You know, as I write the words down, I can see why people responded the way they did. It's a pretty dark thing for a sweet little boy to say. Kind of "Addams Family"-esque. When most people think of grave diggers, they probably think of this guy:
|"The Tall Man" from Phantasm, a movie that truly terrified my brother and me|
I really dug digging. I used to go out in my back yard and dig holes, just for the sake of digging them. I wasn't looking for buried treasure. (I did, however, find the occasional deer jaw, which was pretty cool.) And I wasn't trying to get to China. Archeology was a notion I enjoyed, but I wasn't that specific. I simply liked the experience of making a hole in the ground where there had been no hole before.
I hadn't thought about my grave digger dreams at all, for maybe the last 40 years or more, until this past weekend, when I got out in the yard with my rake and my shovel in order to dig out an 8 x 8 foot patch of grass in preparation for our 4 x 4 raised bed garden we're constructing. My yard, like many in this area, is populated by a strain of super grass called Bermuda grass. It grows in a heavy, clay-like soil, and is not your run of the mill pretty sod grass. You won't find Bermuda grass at any well-manicured baseball stadium or golf course, let me put it that way. Digging in this stuff should be an Olympic sport. Or, at the very least, an event in one of those "Tough Man" competitions -- the ones you see late at night on ESPN 2, with giant Lithuanian dudes going up against giant Swedish dudes, pulling trees out of the ground, or doing a 40-yard dash with a refrigerator over each shoulder.
This grass is No Joke.
As I dug out the plot for my vegetable bed, smelling the wormy soil, watching the grub worms roll into shrimp-like balls, and seeing spiders skittering for cover, that simple pleasure came rushing back to me, and I was in the back yard at 18 Hartford Lane once more. I found myself smiling -- not so much at the nostalgic flashback, but at the simple joy of digging. It still does it for me. (The arthritic wrists and throbbing back are new, but hey, that's just part of the package.)
There is a derisive cliche in the world of education. Some asshole, somewhere along the line, was quoted as saying, when faced with a student who just "didn't get it," "Hey, the world needs ditch diggers, too." It's a quote I've always hated, but if and when they divide us up, one line for the intellectual phonies, and the other for the ditch diggers, you better believe I am going to reach for that shovel.
(Maybe I'd sneak a pencil into my pocket, too. I might just want to write about those other assholes, after all....)