When I turned in last Saturday night, I didn’t move for seven hours or so, not a twitch. The positions of my head, my hands and my feet – when my eyes finally, grudgingly, greeted the morning sun early Sunday – were exactly the same as they had been when my consciousness had closed on the previous week the night before.
I contend that sleep that comes as the result of collapsing from total exhaustion is the best kind. I don’t experience that kind of sleep very often. And acknowledging such a fact here carries with it a twinge of shame, for me, maybe more than a twinge.
I’ve been blessed throughout the greater part of my adult life to have been able to work mostly with my head. Some might say, pejoratively, that I work more with my mouth than with my head, but that’s splitting hairs. The fact is – unless the AC is on the fritz – shuffling through papers, making drawings, signing checks, writing stories, talking on the phone, calculating stuff, dreaming, scheming, and telling other people what to do while sitting in a chair do not make a person sweat. But hard work, real work, often does.
I spent the day at Marietta Wood Supply on Friday. A crew of talented people and I were filming a music video out there. Thirty or so other guys – from the ages of my sons through and beyond my own age (that’s 53) – were out in the elements with us, steadily milling green lumber from massive logs brought in on truck after truck. The day for the sawmill crew started in the crisp cold of seven o’clock in the morning and finished in the heat of the day about three. The men, mostly of East Prentiss County stock, variously drove lifts and pickers, operated the conveyors and saws, bundled and sorted the finished boards, and stacked lumber with their hands, all day.
Our crew of eight, including director of photography J.B. Lawrence from Clinton and musical talent Chance Stanley, a Marietta native, worked at the sawmill most of the day on Friday. I was on my feet directing our part of the whole circus – achieving that elusive balance of keeping everyone happy, sufficiently accomplishing the task at hand, and, most importantly, giving those around me the distinct impression that I knew what I was doing, whether I did or not (ok, so maybe I do work with my mouth as much as my head) – from 5 am until 8 pm. And then I did that again at a different location on Saturday. And then I collapsed in sleep and didn’t move for seven hours.
Now this morning, I’m writing, not sweating. But I know there are some good men at Craig Pharr’s sawmill in east Prentiss County that are driving lifts and pickers, operating conveyors and saws, bundling and sorting finished boards, and stacking lumber with their hands, all day. They’re working – hard work, real work – producing lumber, so I could build a garden shed or a work bench if I wanted to, so talented people of a completely different type can make fine and beautiful furniture, and so that all their own families are provided for.
They’ll probably sweat.
Chance Stanley’s song, the one we produced the music video for, is called “Crosstie Town.” It’s about the routine of hard work at a small-town sawmill. The men at Marietta Wood Supply were the inspiration for it. I can see why.
I hope they sleep good every night.
Talk of the Town is sponsored by Six Shooter Studios. Follow us at Facebook.com/sixshooterstudios