Grab the Bull by the Horns

Photos courtesy of Gary Merriman

I have a pretty cool day job. Most of the time, I’m in an office in front of a computer. Which honestly, is fine with me. On occasion, though, my work (and/or my curiosity) takes me out into what we refer to as “the field”.

No, we’re not farmers. Or a sports team. My college degrees were in public management, and that’s where I’ve stayed. Currently, I work at a local municipality in the Water Pollution Control Maintenance Department. For all you scratching your heads at that long name, I’ll give it to you in layman’s terms: I work for the sewer department. *gasp*

Oh yes, this will be one of those fun facts come back to haunt me someday. I can just hear the interview now: “So, Karen, tell us about an unusual job you had before you became a writer…”

In all seriousness, the environment has always been important to me. So, that I’m helping make sure dirty water moves from your house or office to the treatment plant (instead of our streets and rivers) falls nicely in line with my inner tree-hugger.

Using a backhoe to place shapes in their corresponding boxes.

But one of the coolest things I get to do at work, besides watching “dirty” videos of our closed-circuit TV cameras driving underground through the city’s sewer pipes, is participating in something called “The Backhoe Rodeo.” Basically, it’s an all-day, hands-on training event and competition for everyone in our department on construction tools. And I’m not talking picks and shovels—I’m talking the big stuff: backhoes, excavators, skid steers…even something called a “gradall”.

This was my second year in the rodeo, although it was my first as a competitor. There were five different “stations” set up, each requiring us to use the equipment in creative and challenging ways. And I gotta tell ya – each time I participate in the events, I gain a much greater appreciation for what our construction crews do on a day-to-day basis. How they can swing the boom of an excavator in narrow alleys between homes, phone lines, and utility poles, and not hit anything, to me is a marvel.

And after my performance at the rodeo, I can safely say the city is better off having me in the office.

Me trying to pour colored water into three glasses using an excavator…

Even so, I absolutely love the Backhoe Rodeo. Where else would I have the opportunity to climb up into machinery with wheels or tracks half my height and learn how to swing a boom, curl a bucket, or rotate a cab?

If only it wouldn’t take me half the allotted time on each event to figure out which lever did what…

Not that I’m competitive about my scores. Much. Well, maybe just a little…

So knowing full well that I have virtually no chance at winning any of the events (did I mention I have some very talented co-workers?), it would be easy for me to choose not to participate. Instead, I could sit back and just watch. Blend in with the scenery. And the next day I could go back to the office and plop myself down before my boring old computer. I mean, why put myself out there, right?

Nah—let me play! Let me learn! Let me grab the bull, or rather, the backhoe, by the horns! And let me have a little fun in the process. Because what’s life if you never put yourself out there? Never have any fun?

Boring, that’s what. And life’s just too darned short to do “boring” all day, everyday.

Me? I’d rather play.

What bull have you grabbed by the horns this year?

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