Small Epiphanies

Big epiphanies strike fast
and change your life
like when you suddenly realize there is a God
or not

But little epiphanies can take a long time to mature
before you recognize what it was
and why
and how a single moment altered your path

First day
fresh out of high school
where everything had come easy
dressed in new blue jeans
long sleeved khaki shirt
white cotton work gloves
and brand new, mink oiled caulk boots
the ones with the nails on the bottom
ready to set chokers
and make some easy money
before college in the Fall

I follow the crew off the landing
down the steep slope to the cross-hatched
pick up sticks of fallen timber below
it’s a sunny June morning high in the Cascades
an early season dry east wind
already blowing down the mountain
it will be hot before noon

Listen to the Riggin’ Slinger
watch and learn
or die
they tell me

The whistle blows
high over head long cable chokers
flail the air as they race down the mountain
and crash to the ground
twenty feet of stubborn, twisted steel
thorny and petulant like an angry child

Run grab your choker
then fast to your log
don’t trip
don’t stumble
don’t fall to the ground
toss it over the log
thread it under the log
wrap it all way round
then ring that bell
and run like Hell

Run outside the haul back
run away from the churn
run far enough for
the logs to clear
then grab a deep breath
til’ the next turn is here

Over and over again
all day long

No goal posts
no green fields
no flat gym floors
it’s uphill or downhill
over the log or under it
never the same
each step, each log, each turn
different, unpredictable
dangerous
and no substitutions
from the bench for a breather

Run grab your choker
then fast to your log
don’t trip
don’t stumble
don’t fall to the ground
toss it over the log
thread it under the log
wrap it all way round
then ring that bell
and run like Hell

Run outside the haul back
run away from the churn
run far enough for
the logs to clear
then grab a deep breath
til’ the next turn is here

By mid morning I am tired
by mid-afternoon exhausted
from tripping over roots
catching pant legs on stobs
steel slivers in my hands
it is hot
the air is still
I am counting the minutes
to quitting time

Four o’clock
last turn
finally
I look up from under a log jam
my Father, the Logging Super
the one who got me into this
stands above me on a log
“How you doin?” He grins
he knows damned well how I am doing
“I ain’t a comin’ back!”
“You’ll be back.” He replies.
“My ass!” I snarl. “It’s quittin’ time and I quit!”

“Not quite yet.” He tells me.
“We’re working overtime.”
I hate him

Run grab your choker
then fast to your log
don’t trip
don’t stumble
don’t fall to the ground
toss it over the log
thread it under the log
wrap it all way round
then ring that bell
and run like Hell

Run outside the haul back
run away from the churn
run far enough for
the logs to clear
then grab a deep breath
til’ the next turn is here

Over and over again
all day long
all week long
all year long
for the rest of my life

Marv Himmel                                                                                                             January 1, 2010 ©

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