"I whacked my share of moles in the grand Whack-A-Mole game today."

After an over-long day in my new role as scut worker on our massive kitchen remodel, I sometimes retire to my local down the block, The Green Lantern; The Green in local vernacular, where I'm certain to make good on that old John Prine lyric and drink my beer like it's oxygen. I might have never before understood the true utility of the beverage, for it seems to contain exactly the proper analgesic to negate the effects of long hours spent stooping over, crawling under, reaching deep into, and schlepping; especially the schlepping. I enter that safe harbor dragging keel and leave with renewed buoyancy.

The purpose of beer must be to provide that buoyancy.
In the book The Wheelwright's Shop, which was written in the mid-nineteenth century by the owner of a … wheelwright's shop, the sawyers appeared as two of the bit characters in the author's story. The sawyers transformed trees into lumber, which was later finished by various craftspersons in the shop. The sawyers could look at a standing tree and accurately estimate how many board feet of lumber it would provide. They'd fell that tree and slice it up into rough cut boards by rolling it over a deep ditch, with one of the team at the bottom of that ditch working his end of a massive crosscut saw and eating sawdust. They spent about half of their day sharpening their saw's teeth, sitting beside the pub, drinking beer. They might have done more drinking than sawing, but nobody held that practice against them. Nobody envied the guy at the bottom of the sawing ditch and everyone understood how some buoyancy might be required to maintain a precision cut.

I better understand this parable now. By the end of the day, my fingers cracking and complaining from hours in those leather gloves, my back screaming for relief, a beer or two or three provides that relief. Even The Muse has taken to joining me, recognizing the benefits this humble beverage provides. In my youth, this small city must have had a dozen "working man" bars where the beers went for a quarter. Now, a quarter might buy a working man nothing, and the number of watering holes remaining hardly reaches a handful. Of course there are ever fewer working men these days, with exhausting physical labor apparently a thing of the past. At the end of a modern working day, a hard working man might find a martini more attractive, or a glass of some fashionable red wine, certainly not a Rainier® pulled from a common tap. Here, I become more of a Rainier® pulled from a common tap sort of guy.

Supper can damned well wait. I'm not hungry at the end of the day, and am likely to forego a meal in favor of a hot shower and some suddenly precious introvert reading time. The beer, though, cannot wait and will not wait, for its hour arrives sometime around five and just cannot seem to care about containing itself any longer. I might feign reading the paper or catching up on my social media, but I'm really only attending to the quiet nurturing of the half-frozen working man, the one I never very often in my life closely associated myself with. I was above hanging out in bars. I might slip in the side door to buy a quick six pack of Schlitz when I lived in that rusting Pennsylvania factory town, without once ever understanding what I witnessed in there. There, hard working people were engaging in their version of a renewing Bikram Hot Yoga practice, administering the therapy their humbling profession seemed to demand from them.

I cannot recount a satisfaction to equal the one felt at the end of a hard scrabble day. My aching muscles might wrestle for dominion then, but properly calmed, the enormity of my humbling contribution emerges. I smile to myself, for who else could possible understand? No, I didn't conquer any continent today, but I managed somehow, against strong opposing odds, to accomplish something that will very likely outlive me and perhaps even my grandchildren. This small contribution seems worthy of at least acknowledgement, perhaps even a small celebration. A beer drawn on the purest speculation that some nobody like me accomplished something minutely meaningful today. I whacked my share of moles in the grand Whack-A-Mole game. I figure a beer's called for in acknowledgement. Prost!

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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