Excerpt from the Journal of a Conservationist

Jane went home sick today. She’s the third – no, fourth – person to catch the virus this hitch. I’m worried that I’ll catch it too. John got it yesterday, and both Dave and Toby had it before the project started. They keep losing stuff out of both ends, and it sounds miserable. I hope I don’t catch it. We tried using the General up top this morning, but the augur still doesn’t want to work. We checked the air filter, fuel, oil, even the spark plug. Nothing. Oh well, that meant we had to do things by hand. In the heat of the day on that shadeless hill, I knew it would be difficult. That afternoon I lifted a wooden fence rail with relative ease. The hot Utah sun beat down on my back like the lash of a whip. I stopped before making the arduous climb to the worksite for the seventh time that afternoon to remind myself why I chose to do this. Rolling hills covered in fragile cryptobiotic soil spread out to the south, eventually morphing into red and brown striped plateaus and cliffs in the distance. The green plants regaining their color meant that spring had finally arrived, although the sweat on my brow spoke more of a blistering summer. This is why I came out here, I remember telling myself, Where else am I going to see something like this? When else will I get the chance? A smile crept onto my face in spite of my body’s fatigue from the past two days. I hoisted the rail onto my knotted shoulder and started off one step at a time. I kept my eyes downcast in case I tripped over a rock; it had almost happened on the last load. Another load meant another sip of water waiting for me at the top; a perverse reward, given its necessity. Besides, we needed this rail to finish the section of fence. The day may have started out poorly, but all things considered, we had made some significant progress. I’d say we earned our dinner tonight.

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