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Chapter 2

Digging ditches transformed my father into a beast of a man. He had never been a particularly skinny dude but was what some might classify an “ectomorph.” I personally would’ve most likely, in my high school years anyway, been identified as a “mesomorph”. I was stocky, broad shouldered and barrel chested. Later in life I suppose, I would become an “endomorph” if that is possible. I’d inherited the genetics from mother’s side in that regard.

Swinging a pickaxe and stabbing a shovel into the earth caused my father’s forearms to widen and become as hard as the top layer of ground that he had to bust up in order to earn my family’s daily bread. His biceps began to bulge a bit and the sun turned him as brown as shoe leather. He wore a wife beater tee shirt a lot and even frequently went without a shirt when he worked and the hairs that stood up on his shoulders and back got bleached out by the sun and looked sort of like little golden wires. He would shave his wiry brown hair to the scalp.

Not all of the dirt and caliche and other rock that had to be wrenched from the trenches where the pipe was to be buried before the oil could flow though it like blood through veins, had to be excavated by hand. There was a digging machine since the roaring Forties, a Ditch Witch as it was called, that had been invented for the exact purpose of gouging interminable and near perfect troughs for miles and endless miles without end. It sort of resembled a giant mechanical aardvark with no tail and long nose like a anteater only metal and with rotating blades on a conveyer belt. Some of these excavating machines, a man could walk behind and operate, and some of them, a man could sit in and control. But the machine never did away with the pickaxe and shovel. It was always necessary at times for men to climb down into the thing gorges and bust up and toss out the dirt and rock and provide job security for the likes of my father.

I remember sometimes, at night at the end of a long day, after my father had showered the oil and dirt off his body and scarfed down some Chef Boyardee Beef Raviloi and then maybe watched a few minutes of an episode of “The Fugitive” or “Gunsmoke” or “Bonanza” on the old black and white RCA console TV stereo in the living room of our four room renthouse maybe: before going to bed, I could hear him and my mother sometimes in their bedroom, which was only feet away from mine. She of course looked like she had swallowed a giant pumpkin or watermelon by then as my baby sister still kicking round inside of her.

“I don’t want to,” she said.
“But you can,” he said.
“That doesn’t mean I want to.”
I didn’t really understand at the time what my parents were arguing about. It seemed improper somehow and even verboten to me that the thin walls of the small house would allow such words and secrets and the adult meaning of such a conversation to penetrate them and find their way to my tender young ears. I knew what sex was, intellectually. I’d learned about it in concept more from symposiums on the subject with my female cousins than I had from anywhere else; maybe a kid at school had proffered some half correct science on the inside story. But at the tender young age of nine I had no equitable practicum on coitus... in the flesh. I didn’t even really have an organic wisdom yet of an erection... though I would shortly.
It was not a very old house, built in the 1930s, but it had an aged quality about it that made it eerily dispiriting somehow. At times, it seemed that the windows were not actually purposed for allowing light. Perhaps it was the Maidenhair Tree that someone had planted in the front yard outside the bedroom I slept in that had grown and prospered despite the odds being against it: the Maidenhair’s native habitat is China. There was also a weeping willow and a couple of Texas Ash trees (Fraxinus texensis) in the yard to hinder luminescence. And someone, at some time, had put some kind of semi-translucent, milky film over the glass in the windows, which occasionally the tree branches would scrape against and scratch at at night. I was never able to find those offending branches in the daytime even though I would search for them sometimes in hopes of breaking them or cutting them off. Inevitably, the moonlight or light from the street lamps would pass through those vexing branches and leaves just right (or wrong) and fling abstruse shadows on the walls that approximated silhouettes of... things... to me.
I remember; I knew immediately that it was not a house that wanted to die in.
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