By Jim Liar
"Yeah, well, here’s your gear, survey van, crew – and them? Them’s your flag girls."
"Flag girls?" I thought. "Never worked with flag girls before. This could be interesting…’"
We loaded up our gear and got ready to leave the construction shack. I said exactly nothing. It was a very cold and early Fundy morning, sun just up. We were tired from our long commutes in. Finally, we were ready to put in a first day of the construction season, pay our bills, make our stamps…but before I started the truck, I turned facing everybody in the back and said: "Just one thing. This summer, we are going to listen to the rock station on that radio. Not going to listen to none of your Albert County manure-kicking music! Got that?"
A visible chill rippled through the truck all the way back to the target flag girls, both married and very determined women supporting families, nervously sitting on shifting bundles of survey stakes. Flag girls didn’t rate crew seats back in the day.
Took a couple days for the flag girls to figure out they'd been had. By then, we all knew we were in for a long hot summer together, probably tailing out to Christmas, as everybody with any experience at all could see this job was heading for overtime. An important job decision had to be made: "Are we going to listen to his rock station until our fingers freeze to these signs, or is it Payback Time?"
In the dirt and noise that that dominates the chaos that is a road construction site, I jolted up from my field book hearing a thunderous roar. Any unfamiliar noise on such a site draws all eyes, for it means new and sudden danger.
The survey truck is accelerating hammer down through the job toward me, spinning up my freshly graded gravel. Windows are down. Previously docile flag girls are arms out banging on the doors screaming "Whee-Haw" at the top of their lungs. As I leap away to a safe dirt pile,
they swerve to fishtail past me at close range, waving that funny Albert County wave where not all fingers are extended. A blast of country music at 9.9 on the Richter Scale, followed by an immense cloak of choking road dust, drowns out and envelops my world.
That’s how we started in on my all-time favourite road build, with the best people to work with ever.
Jim Kitts, (AKA 'Jim Liar,' or worse) born James Fullerton, played away the early '50s in the dirt beside the tracks in Hillsborough, living in a place locally referred to as The Beehive. Swept away young to a remote Lake Huron island, his schooling was by mail, later commuting by boat and skidoo to a two-room, primarily Ojibwa school. Hydro was a summer thing. Life was hunting, fishing, carrying water, cutting wood, and ice with the team until the skidoo displaced them. A dark period brought him back to Hillsborough and civilization during Canada's Centennial year, and since then, he has come home to Hillsborough whenever he can, heading toward thirty years this round. Now pseudo-retired, still playing in the dirt... just compulsively rebuilt the Zen Garden... again.
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