It seems the further away I get from the East Coast, the more my NYC plates get comments. In the Chicago suburbs a couple in an SUV watched me circle in a gas station with my GPS and yelled “Hey New York! How you liking Chicago!” In Dallas, a guy at a gas station wandered over while I gassed up and said “What’s a New York car doing in Texas??” and of course, Brother Bernardo drove up the hill to the Black Madonna shrine to find the lady with the New York plates.
It makes me laugh and always leads to a conversation that starts with:
Are you from New York?
Where are you from?
And then we’re off to the races talking about New York and road trips while they tell me their New York stories and about their past road trips. It’s great.
My New York car and I spent the weekend with my brother Nate in Miami, AZ. Nate works for the forest service as a fire fighting hot shot so he’s usually posted in some small town or remote rural location close to a national forest. Miami is a small mining town right next to the larger mining town of Globe in northern AZ. The mining industry makes up most of the town’s infrastructure but there’s a historic downtown area with antique shops and the fire station draws a lot of 20/30 something guys working as hot shots that like to work hard and then rip it up.
During the years I lived in Tucson and Nate was stationed all over the Southwest, I’d see him a couple times a summer while he was on duty but it’s been quite some time since we spent any serious time together. However, my timing was great as I came in to Miami just in time for the Miami Boomtown Spree, which was a little carnival type celebration that started with an 8 mile hill race and evolved into mining sports, beer tents and live music. And lots of local color:
Miner sports, you ask? Oh yes, miner sports. Men competing in a bunch of competitions for the All Around Miner of the Year award inclusive of a banging jacket and bragging rights.
The first event was Mucking. I’d only ever heard of mucking in a farming context but in mining, mucking means clearing rock from a mine site. This timed mucking event involved filling a box with 1000lbs of rock. A small box.
How can 1000lbs of rock fit into such a small space?? This mountainous man, Adolf, got the fastest time of 56 seconds.
He’s gigantic, not that tall but extremely broad. I would guess his shoulders are about 60 inches around. Maybe more. He might even be bigger around than he is tall. He also had great technique and efficiency in his shoveling. His shovel never cleared the side of the box, he’d use a little wrist flip to throw the rock in and most of his rock went straight into the box. When you combined that with his powerful shoveling, it was an impressive sight. The next guy, Bobby O, was about 25 years older, about 100lb lighter and on the sinewy scrappy side.
He had less efficient technique but it was clear he’d shoveled some rock in his time, However, without Adolf’s shoulders or some speed, he just couldn’t keep up. He acquitted himself well with about a minute 20 seconds and then had a little lay down to recover. Mucking is serious work. Nate and I took a break during the middle of this competition to go get a cold beverage at the beer corral:
Yes, wine comes in a can. If you’re at a small town festival watching miners mucking, you need a canned frosty beverage to complement it. After a couple more men competed, they gave the award to Adolf and moved on to women’s mucking. And the crowd increased exponentially. Apparently a buxom lass competed last year and it was the talk of the town; so, everyone hoped she would show up again this year. Among this year’s competitors were this girl:
And girl I call Ms. Yoga in the Suburbs, who was #2 last year (after the buxom lass):
When the men competed the crowd yelled:
The basics. But the women? Oh, that crowd had so much advice, all of it with so much potential for other situations. After Nate and I heard these phrases over and over, I wrote them down and we took turns shouting them during lulls in the encouragement. I would recommend them for any situation as I think they have broad appeal:
Bend your knees!
Stay on the back of the pile!
Keep it low!
Don’t slow down!
Remember to breathe!
Get it all in the box!!
And those girls didn’t do any of these things. They definitely filled up the box but that rock went all over the place and the guy holding the box kept flinching as gravel flew at his face. I respect them for climbing up on that mountain and competing but I really wanted some Amazon woman to stalk out of the crowd and give Adolf a run for his money. Didn’t happen and Ms. Yoga in the Suburbs took the crown this year. Still, bend your knees is always good advice.
The spike driving contest involved some complicated hammering of giant nails upside down into a wooden post at eye level with the back of a hatchet while not cutting your femoral artery on the downswing, not allowing the nail to go in sideways and then somehow getting it in so flush that the judge could scrape the post with a credit card and not feel the nail. You know, a piece of cake. Who doesn’t hammer nails upside down using an awkward two handed upward swing with a hatchet? You don’t? Wuss. It looked like this:
Spike driving is also hard work. We left before Adolf competed because we had barbequed meat and cold beer waiting for us but I assume he cleaned up and is proudly displaying his new jacket today. He remembers to breathe and keeps going. Essential keys to success.
Some of Nate’s hot shot friends threw a barbeque so we went to hang out with them and play a little bag toss. The ability to drink several beers and still toss beanbags a hundred feet into a hole is another select skill set. At the top of this pile of winners is a kid named Connor. If the town of Miami were a medieval fiefdom, Connor would be the king’s jester. He’s goofy and relaxed and says that making his bag tosses feels so good it makes him want to head butt something. He’ll hold his can of Bud in one hand and toss with the other hand, awkwardly pinning his upper arm to his chest and sort of casually flipping the bag with a lot of elbow and wrist. And the bag goes in about 70% of the time! I asked Nate how he did it and Nate said “Dude, it’s his super power. There’s no real explanation.” I prefer to think that he stays on the back of the pile and gets it all in the box.
After several hours of barbq and bag toss, we left to get some things done, had dinner and stopped by a bar downtown hoping to hear some live music but without success. However, the bartender, Dick, served us chili beer anyway:
And kept us entertained with his assessments of life and success. That beer is SPICY. Most flavored beer tastes more like beer but this one is all chili with a chili floating in it. I loved it. If you’re in AZ, it’s made by a local microbrew in Cave Creek so check it out. We finished the night by meeting up with the hot shots again at bar called the Huddle, sitting on the back porch rail lit by white Christmas lights on a mild cool night talking about this and that, telling stories, watching Connor entertain the ladies and laughing about the day. It was a good one. For sure.
I think New York isn’t lost. She knows exactly where she is.
Tomorrow: More AZ