The Pay Scale (on being a NOLS instructor part VII)

Torrential sheets of rain fall loudly on onto the tin roof of the McCoy Hut.  I have set our small cook pot outside under the eaves to collect water for our next round of hot drinks, saving myself from the Gore-Tex drenching trek to Frances River.  We are trapped, held up without a gun if you will.  The point of land on which we sit is guarded by the once again quickly widening McCoy Stream to the East and the quickly deepening Frances River to the west.  Their turbulent frothy confluence is one hundred meters south.  Outside the hut three Hilleberg tents dot the moss and speargrass covered terrace.  They bend and bow in the windy onslaught.  Steam from boinling pots of waters is lost to the wind as quickly as it exits the vents.

Even as the wind howls and drives, a beam of sunlight bathes Sean as he sits in the hut corners by a window.  We amble in and out of chit chat, mostly spurred by a found copy of a Wired magazine and technophile topics about things long from this hut.  This clean, basic, six bunk hut has been our home more often than not on this course and the rumble and roar of the McCoy and Frances Rivers assure us that it will remain so at least a little bit longer.

Sean getting paid the same either way in the McCoy Hut

Idly I squish sandflies and scratch the bites that pester my hands.  I look south out the window and watch, wait and wonder.   A quick sojourn out and into the beech forest beyond empties my bladder and allows me to retrieve our now full pot.  More hot drinks.  Once again the bright sunlight splashes across the well worn wooden floor, stove, and benches.  Outside the wind, rain, and sun engage in a battle.  The wind brings in another wave of water which washes the windows clean.  Sean and I do not share much.  I make mundane comments but mostly we now sit in silence.  Soon enough it will be time with students and the existence of being a NOLS instructor.  Now though, I live under the illusion of little responsibility, of an easy existence, just waiting.  I know that everything seeks a balance and wonder when I will have to work for my pay.  Steep, exposed, hard, dangerous, or arduous, those are not words that describe what my job for the past eighteen hours.  Holed up in this hovel as we have been, our existence has been pretty easy.

“Some days are diamonds” Tom Petty sings, “some days are rocks.”  Out here the days that are rocks are not always hard ones and the diamonds are not always easy ones, in fact it can be hard to tell the difference.  Truth be told however, hunkering or climbing, hut or tent, rain or shine, easy or hard, I get paid the same either way.

The valve of the stove squeaks as I open it to let fuel puddle up in the priming cup.  Another squeak to close.  The orange flame licks upwards from inside the blackened battered windscreen.  Now, on the roof, hail adds its solo to the cacophony coming from outside the hut walls.  Its hard pounding tells us that somewhere in this wet and windy northwesterly there is indeed  some freezing going on.  It lands violently on the roof and for a moment I think of fragile tent fly fabric.  I watch its small white granules accumulate outside of the protective windows  and my mind turns back to the slowly dying orange flame.  Another squeaky turn and its blue flame roars to life, bringing yet another warm bottle of tea to the huts temporary, hunkering inhabitants.

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A little bit less of a nomad now, Jared still likes to refer to himself in the third person.