Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Nice little surprise

So today was field lab day - forest sampling edition.

I got the van, rounded up the 9 students doing the lab today (the rest of the class will do it the week after spring break - long story involving not being able to get a qualified co-driver). Headed out.

About 3/4 of the way there, I saw a plume of whitish smoke.

"Guys....that kind of looks like it's where we're going."

Got a little closer.

"Guys, if there's a brushfire, we're gonna have to turn back and reschedule."

I pull up. There are a bunch of Corps of Engineers trucks there, a couple of rural fire department trucks there. And yes, a v. small and slow groundfire creeping along the forest floor of the other half of the site.

(in my brain: "Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap. Why didn't you call to CHECK?" though in my defense, they haven't burned that site since I've been using it)

I told the class: "Okay, we probably better turn back but I'm going to talk to the Corps guy."

I asked if it was a planned fire or an accidental one. Turns out is was planned, which surprised me a lot, because I thought we weren't supposed to be burning? Then again - there's a road on two sides of the parcel and a lake on the other and there were lots of guys with backpack-sprayers, so....

I asked the Corps guy if we should just go back to campus. His assessment: you're gonna be on the other side of the road, the fire won't cross the road, the smoke isn't even blowing that way, you should be fine.

I stuck my head back in the van and asked if there was anyone really allergic to smoke. Hearing no "Yes," I decided to go ahead with the lab. So we did.

At some points the smoke DID blow in our direction and I hope no one's too sickened by it; then again, I'm pretty sensitive and at least right now I'm okay. (I did wash my hair and change my clothes - I have a meeting at church tonight and don't want to smell smoky)

As we were finishing up, I saw one of the Corps workers in full fire gear coming towards us and I quietly said to the group closest to me, "If he says we need to leave, we're going to leave. Just say "yes sir" and go. Don't say, "But we're nearly done."

But then "he" got a little closer, took off "his" helmet and face-gaiter....and I realized it was my former research student Sarah! From nearly ten years ago!

I knew she worked for the Corps but the last I heard she was out by Hugo. Turns out she's moved back to this area (I know her parents live in the area, so that may be she wanted to come back).

She was checking to see if it was, in fact, me leading the class and wanted to say hi. I introduced her to the students (who had finished up by then) and she gave a very brief pep-talk about working for the Corps - how you can also do summer jobs there if you don't want to make it your full-time career. So that was nice.

It was good to see her again, good to see her doing something she enjoys (she said "I did a desk-job for a while but I didn't like it. I like burning stuff better"). I think she was pleased that I remembered her and remembered the research project she did with me one summer.

That made me a little happier after yesterday being a not-very-good day. And anyway, any day teaching a field lab is better than a day stuck inside doing a lab.

1 comment:

purlewe said...

I loved reading this! YAY! I am so glad she came over to talk to you!