waited until I was thirty to get my hands dirty. Instead I lived off that weed money and wrote rap lyrics. Waited until now to try chewing tobacco. I could be making $80k/year easy if I’d stayed put anywhere for longer than two months. More than some of these Navajo earn in a lifetime. Couldn’t do it though.
Wildland firefighting, like long distance running, is largely a mental endeavor. Pull brush in ninety eight degree heat while wearing a gov issued long sleeve and a thirty five pound pack. That or suck smoke for a week straight. Or both. It’s not a profession that bears rational thought. You just tell yourself to shut up and dig in. It helps when you’re in better shape than the overweight Indian next to you. He hasn’t stopped to take a sip of water in the last two hours, so why should you? Because you’re thirsty and you’re getting paid $12.53 an hour, that’s why. Amazing how quickly discomfort, like pain, leaves the body. In that moment it’s the realest thing in the world, the only thing, but shortly after it subsides it’s already a dream.
Among the many ‘interesting’ things about humans is that we are the only species who runs towards the fire. I have a recurring nightmare where I’m in a dark, smoldering room and I can’t move. ‘Shit them boys is having the time of their lives’ is a running joke in the back of the buggy. It’s a remark on how the supe is clearly living vicariously through us, trying to re-create his glory days by having us hike three miles down a dozer line the last two days of our tour.
Your time is not your own. Gas station stops, once taken for granted, are now a precious reprieve from camp cafeteria food. You become the scourge of Maverick. “Adventure’s first stop”.The working man’s church. Eat foodstuffs you have, until this point in your life, largely managed to avoid. Fritos with canned bean dip, day old tamales baked into their cellophane membranes. Stuff with a shelf life longer than you hope to live. Flaming Cheetos are a favorite with the res crowd. Washed down with a Mountain Dew. Sometimes you’re not even hungry but you eat something anyway out of some hind-brain stockpiling impulse.
Out at the bars in Durango talking to a mother of three and two clearly non-local girls. Their pixie haircuts and Etsy chokers would scream LA even if their coke habits didn’t. They’re looking for a guy. I tell them I don’t know anyone. I don’t. I hardly even live here myself.