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Finding the magic places

Feb 13, 2012 - By Randy Tucker

It's been gone for over a quarter century, but it still lives on in my memory. There was a small section of fence behind my grandparent's house bordered by the log cabin bunkhouse to the west and by the "cabin" from the south.

The six-foot pine boards were bordered by a shelf about three feet lower that made a perfect parapet. On that narrow walkway my cousins and I relived the Alamo, various scenes from John Ford Westerns and imagined battles against everything from rebels to redcoats.

It was a perfect fort for Clara and Eugene Gasser's grandsons to play on endless summer days.

Our weapons ranged from sticks and toy rifles to things with a bit more punch.

Slingshots loaded with malted milk balls were the best weapons, but when we moved to bb-guns our collective mothers and aunts put an end to it.

The old line shack that we called the cabin moved to my own parents' place between Kinnear and Pavillion back in the 1970s. Now someone else owns it.

My uncle wanted to tear down the bunkhouse a few years ago but gracefully gave me the offer to move it instead. It is now a barn on the far side of our place.

In an age of constant visual, auditory and overall sensory overload it becomes a necessity to find quiet places. Usually they arew overlooked by the casual observer, but that can become very special to you.

People thrive on these magical places. They provide an escape from a world that constantly clamors for your attention, a world that won't take no for an answer.

There aren't many wild places left on the planet. In We are lucky here. You can still find a vista free of telephone poles, a place without roads and no cell phone coverage within 30 minutes of anywhere in Fremont County.

It's not something that people mention very often but it is one of the remarkable things about where we live.

When I hear people complaining about shopping, restaurants or a shortage of night life I always give them one simple answer: "Then move somewhere else."

We all have bad days dealing with clueless people or complicated equipment, neither of which work well without constant adjustment.

Some days all you need to escape the insanity of the work place is to have a flight of Canada geese fly over, or watch a cat hunting mice in a nearby haystack.

Sometimes just the wind blowing against the brilliant orange and purple of one of our trademark sunsets is enough to set the world in order and, as many coaches and sergeants have said since the dawn of time, "To get your mind right."

During the summers of 1975-77 I worked just about every job at the Louisiana Pacific planing mill on the southwest edge of Riverton. I never ran the forklift full time or made it to planer operator or grader, but I learned cutting, stacking and moving thousands of boards an hour.

As you might imagine, the corrugated metal buildings filled with high-powered electric saws, planers and chain-driven feeding tables were loud. Headphones, earmuffs and earplugs were required equipment. Working for even a few minutes without hearing protection earned you a buzzing sensation followed a few minutes later by a headache near the base of the skull.

Amid all the noise, heat and frenetic pace, it was still a great job, especially for a college student. Six days a week, nine hours a day meant a nice check with 14 hours of overtime every week.

My second summer on the job I was promoted to breakdown operator. Running the breakdown meant using a stationary forklift that peeled rows of rough-cut boards newly arrived from the sawmill in Dubois.

If a board was too warped to run through the planer I threw it on the hula saw table and cut usable lengths out of it, or chopped the board into 18-inch chunks and sent it to the incinerator.

Pinholes on the outside walls let the sun shine through on west wall during the mornings, slowly disappearing for a while, only to reappear later that afternoon on the east wall of the work station.

One day I marked a spot at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on the west and east walls. The spot changed slightly each day from June through early July then began to reverse direction. By my final week, before returning to Laramie, the sun hit the 10 and 2 marks perfectly again.

It was simple reminder while I may have been in the closed workspace, the world was still moving on outside.

It is always wise to have an escape, even if it is only in your mind. In a world that if unchecked, would enslave us all in tiny cubicles to produce endless amounts of trivial widgets and sprockets, these escapes provide a thin veneer of sanity.

Without them, monotony and routine take over and we become just another cog in a great uncaring, inhumane machine.

Here's to imagination.

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