Mid 1970’s, somewhere in the Sierra Nevada mountains. I am a kid on my first family backpacking trip. And I don’t know some basic common sense things, like how far from the campfire is a good distance for bedding down for the night. I figured closer to the fire is warmer, and warmer is good. Although I don’t remember much about that night, I do recall that the next morning, my filthy charcoaly face was the main source of entertainment for my co-campers. That was the morning I got the nickname ‘Dirt’.
Thankfully, there are not many who remember the episode, and the nickname did not stick. But oddly enough, it is a good name for me. Looking back on my whole life, I have always had some connection with dirt.
To my mother’s consternation, from the time I was 7 or 8 my favorite toy was a shovel. Why build a fort when you can dig one? Fish ponds are cool. You wanted one there next to the big pine tree, right Dad? How about building a subway under the playhouse? My imagination was way ahead of my engineering sensibilities. And it usually involved excavation.
After college, I spent 20 years in the analytical chemistry business. We tested environmental samples. Air, water, and….soil.
And in 2004, my ultimate dream project came along. 81 acres of land near McMinnville, Oregon with NO IMPROVEMENTS on it. 2000 feet of trenching to bring in electrical service? Yay! The fire department wants a 30000 gallon fire protection reservoir? I can go bigger than that! 9000 grapevines to plant? Bring it on, baby!
Although I don’t use the shovel as much as when I was 7, I do get the same thrill out of working a backhoe or the skid-steer. And I have dreams for even bigger holes in the ground. Weird, huh?