Monday, July 25, 2016

Fred’s Fill Dirt and Croissants—Technology Or Inventiveness?

 Fred’s Fill Dirt and Croissants—Technology Or Inventiveness?
            I treasure a postcard from Missoula in the early ‘80’s. The card pictures an earth-moving business in the background. In the foreground perches a stand from which the proprietor sells croissants. It was pure Missoula. At that time every convenience-store clerk had a master’s degree and held two or three jobs just to survive.

            In contrast, a friend forwarded me a look into the future. It sounded like 1984 on steroids. I thought the article painted a bleak picture. Obviously from the presentation, whoever put it together thought the predictions the best thing since, well, sliced bread with peanut butter.

            From the forecast, technology zoomed ahead so quickly that in a few years one would never have to lift a finger or even leave one’s abode, not for any reason. Medical care, grocery delivery, recreation, friendships, occupations, long life. Everything imaginable would be done by super-technology. There would be no auto accidents because transportation would be technologically controlled. We wouldn’t even die. Live forever, oh king. I hope you are laughing.

            Well, who knows? But we live in the here and now. I’m not technologically adept but find my devices to be flawed, even if more often than not the flaw is operator error. You are still laughing, right?

            My personal here and now happens to be a village in the mountains of Jalisco. Guadalajara, an hour away, is the technological center of this country.

            But my pine tree episode brought my Missoula postcard to mind vividly.

            My tree, a type of pine native to Mexico, stood thirty-plus meters high and a mere two meters from the wall of my casita, beautiful, with a root system wreaking havoc. The roots carved a crack the length of my floor, right through the center of the tiles. I can’t undo that damage. But the tree had to go.

            One can’t just cut a tree. A trip to a government office with pictures of the damage quickly secured the necessary permit. I got three bids. If you’ve ever had a tree professionally removed, you don’t even want to know how stupid cheap my bids came in. I chose the middle bid from two brothers who handed me their business card: waiters and caterers, day job and special events. Tree removal and plumbing on the side. Some construction and electrical. Another reminder of old Missoula.

            Wednesday Jorge and Sergio showed up as promised. Professional equipment included a pick-up truck, a small chain saw, a hand saw, a machete and an assortment of ropes.

            Sergio monkeyed up my pine tree, hacking branches with his machete as he went, leaving stubs for grips, hand and foot. Jorge dragged the branches to the pick-up to be hauled away. By the end of the first evening my tree was limbed out, the top roped around for cutting the next day and the pick-up truck loaded so heavily it sat on the wheels.

            The second day the brothers arrived late, having changed two flat tires. Again Sergio scooted up the tree, rigged himself into a kind of rope-saddle, pulled up the hand saw and flapping in the breeze like a flag, sawed the top three meters almost through. He tossed a rope to his brother who hitched it to the back of the truck and pulled the piece until it snapped. Sergio then lowered the top to the ground on ropes. Jorge chopped the trunk into pieces for removal.

            Sergio secured the next section with ropes, pulled up the chain saw, and cut the trunk nearly through. Tossed down a rope and they repeated the process. Thus, in incrementally shorter sections (heavier, bigger around), eventually they will remove my tree.

            The man at the Tlapaleria (materials for construction) said it succinctly, “Gringos have technology. Mexicans have inventiveness. Most Montana men and women, used to doing what it takes to survive, appreciate technological advances as well as inventiveness. We know beef doesn’t grow digitally in grocery stores!

            Fred, peddling his fill dirt and croissants, would salute Jorge and Sergio, were they to meet. But if Fred is still around, my money says all three men carry smart phones.

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

May 26, 2016

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