Fuel Haul

High noon in November, gray and dim. Raw northeast wind in my face as I trudge along. Coming back from the fuel-barrel cache, through the burnt spruce west of the sawmill, towing two red five-gallon jugs of gas on a yellow plastic sled. Those faded red jugs and that patched yellow sled are the only vestiges of color in the entire scene. Pale gray sky; dark gray water out beyond new white ice; the horizon across the bay just a black line dividing pale gray from darker gray.

The sled lurches and tips on a drifted boulder. One jerry can flops out and starts leaking from a cracked vent bung. I stop, curse gently, tip it up, and pull the load forward across the snowy beach.

The same beach where on bright summer evenings we all come down to wash and swim. Green shoreline grass, purple fire-flowers, cool water and warm air, soap and sunlight on bare brown skin.

I tug my gas. That stuff we need to run the tools, run our lives, build and cut and heat and switch on our brave little lights. I smell the spilled gas on my mitten, sniff the cold wind, and push aside those soft and utterly inconsequential memories of summer. Early August may as well be flippin’ Tahiti today. Buck up, bush man.

Suddenly I’m thinking about the refineries at Fort Saskatchewan, the steel mills of Gary Indiana. I smile and tip my wool cap to the workers down south. I mean the workers, not the suits or the hats or the flip-flops and groovy T’s. The ones who make and load. The ones I might not agree with on certain things, if we got right into it. But then again, some days I’m not so sure.

Right now, at high noon, someone is punching in or punching out. Eight-hour shift at the plant, where out back the loading docks are cluttered with pallets and the forklifts scurry back and forth to the trucks. Black steel stove-pipe, 3031 gunpowder, triple pane window glass, thirteen-sixty-fourths inch carbide chainsaw files, 205-liter drums of pure cold gasoline.

Much obliged, people. Keep up the good work. These real and solid things you make and pump and smelt and ship are nothing less than wonders of my world. Yes, I know, I know, there may be other ways forward. I cannot quite see those ways yet, from here, and I cannot imagine facing this winter day without stove-pipe, window glass, gunpowder, chainsaw files, and gasoline. To name just a handful. And I have not the foggiest idea how to make any of that stuff myself.



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