Adam’s Summer Purgatory, 2008 (2013)

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Tallies, Shift One: Drayton Valley
Day One: 4,320
Day Two: 4,005
Day Three: 4,410
Day Four: 3,810
------- Total: 16,545
.09 (cents per tree)
YTD Income (net): ~$7,400

At the BCMI Inn, where I am staying, there are no cars in the parking lot. There are large white trucks with company decals on their sides, and big tires; splatter coatings of gray clay around their base grow thinner up their sides, acquired on the many dirt and gravel roads that divide the green foothills between Drayton Valley and Edson. Roads that lead to wells, massive thrusting derricks churning and belching, or clear cut forests; running adjacent to seismic lines, 10-meter-wide stretches of dead straight green grass that seem to go on forever, a scar marking the underground pipelines; roads that climb up hills that when crested reveal the far off jagged white shapes of the Rocky Mountains on one side, and a muddy flat horizon on the other.

There are no women at the BCMI save for the hostess and the waitresses at the Bar-Restaurant near the reception. It is full of men, alone and in small groups, eating high-cholesterol breakfasts off the Canadian Classics menu. Heavyset men wearing denim and wool, and high boots. Everything recognizable from the racks of Mark's Work Warehouse. They look threatening and unremarkable.

One shift here and the numbers are huge. We only earn $.09 a tree, so you have to plant more of them. But the land is, as Cam would say, 'dead-easy.' We are camped along a river in a provincial campsite, somewhere between Edson and Drayton Valley, an hour from cement in any direction. I can hear the trickle of the creek through my mosquito net at night, which becomes almost indistinguishable from the loud puttering of the generator beside the cook shack.

Kathi has become a problem. She is young, French Canadian, the most attractive girl on the crew. I’ve heard rumors that she has a thing with Cam, whose girlfriend, Colleen, is the boss of another crew in camp. Whether or not the rumor is true, Kathi’s behavior suggests she feels she’s in a position of leverage. She told me to my face that she thinks I am a cocky jerk, even though I am Cam’s best planter, and the current top dog at the camp.

I can’t recall having ever even talked to her about anything beyond simple, necessary work matters. I’ve kept to myself. I have no casual friends at Rhino, nobody like Caroline. So long as I stay good with Cam, so long as I can plant trees, I am fine.

Perhaps Kathi feels threatened by my indifference. Perhaps she takes it as a slight that I refuse to ride to work in the crew van. Kathi is the queen of the crew van.

Lauren has been sending care packages, with letters, treats and photographs. They arrive through Pierre, the owner, several weeks after she sends them out. I store them in my tent in a box with some stationary that I’ve been using to compose letters in my free time after dinner. I’ve read and reread her letters, and am making my way through a paperback of King Lear that she bought for me at Strand.

The introduction to the play calls it ‘the greatest work of Shakespeare or indeed of any dramatist.’

Some excerpts from the introduction:

‘The perennial appeal of tragedy to the human mind lies in its presentation in artistic form of the eternal question of evil and suffering.’

‘Is there any cause in nature that makes these hard hearts?’

‘Is there justice in the world or in the heavens?’

‘Lear goes further than any other tragedies of Shakespeare in answering the problem by insisting on the value of endurance, and by showing the hero purged through suffering.’

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