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Conserving through Generations: A Hard Day’s Work is Never Do


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By: Rachel Sicheneder

This month I trekked up to the Minnesota History Museum in Saint Paul to tour their exhibit, “Minnesota’s Greatest Generation”
and peruse historical files for information on my grandfather. While
wandering through the exhibit, I found myself reflecting on the value of
hard work in our society.  In
my memories, my grandfather is almost never standing still. Except for
the few times I caught him in his big armchair reading a book, it was
normal to find him out in the yard, or doing chores around the his
house, or the house of a neighbor. My dad told me that the day before he
died he was putting in a fence, at the age of 90.

Some would
argue that with the advent of technology, my generation has seemingly
lost this sense of grit and hard work. And it is true that some people
find work for the Corps too much to handle. But in the members that stay
and serve their term, I see no sense of entitlement or laziness.
Instead I see my crew working for hours in pouring rain, sleet, and
snow. I see my crew members telling me they don’t want breaks, because
it stops the flow of work we create as a team every morning.  I
see the countless acres of landscape we have transformed through weeks
of work. And I know that 70 years ago my grandfather could look at Co.
712 and say the same thing.

 It
is true that we used different sets of tools; where I wield a chainsaw
my grandfather’s company hiked out with axes and double handled saws.
And it is true that we accomplish tasks at drastically different
intervals of time. I can fell most trees in under five minutes while I
saw an article about a felling competition for my grandfather’s company
and the man who won took 2.5 hours to fell a medium sized ash tree!
However, despite this, the original CCC still managed to do an enormous
amount of work in the state. In northern Minnesota stands of pure white
spruce more likely than not were planted by the CCC. And in the south,
trails and campgrounds in state parks were almost certainly built by the
Corps boys as well. If we combine the work of the original boys with
that of the modern Conservation Corps, what emerges is a picture of
Minnesota that has been dramatically changed by the work of hundreds of
young people. Young people who knew and know the value of hard work.

So this
month I will end explaining the top picture of a log carrier. This is a
tool that was used to carry logs after they had been felled. It was one
of the artifacts pictured in the exhibit at the Minnesota History Museum
and upon returning back to my own shop at Camden I found this one,
hidden behind our power tools. We no longer use log carriers, most
people would consider this one an antique. But after I took this picture
I hid it back behind a few old barrels in our dimly lit tool shed. And
some days when I’m pulling the truck away from Camden to start a new
project I think about what is hidden in the shadows. Because more than
anything it is a reminder; that although times and tools may change a
sense of hard work will always remain.