MOVING DAY June 3rd
On the third day of the previous shift we were taken to a steep block that had to close in one day - we would have to work until it was finished. I put almost everything I had into trying to plant as many (good) trees as possible. I finished with a respectable total of 1,800.
I have established myself as the second strongest planter on the crew. The only planter putting in more than me is a much older guy named Yossef. Yossef rides shotgun in Cam’s truck, and not in the crew van with the rest of Cam’s planters. I’ve also started to ride with Cam, as I don’t like the music and yelling and smoking in the crew van. I asked Cam how many trees Yossef planted the day we were on the steep block and Cam was evasive.
‘Over 3,000,’ he said, after some pressing.
I could hardly see how this would be possible and expressed as much to Cam, who assured me.
‘Yossef is one of the best planters in Canada,’ he said. ‘Watch him.’
I spent the next day planting closer to Yossef and asking him for tips. He encouraged me, but his advice was vague.
Yossef works his land with mysterious and incomprehensible strategies. He disappears for long stretches of time and never plants in a straight line. He plays this off as a veteran tactic aimed at throwing the checker for a bit of a loop. I shared a piece with him on the last day of the Williams Lake contract and barely saw him all day.
Our entire company - 60 or so people, 60 or so personal tents, three large communal tent structures, seven diesel vehicles - has packed up and moved from Williams Lake to a new camp just outside Fort St. James.
My crew was responsible for tearing down the mess tent before we went off to the block. We planted until 6:00pm, and drove back in a hurry, hoping to make it all the way to Prince George by that evening. We collected all our personal belongings, took down our little tents, and packed everything into vehicles. I managed to do this quickly, and walked down to the campground shower to clean up before the four-hour drive.
There is a mobile home between my old tent spot and the showers, which are themselves halfway between my tent and my old crew. Along my half-finished journeys, I often played with a friendly cat who lives there. That day, there were four First Nations children outside, between the ages of three and five. As I walked past they followed me, teasing me in unison, calling me ‘poopy-pants.’
'POOPY PANTS POOPY PANTS POOPY PANTS POOPY PANTS.'
I walked into the showers. My pants were covered with mud. I had worn them every day of the five-day shift. All my planting clothes were possessed of a sweaty, soily, body grime that covered me and stuck my skin to the sleeping bag at night. My tent smells like a hockey bag. Everything is slightly damp.
The shower felt great. I had no soap, so I just stood under the shower head rubbing brown dirt off my hands and face, taking care of what was visible. We won't have a day off between these two contracts, so I am not sure if I will be able to do my laundry and wash my sleeping bag before I begin what will be another five-day shift. I probably won’t be able to talk to Lauren for 10 days.
I emerged from my shower with the feeling that my body had been covered in a thin coating of wax. The kids were waiting for me outside and teased me again.
In Fort St. James the tree prices will be lower, the quality will be lower, and the land will be easier. I am encouraged by the change, it suits my style better. I told Cam I wanted to plant 3,000 trees on my first day in Fort St. James, and he said he would cut me a big piece of land and let me go.