Crystal Purcell, Contributing Writer
For almost four summers, I have been incredibly blessed in my employment. Rather than endlessly scanning items behind a cash register or clearing away other people’s dirty dishes, I had a job with a little more possibility for adventure.
The job included daily off-roading expeditions in a Chevy Silverado and nearly swimming through thick underbrush in search of patches of weeds, GPS in hand. The small amount of office work involved manipulation of GPS data collected in the field to create maps, which added some interesting tech-savvy to my repertoire. Added to the mix were a few fantastic, fun-loving crew members. Picture all of that together, and you have an idea of my summer job.
Officially, I was a member of the “weed crew,” a group which included me, Danielle Pajak (another junior here at the University of Dallas) and three 18-year-old boys (including my younger brother, Chase), who took it upon themselves to play pranks on the girls at every possible opportunity. We worked four 10-hour days per week, and some areas we surveyed took a few weeks to finish because of their size. Despite this, we were still the most productive of all the counties that participated in the weed program.
Many of the Forest Service areas we surveyed were isolated, accessible only by dirt tracks, made in the ground amidst large rocks and fallen trees. Getting to the site was normally accomplished by one of the boys, who were more able to negotiate the rough terrain with confidence – at least, most of the time. We rattled around inside the truck with the windows down, a/c blasting and radio turned up until we arrived at the location.
Once we reached the area, we divided into teams and made a plan to cover as much of the zone as possible. We then hiked our separate portions, logging the GPS data, and met back at the truck when we were finished.
On one occasion, the road was particularly hazardous and much more suited to the rock-crawling of a Jeep than the valiant labors of our Chevy, even though there were areas of packed dirt that made the going easier. After one such stretch, a decision lay before my brother, who was behind the wheel; we had reached a fork of sorts: On one side was a huge mud pit of uncertain depth, on the other, a smooth bend, free of obstacles, that circumvented the puddle and joined the main road.
Deep in the heart of most men is an instinct that is difficult to suppress once awoken, which demands the challenge of an adversarial force. To Chase, who loved to go mudding in his own truck, that puddle was screaming, “Come at me!” Challenge accepted. With little or no deliberation, Chase gunned the truck forward. Black mud spewed several feet into the air on all sides and it seemed like we would make it through. But then we reached the middle, and the truck sank past its axles into the mire.
Nothing we did could pull us out of the muck, and, to make matters worse, the front bumper was partially dislocated in the process. After a fruitless hour or so, it was decided that one of the boys’ friends would drive up in his jeep and tow us out. In return for this service, we treated him to lunch at Taco Bell.
This, of course, was not a regular occurrence. As I said before, we were the most productive county that participated in the weed program. We were!
Spending 40 hours a week hiking in the woods is unlikely to leave anybody without some extraordinary memories and experiences. One summer we encountered an area with musk thistles that were eight feet high (not kidding), and this past summer’s highlights included watching a bear swim across a pond and listening to elk bugling just beyond our line of vision. That’s not even to mention all the pranks, retaliations, war paint, inside jokes and other great times I was able to be a part of working with such great teammates. With perks like these, it’s easy to see why I fell in love with my job.