Thursday, September 10, 2009

Caliente Camp Continued: Part 5

hearth The fuel-truck driver's antics diminished in import as the rest of the summer crew started trickling in to our Caliente camp in Meadow Valley Wash. We would have, when everyone finally arrived, two camps - L’s camp and G’s camp - and we would share the one helicopter between the two camps. Each camp would have about two weeks of helicopter-assisted recon work and about two weeks of ground work using trucks to get to mapping and sampling sites.

As the crew trickled in, the second woman came into camp, giving me a little respite and some symbolic support: Norma, the second cook, who would cook for G’s crew. George did not like sharing camp with a second cook, especially a woman. He had his own way of doing things, and this own way of his became more and more eccentric as the summer progressed. Those of us in G’s camp would end up quite pleased that we had Norma and not George by the time summer was over. George was a meat-and-potatoes sort of cook, and he was from some old school where women did not cook in field camps. He would actually growl if Norma even came near.

He fed us well, though. A typical breakfast from George was plates and plates piled high with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage links, ham, hash brown potatoes, pancakes, cinnamon rolls, and toast and all the trimmings: butter, jams and jellies, orange juice, milk, coffee, syrups, fresh fruit like apples, oranges, and bananas, and - did I leave anything out? All this barely fit on the long table we sat around inside the mess tent. Dinner was equally bounteous: we always had more than enough to eat.

As appetites waned during the course of a meal, George would go around the table telling everyone to eat up, insisting that everyone have a second or third or even fourth helping. He acted hurt if you did not take more, even though one or two helpings was usually more than enough. George was even known to take matters into his own hands and slap a large scoop of potatoes onto your plate if you had said, “No, thank you,” on his first pass around the table.

“Damn it, I worked all day on this, now eat it,” he’d say as the potatoes hit your plate.

George would not take suggestions from the hoi poloi - us - about what to cook. Norma did. She made pizza, tacos, enchiladas, and spaghetti as special requests, and anything else she could work out within the restrictions of a trailer kitchen and limited food runs to town. But this creative cookery of hers would have to wait until we split into two camps in June. George would have none of it. By the end of the first month, even the more meat-and-potatoes sort of guys were beginning to show signs of wear with his constant heavy fare. And no one would lose weight that summer, even though we worked strenuous ten-hour days in the sun and sage.

The other camp, L's, had a long summer ahead of them - a long Summer of George. I would join up with them much, much later, at Bowman Creek. George would still be there.

...To be continued...

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