the spirit of christmas is peeing on your hands

Christmas in Sydney, Australia has made me think about treeplanting. It's so balmy and warm compared to the wintry cold I left behind - so quintessentially vacationesque - that the contrast shoots me right by my life a couple of weeks ago and back to the sometimes painfully frigid reality of treeplanting; where sleet, hail, rain and even snow sometimes persisted inescapably throughout the workday, endlessly reminding me that it was summer and I was not on vacation.

I think of one of the worst days of my planting career back in the "summer" of the year two thousand. It had snowed the night before and was snowing when my crew and I arrived at the cut block we were to plant. A white blanket lay unevenly over the thick logging debris and falling snow further obscured our vision, making it impossible to plant at anything other than a snail's pace. My hands quickly turned to frozen, useless clubs. I was shivering, depressed, and miserable.

Even more miserable, however, were the rookies. I had suffered like this before, but for them this was the most horrible experience of their lives and was most likely never going to end, ever. Hell had frozen over and they were in it.

One block over from mine, three rookies were trudging miserably along; willing each other to keep moving - staving off hypothermia. And then, when they were absolutely sure it couldn't possibly get any worse, they heard the voice of their foreman, Randall, behind them: "These trees are shit," he said, "you're definitely gonna have to go back over this land and fix it. Seriously, guys... just look at this bent plug!"

They turned, slowly and with pained expressions, to see Randall holding up one of the trees they had just planted. He had a very grim, very serious look on his face. He was also butt-naked.

Still somehow holding his somber expression he picked his way carefully over the the sloshy, slashy ground. "Just look at this j-root," he continued, ripping the tree into tiny bits as he spoke and tossing it away with exaggerated, angry flourishes, "I seriously had come to expect more of you three. And on a nice day like today, I would think that... whaaaat?!? What are you looking at?"

"It's effing freezing," a chatter-toothed rookie said, trying not to look down or giggle, "and you're stark raving naked!"

Randall looked down, feigning surprise and then, annoyance. "Not true," he replied, "these are some seriously warm boots I've got on. I see what you mean about the cold, though. It is a wee bit nipply. And the hands are the worst."

With that, he cupped his hands together down low, bent a little, and started to pee on them. "Ahhh, much better," he said. "Ahhhh..."

That was it. The rookies howled. They laughed, cried, and laughed some more. And their day got a lot, lot better. They stayed cold. They stayed miserable. But somehow, something had changed.

This was not necessary. If there had been a foremanning handbook, Randall's actions that day would not have been in it. He could, in fact, have easily sat in his truck pretending to do paperwork, getting out a couple of times on that cold, wet, snowy, sleety day to tromp around, grunt at the rookies, and return to the truck in self-satisfied assurance that he had done his job and was a good foreman.

Instead, he turned off the heater, got out of the truck, and joined his planters. He made himself more miserable and uncomfortable than they, hoping to lift them out of their suffering and remind them that someday, somehow, they would be warm again.

And then he pissed on himself.

Merry Christmas.


  1. Sometime this year I'm likely going to be finding myself out on a cutblock blanketed in snow, foremanning a bunch of miserable rookies. If that happens, look for me in the truck.


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