Gold Rush on The Discovery Channel... and planting trees in Georgia

this weekend past a stomach virus invaded my house
Sunday morning my older son Dean woke at a sleep over at his grandmother's house to projectile vomit
while I woke to a similar less violent episode at my house
only to be followed by a recurrence while I was out trying to ride my bike in the woods

Dean recovered by the next day
while I had fever and chills through the night then woke weak the following day
useless... more useless than usual I was couch bound while Lisa spent the Monday Holiday taking the boys to see Gnomeo and Ju

on the couch in front of the tv I was introduced to Gold Rush on the Discovery Channel

ah... Reality TV
intellectual Soap Operas

funny... MTV's The Real World may have started it all
or at least popularized this format of television series
as much as I enjoyed MTV's The Real World I felt that I lived in The Real World and did not find it neccessary for me to congregate with members of my group house to witness what was going on in the group house of total strangers

amusingly enough... when SF bicycle messenger Puck was being bounced around the SF Real World my buddy Johnny Ray aka Mickey was working on the TV crew and gave me insight and forewarning to what was going on behind the scenes of a show that I was not watching

where was I?

this tangent was supposed to be going somewhere

let me try to draw it back

sick on the couch I stumbled upon Gold Rush on The Discovery Channel
in this long list of reality television shows I have managed not to get lured in to too many of them
Pawn Stars and American Pickers may be the only reality shows as of recent

I have seen the ads for Ice Road Truckers and Ax Men while not being drawn in
with my boys I dabble in Survivorman and Man Vs. Wild
then there is the conscious decision to not get involved with Survivor, American Idol, The Bachelor, and so many other shows I would not know existed if it were not for conversation around the water cooerl
conversation I have far less frequently than I used to as I am under employed

being under employed is not why I am ranting on the topic of Gold Rush
although it is interesting to witness 6 men's effort to resolve their under employment-unemployment situations

since this tangent is not wrapping around to the point as quickly as I would like

FLASHBACK! January 1991

it was January 1991
I was living in a group house in Columbia Heights with an odd assortment of messengers and cops... excuse me... DC police officers and couriers... bicycle couriers and motorcycle couriers

I was a recent college graduate and unsure of my future

there was a good deal of anxiety about what was going on in the world
the whole house was glued to CNN following what was going on in Iraq and Kuwait
fearing that there was going to be the next Vietnam
anxious that the "Crisis in the Gulf" would escalate such that the US would institute a draft

the pressure built and built
then George Bush senior gave an ultimatum
that ultimatum was not met... so the US took action
it was intense

the technology of the day presented the actions in ways that they had never been delivered before
both in the actions of the military and the actions of the media

our being glued to the television had reached an unhealthy level
a number of us felt like we needed to escape
a night on the town with discussions over beers and a seed was planted
almost literally

along with my housemate John Reardon and a college friend Spencer Moser it was decided that we would leave DC and head south to plant trees
this action was pre-internet
this effort was pre-cell phone
this whole affair was not all that well thought out

the discussion over beers became action
bags were packed
the three of us climbed into a diminutive pick up truck and pointed south
often driving with two in the cab and one person lying in the cap covered flatbed of the pickup
an action that was more acceptable in an age where people were still transitioning into seat belts usage becoming the norm

our trajectory was pointed south
our destination was Georgia
we were headed to the headquarters of Green and Gold Forestry where we would join up with a small troop of migrant workers to plant trees... small trees... saplings
trees that would be planted for a glorious average of 4.25 cents a piece

we had no idea what we were getting into
we just knew that we wanted to get away

the drive involved all the insanity of a road trip
pointed south on Interstate 95 we watched the numbers count down on the Pedros South of the Border signs as we headed towards the border between the Carolinas
then in the rear view mirror we could see the numbers count on the Pedro's signs up as we continued south to our destination
there were far more Pedros signs in that day and age

we arrived at the Green and Gold headquarters in the dark of night and set up camp without making contact with anyone on the premises
we woke the next morning to our first introduction of what would be a five week introduction to a unique ethnography of work and an introduction to a cluster of people we would have never met before had we not taken a moment to step into this world

it was trial by fire
we met the boss and took our position in the pecking order
as in may situations... the newbie takes a slot at the bottom of the totem pole
forced to earn their respect
often resigned to disrespect rather than mutual respect
often only allowed to speak when spoken to

we may have arrived on day one of their planting season
just as we had arrived others were starting to arrive
for the seasoned tree planters it was a reunion
migrant workers who had all worked together planting trees together each season for years

it was a colorful sketch
a number of very strong personalities

maybe I will try to remember who these people were...
the names and details are a blur
as this was an event that occurred decades ago

my memory is blurred and my memory is skewed
as a man over forty I am trying to resurrect the memories of a young man in his early 20's
my perspective of people and life at that time was different then as it is now
what is old or older is different to a person in their young 20's than a person in their early 40's...

Rick Long maybe 50 years old then.... maybe longer... maybe his name was Rich... maybe not: the owner of Green and Gold Forestry also the foreman of the crews
a large man... a very large man...
standing tall at what may have been 6'7"... maybe taller
tall but not lean... he carried a little extra weight around the mid section

bearded Rich age unknown... lets guess mid 40's: that interesting cross between red-neck and hippie
maybe an Alman Brother's hippie
this guy was a tree planting machine
to see him plant trees was a sight
he planted trees faster and longer than anyone on the crew
earning his keep... making money when he could how he could
living out of his van

Random Woman with Rich maybe the same age: also a mix between red-neck and hippie
she had a few less teeth than her boyfriend rich... together they may have had a full set of teeth
not sure how much planting she did... maybe she was just along for the ride
maybe she did some office work while others worked in the fields

Dave maybe in his early or mid 30's: perhaps the college graduate in the group other than us
a kind gentle sort... strong and soft spoken
there seems to be an idea of National Rugby Team floating around when he comes to mind
Dave was in attendance with his wife and toddler age son named Forest

apparently Dave had been planting trees for years
each year bringing a different girlfriend along with him for the experience
until one of these woman became his wife and gave him his son
this woman who is now his wife may very well have been the tree planting-tent partner of another migrant worker the year prior... I can not recall

Dave's son Forest may have been 4 or 6
again... 20 year old boys are not so good at guessing people's ages
especially those significantly older and those significantly younger
it amazed me to see Forest's ability to navigate the camp
wandering out to visit his father in the fields and then finding his way back
seeing this little boy walking around with a rattle snake in his hands was quite a site as well
a snake that Rich may have taken and skinned

Rich's van that was converted into his living quarters was as much a museum as it was a bedroom
with all sorts of snake skins and arrow heads

Mike Moonie and Toad: Mike Moonie age 50 may have been the most colorful character in the group
In Georgia by way of New Mexico
just as Dave would bring a different girl with him each year... Mike Moonie usually traveled with a young sidekick in his shadow
Mike was ex-Military... maybe navy
he had a chip on his shoulder and a serious lone wolf approach to things
when we would head out to a site Mike would always drive out ahead leading the convoy of trucks
even though he seldom knew where we were going

not sure if there were any others

more on this later

Gold Rush Alaska on the Discovery Channel
Discovery Blog

my experiences with Green and Gold Forestry were far closer to Jeff Foxworthy than Andy Goldsworthy
yet I thought I would share the links just the same
The Art of Andy Goldsworthy

Mickey aka Johnny Ray

need to just hit PUBLISH AND POST and revisit this later
or else it will get lost in the digital shuffle

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