The sun baked my skin relentlessly and I could feel the sweat run in rivulets down my back while my flesh sizzled like bacon, frying in the scalding sun.
I was dizzy from the heat and my pores were wide open, perspiring in overtime, only to be rewarded with the sting of salt in the air, from the potassium salts at the mine site I was working at.
To make matters worse, this company required us to wear fire-resistant coveralls over our work clothes, so two layers of clothing in the heat. We worked 2 shifts of 12 hours, including weekends. 18 days turned to 25, due to shipping and lightning delays on the installation we were doing.
It was 106 degrees in the Chihuahua Desert, with no shade most days. It would be a dry heat, they said. But they were wrong. Normally, this time of year in Southeast New Mexico, they only receive a quarter inch of rain for the entire month. This year they got 13 inches. High heat and humidity made it more like working outside in Florida, in the middle of July. The torrential downpours threatened to wash us away.
Trains rolled by where we worked, several times a day begging me to hop on, escape. I asked myself many times if this job was worth the money. The answer was no. My body hurt, my skin hurt, the days went by in a feverish blur. I cried. I think some of my crew expected me to fail, but I was stubborn and fought on.
The nearest town – Carlsbad, New Mexico – where we were staying, was about 40 minutes away. A long drive after a long day. The town felt tired, dirty and worn. It’s filled to over-capacity, due to the oil boom in the area. 5 years ago, the town had a population of 40,000. Now, it has swollen to, some say, 130,000 people. There are RV villages everywhere and rent, I’m told, borders on extortion. Yet, the people were amazingly kind and friendly.
Despite the heat, dirt, and relentless sun, this part of New Mexico was beautiful in many ways. The sunrises and sunsets were among the most brilliant I have ever seen. The desert, a dull brown when we got there, had blossomed into a vivid green by the time we had left. The drive from Carlsbad to the nearest major airport, 3 hours away in El Paso, Texas, was lonely and beautiful and made my heart sing.
And sing, I did when we finally finished the job and it was time to leave. I give credit to the men and women who work outside every day in all types of brutal weather conditions. They are true heros and deserve the utmost respect. Fortunately for me, trips like this will only be an intermittent thing. I ask myself if I want to continue with my new job after this experience.
Yes, I will give it at least a year. If it doesn’t work out, well… Oops, my Bad.