Sweet tobacco fumes

I learned to smoke that summer in 1956 on the drilling job
in the primeval Labrador bush that only bush pilots flew.
I learned to roll the tobacco in the paper with one hand while the drill-head
slung diamond-tipped hollow steel rods spiraling down fifteen hundred feet
into the cold blue hematite until we started pulling quartz,
always swatting wildly at mosquitoes in mobs the size of the swarm of loneliness
that hung over every stranded man’s head: ex-cons and guys looking for a stake,
and students—we thrust bone and sinew into the labour of winching
the heavy drill-sled through the unyielding woods
from geologist-determined site to lonely site—
and set up the rig and and drilled for a week or two,
pulled the rods every twenty feet to retrieve the rock core samples
that we laid out in wooden books to tell the story of what lay beneath,
nursed the Perkins diesel engine though unremitting heavy use
then tore down tower and machine like a frantic patrol in enemy territory,
and moved on, set up and drilled twelve hour shift after twelve hour shift
alternated nights and days with the other crew—
and boiled syrupy coffee over diesel oil that sent up fumes
that overwhelmed the blue haze of tobacco smoke,
as we snarffed down sardine and tinned corned beef sandwiches,
then more hurry up and wait, and tales of death and dirty sex in Korea
and the triumph of Canuck privates and corporals
who amazingly lived better than Brit captains and fought better than Yanks,
and the only softnesses were cookhouse meals and penny poker nights
and cigarettes; the rest was woods and rock and steel and solitude.

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About riverwriter

Poet, playwright, duplicate bridge player, website designer, cottager, husband, father, grandfather, former athlete, carpenter, computer helper for my friends, theatre designer, backstage polymath, retired teacher of highschool English, drama, art, a baritone singer in a barbershop quartet, who knows what else? wordcurrents is on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wordcurrents/ Doug also has a Facebook page, "Incognitio", related to his novels.
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