Tuesday, August 31, 2010

1965 My First Paying Job

Our camp rested at the base of a forested ridge that rose up behind it to the north. Our beige canvas tents, which we paid rent for and were probably Army surplus, were situated on mostly level ground in the sagebrush flat, out in the open, exposed to the summer sun. There must've been ten tents or so, and the tents were big enough for six or seven people, but usually only housed four or five, max. We slept on cots in sleeping bags. Each tent had a stove in it, and we put ours to good use in the early, brisk mornings. We'd have fetched a nice log or two, sometimes split, sometimes not, that would fit comfortably into its belly the night before. Then we soaked the mess in diesel fuel, so starting a fire in the brisk morning air would be no challenge whatsoever. It was also the reason it didn't matter if the logs were split or not. It took no time at all to have the pipe coming out of the stove and going up through the roof of the tent glowing red hot in the first morning light. After the tent was heated up we rolled out of our sleeping bags and comfortably dressed in the warmth.

We were buggers, but not buggers in the sense that the English use the term to denote a sodomite, a contemptible fellow, or a fellow chap, although we would come to know that we were often held in similar derision. We killed bugs, at least that was the reason we had been hired, but that was never the reason for anyone holding us in derision.

The camp was located within Teton National Park in the Pilgrim Creek drainage. The year was 1965. I had just barely turned seventeen. I had finished my junior year of high school and would be a senior in the fall. This was my first paying job.

I have Norman Hansen, a goodly neighbor and friend, who lived behind our lot, to blame for it. Or to bless for it. He had talked me into it, or rather, told me about the opportunity, which I readily chomped at, eager to work and to earn money. Of course, Norman hadn't experienced the work and didn't know its expectations upon us; otherwise, I doubt he would've ever told me about it or thought to go work there himself. In retrospect, I suppose you'd have to be semi-crazy to have worked that job.

Norman's dad, Phil Hansen, had a garage full of tools; Phil was a salesman who traveled around selling tools for mechanics around the west. He had also worked as a mechanic, I think, so he had a garage full of every conceivable tool that a mechanic would envy having. In any event, Norman and his older brother, James, were always in the shop at their house using those mechanics' tools. Shortly after Norman got his driver's license, he began assembling a dune buggy. He got the frame off of some old jalopy, used a welder to cut it in half, and cut out a piece of the frame on both sides to shorten it. Then he welded it back together. He continued assembling the dune buggy, giving it a seat, an engine, and, what I remember most, an aluminum beer keg for a gas tank.

Not only was that aluminum beer keg unique, it shocked me to see that Phil, a highly spiritual and religious man, allowed Norman to put it on that dune buggy.

In any event, it was in that dune buggy that we traveled up Highway 89, through Jackson Wyoming, and on up to Teton National Park.

No comments: