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Joe and Roy, two ditch diggers, toiled in their trench. The sweat poured from their bodies in proportion to the volume of dirt they tossed from the pit. Muscles strained. Chests heaved. Men groaned.

Joe gripped his shovel firmly. He planted the blade in the soil and threw a cascade of gravel five feet over his shoulder so that it landed neatly on top of the pile next to his trench. A few pebbles rolled down the pile. They hit a protuberance of sod and bounced back into the hole.

Roy grumbled. "This job is tough enough, Joe, without our having to do it twice."

Joe simply shook his head and again planted his shovel in the dirt.

"Hey, boys." A middle aged man crouched next to the hole. He wore khaki trousers and a white hard hat. "Think you could speed it up a bit down there? We're scheduled to have the forms in this trench by noon tomorrow."

"Gee, Mack, we're going as fast as we can," Roy replied sheepishly.

"Well, give it your best."

The supervisor walked back toward his air-conditioned trailer.

The two ditch diggers looked at each other in disgust. "What makes that jerk so high and mighty that he can order us around like that?" grumbled Joe.

"I don't know." Roy pondered, deeply furrowing his brows. "Why does he get to be a supervisor and sit all day in his nice, air-conditioned trailer, while we slave in this hot, damp, and hellish hole?"

Roy again shook his head. "If you're so all fired curious, why don't you go ask him?"

"Oh yeah? I think I will."

Joe clambered out of the ditch. He strode with determination, like an acolyte approaching a Buddhist temple, to the supervisor's office. Roy watched him go with doubtful interest.

Joe pounded on the door. "Mack, I need to ask you something."

Mack swung open the door. "Joe, I thought I told you we need to get that trench done. What's so important that you need to interrupt that work to come up here and talk to me?"

"This is important, Chief."

"Well then," the supervisor said resignedly, "come in."

The cool air of the office hit Joe like an ocean wave. He stood numbed, soaking in the atmosphere of shuffled papers and cigarette smoke.

The supervisor shook Joe. "Spit it out, Joe. What do you want to ask me?"

Joe stammered. "It's like this, see. Me and Roy were talking, and we want to know why we are the ones out in the hot trench and you are the one sitting here in the trailer smoking and relaxing and giving us orders and all."

The supervisor patiently listened to the question, then frowned in concentrated thought. "I'll answer your question, Joe, but you have to promise me: no more questions after this until we finish with the trench."

Joe agreed.

"We need to go out to the cement wall we just put up on the south side of the office park." The supervisor grabbed his white hard hat and headed out of the trailer.

Joe followed meekly.

At the cement wall, Mack carefully placed his hand against a block. "Now, Joe, I want you to haul off and hit my hand as hard as you can."

Joe looked at his boss in surprise. "How is that going to show why you are the supervisor and Roy and I have to dig trenches?"

"Don't ask silly questions. Just hit my hand." Mack replied harshly.

"If you say so," Joe mumbled reluctantly. He balled his fist, spun it around not once, not twice, but three times and struck at the supervisor's open hand with all his might.

Of course, the supervisor moved his hand as Joe attempted to hit him. Joe's fist came in direct and violent contact with the wall. Joe swore. He was certain he had broken at least four knuckles. He shook his hand in the air and did a fair imitation of the danse-macabre.

"That's why I'm the boss and you are the ditch-digger," said Mack altogether too smugly.

"I see," said Joe through gritted teeth.

"Now back to your trench." The supervisor ushered Joe back to his station, then returned to his trailer to attend to his supervisory duties.

Roy had been working hard in his associate's absence, but had also burned with curiosity to learn what Joe had found out. Joe, however, seemed reticent to impart his newfound knowledge without some prompting.

Roy promptly prompted. "So what did he say?"

"Who say?"

"THE SUPERVISOR! What did he say when you asked him why he gets to be the supervisor?"

Joe shook his head. "It's like this: I can't tell you. I have to show you."

"Then show me!" said Roy, exasperated.

Joe cleared his throat. He picked up a shovel and handed it to Roy. HE FANNED OUT HIS HAND IN FRONT OF HIS OWN FACE. He peered intensely at Joe and directed, "Now take that shovel...and hit my hand..."

So what is the point of this story?

It doesn't take a lot of brains to dig ditches, which is half of what you need to know about ditch-digging. The other half is that it DOES take brains to know where to put the ditches and how deep they should be dug. So try lining up those stakes and string one more time.

Next Page

Weapon of Choice
The Square Hole
Two Ditch Diggers
The Transit
Trench Warfare

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About the Author:
W.J. Rayment built an addition on his house, and in the course of the project learned from his many mistakes. This on-line compendium is his effort to help you learn from his experience. The advice and stories are often humorous, sometimes silly, but always informative. for yourself or as a gift for family or friends.

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