Getting a new battery

By Win Cowger

I joined the Conservation Corps to refresh my body, soul and mind because I felt like a car that wouldn’t start. As a new part-timer in the Polk County crew, I am confident that through working with the Corps, I will receive a new battery to light my ignition. Today I had a close call that nearly lost me that opportunity.

After work I went to a big-box store to get some long socks to prevent my boots from giving me blisters (newbie mistake, I know). I was in the parking lot about to leave and my car wouldn’t start. My ex-girlfriend’s dad is the only person I knew who could help me with this problem. Calling her was as scary as showing up to my first day of work, but it was the most important step.

Just as she picked up the phone, a truck pulled over asking if I needed help. This guy reminded me of my crew mate Jacob, who had offered me cheese and raisins from his lunch after realizing I only brought a sandwich. Tyler, the truck driver, said, “Could be your alternator or your battery.” It was 9:30 p.m., nowhere was open to fix my car. Flapjacks, I thought, I don’t want to miss my duty tomorrow!

We tried to jump my car with his truck, which somehow put itself in reverse and began driving away without him (I am not kidding, this seriously happened). He hopped in and caught it just in time. Situational awareness is one of the key concepts the Corps teaches. The jump didn’t work so we I decided to look for a new battery. As a mechanic, Tyler was more experienced than I with cars, like my crewmates are more experienced than me in the Corps. So just like my crew, he showed me the ropes.

Fortunately, the big-box store had everything, including car batteries and tools! Crews work together to complete tasks. Just as Tyler had me hold the flashlight for him while he worked on my car, in Polk we shared and rotated duties while cutting trees. Crew member Will and I had taken the first rotation with the chainsaws and got a little dusty, which I enjoyed.

Tyler busted tools in the process of trying to fix the car. Understanding the right tool for the job is something I am still working on with the Corps, whether learning to maximize the speed or accuracy of your method or offering a helping hand to lift the larger logs.

Hopefully after reading this you will have realized that working with the Conservation Corps can accomplish, in a metaphorical sense, the changing of a car battery. Even with a quirky crew that stacks limbs in a trailer 5 feet above the rim.