Over the years I’ve lost a lot of my tolerance for discomfort, so I work hard at trying to control my environment. I occasionally wonder how much life passes me by as a result. Especially at this time of the year. Yes, I’ll step out of the easy zone once in a while, but more and more it seems to take persuasion with brute force. That was never the case, though, when I got to go to the mill with my dad.
I didn’t give comfort a thought when I climbed up into the old Chevy truck, even when we had to scrape ice off the windows. I was going to work with my father! The heater provided a little relief, but usually not until we were practically at the work site. Dad stayed in the cab a few minutes to relish the warmth and draw a second cup of coffee from his battered Stanley thermos, but I would be out and running for the best playground in Ashtabula County, compliments of Spencer Brother’s Sawmill Machinery.
As the Frick sawmill hungrily chewed into the bulky logs, it blew the chips into piles. They probably topped out at only ten to fifteen feet, but at my stature they were gigantic. Usually there were multiple mountains, so I could play on one that wasn’t being rained on with new sawdust. I would dive, roll, flip, and anything else I could to bang up my frame. No matter how many times I hollered at Dad to watch my newest stunt, he would stop and give me his attention. After each daring feat, he would smile at my craziness, then grin at his workers and get back to his other serious business at hand.
I remember one time there was only a single working pile, but that didn’t stop me. I donned a hardhat, braving the heavy shower of chips, and slowly became one with the growing formation. I think the crew must have thrown a few shovelfuls on me to hasten the burial. Luckily Dad stopped the mill when the pile reached my neck. After that great adventure, he said I probably ought to stick to the finished piles. Mom and Grandma might not take so well to that level of excitement.
When I got cold playing, I stood next to the motor that turned the giant saw or simply burrowed into the warm zones created by the decomposition of the sawdust. You sure can cram a lot of wood chips into your clothes in three or four hours, but I never noticed it while I was playing. Dad would take me back home when it was lunchtime. After I ate I would always be too tired to go back to the mill. I remember it being a very satisfying tired.
Back to my present craving for comfort. I have my own old Chevy truck now, with the same so-so heater. On a cold morning I warm it up quite a while before I leave home. Sometimes I jump in the cab on a hot day to enjoy the familiar old truck smell. However, with no air conditioning, I usually wait for a cooler day to take a drive. And when I use my chain saw and get a flying chip lodged in my sock, I stop and extract it.
Despite my search for ease, I still have mountains to climb—the mountains of life. Like the sawdust piles, they are probably not as big as they seem, and now I go around a lot of them. Starting this New Year, though, I might have to start climbing one or two of those I’ve been avoiding, just to get out of my comfort zone. I can pretend I’m on Sawdust Mountain. Could be I’ll dive in to help someone in trouble, possibly roll with the punches a little more when life isn’t fair, or maybe flip a trial into a triumph. Dad isn’t around any more to watch me and shut things down when I’m buried up to my neck, but the Father above is. And I bet when I holler at Him to watch my latest stunt, He’ll stop what He’s doing, smile at my craziness, and then get back to His other serious business at hand.