When I was young I learned many of life’s lessons from my Dad. He would tell me metaphorical stories and have me complete a task that was supposed to reflect the story presumably imbedding the lesson upon my subconscious; many of them embedded and many left me in a perpetual, “what the f…” state of mind. Of course this is one of the primary functions of fatherhood to permanently traumatize the boy child.
One such lesson was learned after my Dad began explaining to me some of the moral implications of Hercules’ 12 tasks. When he started talking about the heroic method for cleaning out horse stables by rerouting a river and paused I knew I was in trouble. That’s when I was handed a shovel and he pointed to the ground and simply said, “Dig.”
I began digging, at first only a hole, but then the hole turned into a two foot wide, six feet deep, 12 feet long ditch from the foundation of our trailer to the foundation of our pump house. I learned several new swear words that day as I helped drill a hole through the foundation of the pump house wall. The wall was much thicker than Dad thought and brunt out three mason bits. I wasn’t allowed to handle the drill; my heroic prowess hadn’t matured enough for that yet. The more I listened the more I matured. That day my vocabulary matured at least ten years.
We laid plastic water pipe and attached all fittings on both sides. Pressure testing was interesting, more words to learn. Then I was given the heroic task of filling in the hole I had just dug. Using hay, straw, and three different forms of manure I filled in the hole, which was below the freeze line for northern Montana, and replaced the sod on top. I was satisfied and felt good about myself. Then he handed me the shovel and a pitchfork and pointed at the barn… that is another story highlighted by another Greek hero.