Sunday, December 03, 2006

Legacy building?

Lately, I’ve been able to solidify a few of the details regarding what’s happening in my life over the next month. Consequently, I’ve begun to come to terms with the end of my time in France. I seem to have more questions than answers, but the time I spend each day at work has afforded much positive internal dialogue. I’ve begun to ask certain questions which have recently surfaced as important, such as, “what will I leave behind for the French to remember me by – what will be my legacy?”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Is three months enough time to establish a legacy, or can a legacy be established in an afternoon? I’ve considered trying to build upon certain cultural similarities drawing on my own personal experiences. I’ve contemplated drawing on similarities from areas of the United States that have been stereotyped in similar ways to this area of France. While most of the time I’m left with a lot of loose ends, Thursday afternoon went a long way to connecting some of the pieces (forgive the mixed metaphor).

I don’t know exactly what happens when I get around heavy machinery, but I seem to revert to the 4-year-old boy whose father would take him to the county dump to see the earthmovers, bulldozers and other oversized, loud, and often yellow-colored machines. I begin to work less, spending more time simply watching the machines move. I’ve noticed that this phenomenon is not unique to me, but instead I’ve witnessed it in men of all ages, and now in at least two countries. There’s something about men and these machines that prompts child-like awe - and often behavior.

Take for example, my work experience at JeffCo with Andy Schaefer. Whenever we were given the opportunity to operate the gas-powered wheelbarrow, we tried to maximize the amount of stuff we could get in the box while still successfully operating the machine. While we probably did save some time, our goal was instead to push the limits of the machine, as well as our own abilities to effectively operate it. Often times this meant putting far more than the recommended weight into the box and then attempting to drive the wheelbarrow in the fastest gear down a narrow, winding trail without dumping the load. Most of the time we were successful. On a few occasions, we had to stop, right the barrow, replace the load, and even once stop serious bleeding.

So when our job Thursday was to continue picking rocks out of a field as we’d been doing for the past week, something inside me clicked, and my legacy worries were laid to rest. Lately we’ve been using a bucket attached to the back of the tractor to help load some of the larger rocks. We’d been careful not to overload the bucket because too much weight lifted the front of the Renault 80.14 right off the ground, rendering it in-navigatable (apparently not a real word). However, as I mentioned above, moving large rocks with big machines often turns men into boys, and with the added influence of after-lunch alcohol, an old-fashioned, deep-south, redneck tradition was reborn in French wine country – the tractor pull.

It took a bit of encouragement and a lot of hand motions, but I was able to convince the guys pretty easily to overload the tractor. I had taken care to position the machine in the ruts we’d established on our myriad trips to the dump site, and after lifting the bucket and dropping the clutch, I was off to the races on two wheels. We probably spent more time picking up the lost rocks and reloading them than we ever did loading them in the first place, but everyone had fun trying to keep the tractor on two wheels as long as possible. While I might stop short of saying I established an According-to-Hoyle legacy, I slept well that night knowing that none of us would ever forget our time together picking rocks from that field.

The weekend brought more juvenile behavior as I was again invited to go hunting. The day began before sunrise with men and dogs gathering near trees. I wasn’t really sure for what we were hunting, but I soon learned that just about anything moving was fair game (so, same as last time). A few fowl attempts aside, we focused on more terrestrial-based animals, such as hare, for which our efforts returned three. However, the “hunting” was so good that no one wanted to give up their gun and I returned home again with nothing but an 8pm hangover.

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