This photo makes me laugh. That’s me in the excavator. It’s all a fake. It’s really a picture representing two bullheaded people.
Allen is determined that I can learn to run the excavator.
I am determined that I’ll try no such thing.
Allen has a hard time understanding why I resist such a “simple” task. He forgets, in the moment, how hopeless I am with machinery. He forgets that no matter how many reminders he gives me, I always spin out of the driveway. He forgets that I regularly neglected to remove the tin can off my tractor exhaust (thus accidentally shooting it 25 feet in the air). He forgets that I can’t reverse anything on a hitch or back with mirrors. Even unlocking the excavator gas cap for refueling is sometimes a challenge for me. No, no. To Allen it is all easy. A no-brainer. So why not?
Finally yesterday during our lunch break Allen got me to climb up into the seat. But you can see I’m doing everything but sit on my hands.
Working with the guys, I have heard many, many stories of fatal and near-fatal accidents. The friend who was beheaded when loading a feller-buncher onto a trailer — and a co-worker mistakenly closed the cutting pincer. Allen’s uncle Forrest Peck, who tipped over a tractor onto himself. “Squashed him,” Allen recalls.
Long ago I had asked Allen why he’d taught his son Damon to operate heavy equipment but not his daughters.
“Didn’t teach him nothing. He teached hisself. Only thing I ever did was cover up the picture, wall of the cab. Can’t be readin’ directions. Got to do it by feel, got to know it.” Allen moved his hands on invisible controls to show me how automatic the moves were. “Got to stop and look at directions, somebody’s gonna get killed.”
I am of course one of the most obsessive readers Allen knows, someone who always looks at directions. Many women now run big machines — but not this girl. “Typing,” I remind him. “That’s my skill, Allen. Typing.”
Nevertheless, he keeps hoping. He stood on the tracks yesterday, leaning into the cab to point out the various pedals, levers, and joy sticks.
“You ain’t dumb. You can do it.”
But it’s dear to me that he thinks I can.