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.