Good weather kept me at the dirt job all week. For some reason, I kept remembering the toy army green dump truck that I had as a child. I spent a lot of time hauling dirt from the pile in the back yard where Dad was digging a basement under the house. In real life, it the dirt job I’m on gets to be a bit of a grind, since the haul is less than two miles. We’re still at the same dig, and will remain so, but the dump site has moved about 400 yards closer. The shortest route is now on a back road, rather than the four-lane we were using.
Unfortunately, it takes us past a company that appears to handle materials for the nearby metals plant. I say unfortunately, because they get in black dust, white dust and red dust and then transfer it to their warehouse, perhaps alter it slightly, and then haul it to the metals plants. I don’t know if the black dust is coal or coke, or something else, but it gets on everything in the area. A street sweeper runs constantly on the road there trying to keep down the mess, but it seems a losing battle. Most of the trucks that haul it were given up on long ago as far as cleanliness, and are a dull black from one end to the other. The area buildings, grounds and equipment are likewise. My wife sees ugliness nearly everywhere she looks these days, but if all that ugliness were put into some form of creature, that area would be its dingle-berried rear orifice. I guess it provides work for some folks though, and the truck traffic for such a small place is phenomenal.
I suspected the red dust might be literally rust (iron ore) for the ferromanganese that the metals plant produces, the black dust might be coal and the white dust lime, used in smelting. Yet, when I search “MAR dust” (what one of the truckers called the red dust) it was mentioned as part of a polymer process. Plus, when I search the name of the company, it comes up as a plastics plant in a nearby town (an office only, I suspect). Still, the stuff gets hauled to the metals plant, black stuff gets hauled back and gets dumped on barges, and life stays busy there in “Ugly Town.” I ended up going back to the longer route, partly to avoid the rough road through Ugly Town, and partly to avoid the blackness of the place.
I AM impressed by a couple young fellows that are working the job. The kid that runs the track hoe (that’s “steam shovel” to old-timers like me) doesn’t look a day over 18, though I’m sure he is. He knows his job and loads the trucks well, plus he runs the dozer when needed. It wouldn’t surprise me if he had his CDL, too. The other young man (who seems to ramrod the dig and the first fill) has probably never seen 30, but he has his CDL Class A, and his heavy equipment operator’s certificate, and does fine at both. He also raises 400 acres of soybeans on nearby property (leased, I assume). Not many young folks today seem to have the drive these two young fellows do.
Friday, a scale man (state trooper equivalent) was hanging around the area, so four of the six drivers headed for the hills. Only I and one fellow who’d just arrived kept hauling. I spoke to the hoe operator and told him to be sure and keep us legal weight and I’d keep hauling. However, when it became apparent that the other guys weren’t coming back, they closed the job for the day. As the hoe operator and I talked, he mentioned that the other trucks were rather junky and probably wouldn’t pass inspection if stopped. Plus, he said that a lot of guys don’t like dirt jobs, and look for any excuse to get out of them. I told him that it wasn’t something that I enjoy that much, but SOMEBODY has to do it. He grinned and told me that’s what his dad says.
I got three stone deliveries from the dispatcher that afternoon, and it seemed like a vacation. Each round-trip from the mine to the delivery point at the county seat, one county “inland” from the river, took about an-hour-and-a-half. Compared to the rush of dirt-hauling, it was both literally and figuratively a drive in the country. It was a good ending to a spine pounding week. © 2014