My mind is taking it all in and making record of this most extraordinary performance art. It is like watching time-lapse photography or archeology in reverse, as the layers of sand, gravel, block, clay, piping, rebar, steel mesh, concrete, wood, and glass pile one on top of the other, sandwiched in functional layers to provide strength and a permanence that will outlast our lives and imagination for the time when it all returns to the forest.
I didn’t know what to expect from these first waves of workers. What I have found so far is a vibrant workspace, with highly skilled, hard-working individuals, from the guys hauling clay in their noisy dump trucks giving me a smiling thumbs up as they expertly backed in and filled the big hole with clay, to the framers tearing up the old screened porch, wiry, strong and limber, clambering over the roof like a troupe of gymnasts. And the foundation crew — when they show up before first light, it’s to work hard and get the job done.
We have seen young Jesse, pride in his fine Kubota tractor sticking out all over, as he conquered the irregular red clay hills and smoothed them out across the entire foundation. It reminded me of how my mother used to ice a cake. I watched her with awe, too.
On Friday, Larry Pugh came with his plumbing crew to dig trenches and lay pipe in that red clay cake. We’ve been told by several people that Larry is “the best in the business” and I believe it. He and our builder, Ron, sat around the dining table with Buck and I going over all the details of where sinks, toilets, bathtubs, outside faucets and anything else requiring a water source will be. Larry’s the kind of guy that wants to get it right the first time.
And then there’s Ron Parker, our builder. Ron is low key and genial, with a deep, rumbling laugh. But don’t be fooled altogether. He’s a sharp-eyed hawk, too, and a leader of men, appearing to be casual as he oversees how the details of the plan are unfolding, steering the subs to do their best ever, without getting in their faces. It’s obvious they respect him.
There’s a perception in some quarters of our culture that construction workers just put in their time, doing sloppy work unless the boss is watching, then drinking up the profits on payday. There’s some of that up, down and across the working world, from college professor to ditch digger to corporate executive — even writers! But here, every day, I am seeing guys with pride in their craft, working for that young girl of theirs in her first year of college or the new baby on the way or the sheer joy of creating.
And they seem to be happy to have us around to bear witness to their work. As for us, it’s an honor.