The scent from “America’s Leading Spray Deodorant” is slightly noticeable in my closed up cab as I drive to the mine. It reminds me of the story my wife tells from her childhood. Her mother bore the children but she then, basically, handed them over to my wife to raise, since she was the oldest daughter in a family of seven kids. Even in a horrible childhood, there are usually a few times of joy, and one of those was the two weeks every year that her father took the whole family on vacation. Her father told them all to use deodorant because he “didn’t want no stinkin’ bodies holed up in the car with the rest of the family.” So, after they all got their morning baths, my wife lined up all her brothers and sisters, arms in the air, and gave them all a good shot of deodorant in each armpit. Since it felt cold, there was usually a little shrieking and giggling going on. That memory is why she bought the can of deodorant for me (that she uses occasionally herself). Back then, she said they made a “family size” that looked as big as a small fire extinguisher. No more, though.
It’s a hot day as I drop into what I call “the pit.” As I bounce down the access road, I notice that I’m the only truck in the pit—a real rarity at this normally busy place. About halfway down, a box turtle starts boldly across the hot, dusty road, coming from the lower side. That means that he’s already crossed the tall earthen “limestone” berm put there to keep trucks from going over the hill. He has to make it across the road without meeting the same fate as the infamous chicken, then cross a smaller berm and the road ditch, before he can continue uphill. I stop fifty feet away, so as not to disturb him, and let him make his way to the upper berm before continuing downward. I back into the pile of the size of limestone the order calls for, put the truck in neutral and pull the button for the spring brakes.
Though hot in the pit, there’s a good breeze, so I put my window down, so I can hear the loader when it arrives, and close my eyes to give them a rest. After a few seconds, I seem to hear gently falling water; it lends an unexpected peaceful sound to the industrial/otherworldly appearing place. When I reopen my eyes a minute later, I notice that the source of that peaceful sound isn’t water at all, but the main elevated conveyer, the only one currently running. It’s spewing limestone straight from the mine into a huge pile, perhaps 5-6 stories tall. From my location about 150 yards away, the sound of stone hitting stone sounds like a tiny waterfall, or a babbling brook, despite the fact that the noise comes from stones big enough to crack a man’s skull from the 20 foot height from which they fall to the top of the pile.
Before closing my eyes again to imagine a tiny waterfall, I notice a crow walking around the baking floor of the pit. Tiny puffs of dust arise with each awkward step (crows are better hoppers than walkers). His beak is held wide open, meaning that he’s miserably hot. Why would he choose to stroll here in this miniature Death Valley on such a day? When I open my eyes a couple minutes later, he’s gone. The loader comes and I flash two fingers twice, meaning that I want 22 tons. He nods and proceeds to load my truck. After only three scoops of the big loader, he beeps his horn, meaning that I’m loaded. I tell him thanks over the CB, careful to use his name, and head to the access road to begin my climb out of the pit and to the scale house at the top of the hill, where I get weighed and start my delivery. © 2014