While the news and bloggers debate Anglo pulling out of the Pebble Mine, I faced a more mundane task: cleaning boots much muddied by sticky clay.
I had flown from Vancouver Island and the issue of closure of a mine in a park to Fort McMurray and one of those oil sands operations where they are trying to meet the insane requirements of Directive 74. I had stomped the ground looking at polymer-amended tailings being discharged into specially designed cells. I had photographed a vast variety of flow patterns associated with differing discharge schemes. (A PhD topic in itself.)
But all the while I was accumulating mud on my boots.
I have five pairs of steel-toe boots. They have been accumulated over many years of visiting mines where the basic safety requirement is that you wear a pair of steel-toed boots. The most expensive was bought in Santiago in a fancy store ($240.). The cheapest was bought in Wal-Mart in Iowa ($28).
They are of differing comfortability. There is no correlation between price and comfort. Trouble is I cannot now recall which was bought where or what I paid for a particular pair. They all reside in the basement laundry room in innocent line. They are beautiful in line: five pairs, ten boots, of varying design, all masculine and rugged, but all dirty.
No matter. There is one pair that is particularly comfortable; you can walk all day around site and feel no foot discomfort. Thus I choose them most often. And grieve at their fate.
And they had a terrible fate yesterday: they got completely covered with sticky mud through which I walked to observe mining conditions—another story, not the subject of this posting.
When I got back to the apartment we rent in the mining town at the center of this story, my boots were heavy with brown mud. I faced the prospect of putting these boots into my suitcase to return to Vancouver the next day. I could not face the prospect.
I determined to clean the boots. Hence to the bathtub. Turn on the hot water. Take a knife from the food drawer. Douse the boots. Scrap the mud away. Turn the bathtub into a mass of brown mud and clay pieces that refuse to go down the drain. Grab a small towel and try to wipe away the mess, only to make the towel a soil-saturated rag. And no amelioration of the brown streaks all around the bathtub.
Finally the brandy takes effect and you do not care. Do not care about the clay on the boots; the clay on the bathtub; or the clay on the small towel. Damn it! Dump the lot in the bottom of the tub and head outside for another drink and smoke. They will all dry overnight!
And they did dry overnight. I put booties over the still-dirty boots before putting them in my suitcase. Booties are those funny fabric things that lies in vast quantities in the entrance to all buildings at the site along with a nasty notice telling you that booties are mandatory as a way of keeping the building clean and making life easier for the cleaning crew. I pinched two to make it possible to put my boots in my suitcase. They will never miss them.
It is a lot easier than cleaning the boots in a foreign bathtub with a borrowed eating knife. Those boots are still comfortable; they still look good in the basement lineup; and they care not, for they are all forgiving. And Anglo and Pebble will continue in the news. For they are but dirty boot stories of mud and cleaning.