New Jokes, Old Songs

New Jokes, Old Songs

The five million pound Kenilworth thunders past in the rain at two hundred and eighty miles an hour, just six inches from the one pound heart and two ounce brain that keeps me going.  Ok, maybe a little farther away, a little smaller, and slower.  My brain, that is.


Car crashes on the Interstate.  No fun whatsoever. 


You’re always hoping everyone is ok, and you’re kinda hoping there will be some metal cutting involved.  In a perfect world, a deer jumps in front of an Alfa Montreal driven by Charlize Theron (I saw a documentary called Atomic Blonde where she had one) and she slides into the ditch.  Has to be helped out of some of Ghandini’s handiwork.  That would be something. 


This is not a perfect world, but it is something. 


Something frightening.  Isthatcargonnakillme?no.  Is that cargonnakillme?no.  Is that cargonnakillme?no.  Is thattruckgonnakillme?MAAAYYBBEEE…no.   Isthatcargonnakillusall?no.   And so it goes.  Fifty cars a minute for a half hour zipping past the crashed Grabber Orange Mustang.  Lowest ranking department member on scene, on traffic control duty.  The rain has contributed to two accidents on our small slice of  -- ain’t the rolling Wisconsin landscape pretty? -- Interstate, and there’s always the chance for the hat trick.  


One of my life tricks has been bouncing off five vehicles so far.  The old joke goes they’re doing a study on me at Stanford.  Final results aren’t in yet but early indications are I’m immortal.


The new joke goes, they can’t all be kitten rescues with happy endings.  The new joke mostly plays inside my head on the not so kitteny calls.   Firefighters do some difficult, dangerous, depressing stuff.  So, get acclimated, and be task-focused.  Nobody, not even Ms. Theron, calls us when they are having a good day.  Step up and help them, understanding some of it is not gonna be so great.


There is always great appreciation and camaraderie, and that is reward enough.  Interstate traffic control is a necessary thing.  People I know and people I don’t are helping folks needing help, and they all need to be protected.  A modest request -- slow down, and move over. 


Then there’s the leaving home when things are going bad.  Fifty square miles including an interstate and a lake in a raging storm is a dozen or more calls that somebody has to go to.  So we leave the Mrs. and / or the kids and head out into the storm for a few hours of downed trees and powerlines and / or accidents and / or other stuff.  Marcia is used to going it alone from all the Davenport nights I’d be on scene somewhere.  And the house is new, sturdy, and drains well, so that helps. 


The trees in the yard ain’t so sturdy though, so there will be cleanup when I get back at zero dark thirty.  Comes with the gig.  Downed tree isn’t all bad.  It missed the house this time, and the new planting beds.  At a minimum, a good excuse to get a new chainsaw. 


What also comes with the gig is copious joy.  Past midnight during the most recent storm.  In 33 with Mitch and Cpt. Lexin.  On downed tree and / or powerline duty for a few hours.  Monitoring a small powerline-sparked fire so it does not spread.  On another call, hanging out in the big red truck waiting for the power company.  Red interior lights like a submarine movie.  So basically, idle man talk, well-lit.  How often, in your workaday life, do you get idle man talk, well-lit?  Not near often enough, which is reason enough to join your local fire department. 


But wait, it gets better.  Heading to the last call, drive past some trees blocking part of the road.  Captain makes a note to come back the same way and clear the road after the low-hanging powerline is rendered safe. 


Powerline safe, Mitch driving back, stops at the downed trees.  Jump out and just muscle the first tree off the road.  No need for the chainsaw.  Second tree too big for me and Mitch to move, so Cpt. Lexin grabs a Stihl from compartment 5 and hands it to me, without saying anything.  The thing about idle man talk is it principally serves to fill the gaps between active man silence. 


Make fun of me if you want, but I’m just gonna say it.  I always wanted to be … a lumberjack.   The smell of fresh cut timber.  The giant redwood.  The larch.  The fir.  Leaping from tree to tree as they float down the mighty rivers of British Columbia!  Who doesn’t want to be a lumberjack?  Researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara "tested the testosterone levels of the indigenous Tsimane people in central Bolivia before and after they cut down trees. Their results showed a 46.8 percent increase in testosterone levels following the wood cutting, a full 17 percent higher than the testosterone bump caused by playing soccer."  


Recapping: Soccer is lame.  Being a lumberjack is awesome.  


Past midnight on a forested road and I get to be a lumberjack … while being a firefighter.  The Stihl sings, and so do I.    


I’m a lumberjack, and I’m ok … I work all night and I work all day.  I cut down trees, I eat my lunch, I read writs of cer tio rar re.