As much as the intent of CultureMutt is to be stunningly international in its scope on global do-gooding, once in a while it helps to have a look at something happening at home. As home for me now is an oft-forgotten corner of inland Northern California (read: cow fields), the likelihood of something dramatic and newsworthy happening is next to nil. To shake things up a little, I decided to reignite my long-neglected urges to do something service-related locally by clinking shovels with a few friends and building a fence for a 30-something woman with cancer.
It sounded magnanimous and simple enough: Tear down the old fence she had and erect a fresh one. Well, for starters, the day was overcast and two hours before the project began there was a life-sucking drizzle that freed me of any enthusiasm I had generated about the project. I texted the team lead, Matt, the following: “Pretty steady rain/drizzle in Chico.. I am still game but I just wanted to give you the heads up.” I was hoping that this text would cancel the project.
No suck luck – Matt texted back: “K, satellite makes it look like it will let up soon.” Uggghh. We were still on. I rolled in to the work site about 15 minutes late and apologetically got situated. Luckily I was the only one with refreshments and the day-old muffins and partly-consumed white grape juice redeemed me in the eyes of the already-muddy crew.
The work itself was seriously crappy. There was no end of rotten wood and other assorted debris to transport from a backyard with very poor access to the too-small trailer behind my friend’s truck. Remember – this was just the prep work. Whether out of guilt or concern that we would trash his yard, the neighbor of the woman in concern emerged after about an hour and started helping us. An hour later his wife joined him. Good thing to. We trashed their driveway in the process of dragging fence remains to our trailer and they did most of the mind-numbing cleanup.
The work got interesting around the time we started digging out the cement foundations of the old fence. Matt took a sledge hammer to a clump of cement to break it into bits that would be easier to carry. He lunged at it so hard that he threw his back out. That is when he was mounted on to the back stretcher in the above video… it was priceless. Suddenly the work site seemed so much less dreary. There was always Matt to make fun of.
Another wonderful moment was lunch. I was shepherding disabled Matt around Chipotle and the local college crowd gave him all the right looks. He took it like a man… like an 88 year-old arthritic man without his walking stick… I loved every moment. I carried his tray for him. Beautiful.
After lunch, half the crew left and myself and just a few of the faithful few remained, grimly mixing and pouring concrete into holes that had taken hours to dig. Matt directed our band of fed up, shivering do-gooders until we had placed most of the fence posts. We were all relieved to call it a day soon after. The new fence recipient came out to admire our work towards the end and it felt good to have made some progress. There’s still work to be done – not one panel had gone up yet… But hey, Matt can always go and finish that up.