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        stant movement and physical effort that the work requires  while our bodies were getting colder, our sack lunches
        keeps you warm; you are young and healthy; you are out  soggier and our outlooks darker. I remember thinking I
        in the deep woods; you are making decent money; your  should consider myself lucky that I was not gold hunting
        chainsaw is humming along; it’s the First day of Thursday.  in the Yukon in seventy-five below weather starting a fire
        The hours pass pleasantly enough until your Party Chief,  under the bows of a snow-laden tree. Small consolation.
        in this case yours truly, signals lunchtime. When that con-
        stant movement and physical effort comes to a stop, you   But I hadn’t counted on McCrae. McCrae is the only man
        very  soon  realize  how  sloppy  and  miserable  a  cold  and   I have ever known who makes me think of Jimmy dean’s
        drizzly early Spring day it is. You unwrap your sandwich,   Big Bad John.
        and in seconds the droplets of half rain, half snow dripping   He didn’t say much, kinda quiet and shy
        down from the bows of evergreens render it soggy.
                                                                 And if you spoke at all, you just said hi to Big John

                                                                 I turned around and McCrae was gone. he had slipped
                                                               quietly away without a word while Peterson and I were
                                                               fussing with our sad little campfire. Within just a couple
                                                               of minutes we heard a sound echoing through the woods:
                                                               WhACK! WhACK! WhACK! WhACK! A minute later down
                                                               the trail comes McCrae with an armload of seasoned (read:
                                                               dry) bark that he had hacked off the trunk of a fir snag with
                                                               his hatchet. dry because it had clung to its tree all win-
                                                               ter and not soaked up the season’s moisture on the forest
                                                               floor as the rest of our fuel had done. With some careful
                                                               teepee-like construction and with the boost of just a little
                                                               chainsaw gas, we were backing away from a roaring fire.

                                                               Afterword
                                                               I have some takeaways from this experience:

                                                                 1. One of the essential skills one learns during the early,
                                                               fieldwork-intensive period of a Surveying career is making
                                                               do with the materials at hand. You cannot always run back
                                                               to the truck.

                                                                 2. Always carry the ten essentials. They are not just for
                                                               hikers. I count eleven pockets and two clipping straps on
                                                               my survey vest. Plenty of storage space.
                                                                 3. One of the best ways to learn is by being mentored.
                                                               Technology has rendered large field crews all but ex-
          I am not imagining this scene for your entertainment.   tinct - not a good thing for interns and not a good thing
        That is exactly how we found ourselves at lunchtime that   for safety.
        day. “OK,” I said, “let’s build a fire.” no argument there, so
        we gathered and assembled the necessary materials lying   It should be clear by now that my friend McCrae is a man
        around on the forest floor - duff and lunch sack paper for  who prefers action to words. In that same era, during our
        starter, twigs for kindling, small branches and cones for  precious four days off, he taught me to play tennis, and he
        firewood. Said materials were damp, but we managed to  cut me no slack. After eventually managing to (sometimes)
        coax them into a sad little affair that struggled to stay alive  return his nasty serves, I would look up, and there he was,
        and spit out a ridiculously paltry amount of heat. Mean-  right at the net, like a silent brick wall. Big Bad John.  n





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