Summertime, and the livin’s… easy?
June 13, 2009 § 4 Comments
Around here, summer means one thing: FIELD SEASON. It’s already in full swing and I’m still attempting to get a handle on it. This year, I am expected to map 72,000 acres of soil and vegetation along a climatic gradient (try saying that three times fast). Yes, 72 THOUSAND. It should be an experience, for sure.
The funny thing about me having a mapping job is that my sense of direction is terrible. I have absolutely no internal compass. Therefore, my first field experiences in mapping have included a lot of getting lost and walking up and down a lot of hills/mountains that I probably didn’t really need to walk up at all. But it’s all part of the learning process, right? That’s what I thought. Apparently, some people do not feel the same way about this.
But I am getting ahead of myself. So I’ve been spending oodles of time down on the Gila doing my work (of which I’ll try not to bore you too much with the details, but some of it may come out eventually) and in the past couple of weeks, I have met a pretty interesting and diverse cast of characters, which I must tell you about.
I’ll start off with the major players. I work with three other women (yes, women, because we’re like adults now, and stuff) Nora-the “boss,” Nessa-the ex Mormon, and Jade- the hippie, (names are sorta changed; they aren’t exactly their “Chistian” names, if you will). Nora and I are full time employees while Nessa and Jade are student employees. This makes us the ones in charge, yes? One would think so.
Nora is smart, quiet and down to earth. She has the most experience out of all of us. And she helps me a lot by explaining where to go and why to go there when we are mapping. I have been depending on her a lot but am looking forward to getting out there and starting to figure things out for myself based on the experience she has given me so far.
I like Nessa pretty well. She is nice and knows a lot about plants, since she started off as a biologist. This is helpful. The only problem is she walks FAST. I have short little legs and do not walk so fast, especially when going up or down hills with many rocks and the potential for falling on my face, while she just takes off and leaves me in the dust. I don’t think she even realizes it. It just comes naturally to her since she’s lived and worked here for a while, so it’s not her fault. Still, it makes me annoyed sometimes but what it really comes down to is I need to try harder (as much as I hate to admit it). One of my goals this summer is to get in shape so if I can keep up with her by the time field season is over, I’ll know I’ve accomplished something.
Then there’s Jade. How do I explain her? She reminds me a lot of a guy I know from grad school. Outgoing, pretty wild, likes to drink and strike up conversations with random strangers, and enjoys being the center of attention. Generally in a fairly good mood, but can also be super bitchy at times without warning. She’s like the female version of him, really.
All four of us have been staying at a motel in a little podunk town called Reserve, the county seat of Catron County. It’s a popular town for people like construction and electrical workers to stay in. And generally, because of this, the motel stays pretty busy.
One week we met an old man who was with a rockhounding group. He was retired from his government job, of which he had spent many years and worked his way up pretty high on the ladder (GS-15 for those of you familiar with government work). Several years ago his wife died of cancer and he has since remarried another woman, who was also widowed. After they got married and he retired, he built a gorgeous house (he had pictures) for the two of them, and soon after that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. But it hasn’t stopped him. He’s been to Australia twice since then and also goes on these rockhounding trips. Later this summer, he’s planning to take his niece on a trip through several states around the country. He’s a really cool old man.
This past week we met another old man named Bob. He has been retired three times but was asked to come back as a contractor for his most recent job. He and his partner, who is a younger guy, were working on electrical wires in the area, doing something or other. Our first night there, we were sitting around on the porch drinking when Bob came out to go for a walk. Jade, always the social butterfly, invited him to come have a beer with us. It was an offer he couldn’t refuse. We all stayed up pretty late that night so I decided to take it easy on everyone the next day and go to an area with not a lot of mountains or long hikes. It was a really productive day and I was super proud of myself for getting so much done.
That evening when we got back to the hotel I went to my room to take a shower. We were planning to go to dinner together that night so I went out to look for everyone and found Jade with a group of construction workers. They offered me a Bud Light (bleh, I didn’t want to seem rude though…). Soon after, Nessa and Nora came outside and we explained what we do to the construction workers. Since I decided to do the easy stuff that day, it was inevitable that tomorrow we’d have to go back up to the other side of the mountain I took them on the previous week. And Jade said to me, “you’d better plan that out tonight because I don’t want to have to walk all over the place again.” Umm, is it just me, or should student employees not tell their superiors what to do?
So the next day, we went to the other side of the mountain, and it took a while as expected. Nora was sort of taking charge even though it was my map area. I guess she’s just used to being the one telling people what to do, and she was helpful, but sometimes she would get ahead of me (because I’m a slow walker, as mentioned above) and take us to a place that I didn’t necessarily want to go to, so that was a little frustrating, but I still got some stuff done, so it was ok.
The first place we stopped at, I was trying to figure out where to dig the hole, since we have certain things we have to incorporate when describing a map unit, and Nessa was just bounding up the mountain. I told her we didn’t have to go to the very top, I just needed to go somewhere on the side of the mountain. At this point, Jade stepped in and said, very sarcastically, “Yeah, that helps me a lot. I know exactly what you mean.” I sort of just blew this off and kept going. It’s not my fault you stayed up until all hours of the night drinking beer and flirting with old men (oh yeah, some people stayed up late again the next night too, but I didn’t) and now you are cranky. Deal with it.
At the end of the day we were sitting on the porch again at the hotel and some of the construction guys came over and started talking to us. I didn’t really care, I just sat there eating my reheated dinner while some of the other people smoked cigarettes (yucky, but I deal with it, I did live in Vegas). There was one pretty sleazy guy in the bunch though, who had sort of taken to Nessa the previous night, and something he had said to her did not sit right with me. (She wasn’t too pleased with him either) Well that night, as we were going in to bed, Nora walked by the guy, Joe, to get into her room and as she walked past he slapped her on the butt. I did not see this because at this point I had gone in the other direction. I just heard some comment about a butt before I went inside and didn’t find out what actually happened until the next day. Since Jade and Nessa are the more outspoken of the group, they yelled at him for it, so, good for them.
And that’s what my summer’s been like so far. But since this week’s spin cycle was supposed to be about summer plans, I will say that I PLAN to be doing more of the same for the rest of the summer, plus some other things which I will try to keep you all updated on (I’m sure you’re all hanging on the edge of your seats) because I think the next month and a half is going to be a lot of fun, and I’m pretty excited.
I will tell you now that starting Monday I will be spending the next two weeks up north in the Valles Caldera, so no internet access for me. Boo. But I may make another post tomorrow because Matt and I are planning to go to the French Restaurant, if he wakes up in time, that is. We’ll see!