3 February 1971
Fred took me on a tour around the mill today. It has the beauty of a great beast. I lost myself in the sensuous energy of its throb and thrust and spin. Afterwards I went to personnel. The lady said the waiting list for jobs is so long she wouldn’t add my name. No one’s been hired in months and layoffs are expected.
I saw Bob inside. No wonder he always looks so philosophical. He was standing on a platform, lifting heavy chunks of wood from a skid, the chopped refuse of the sawmill, and stuffing them into one of six small steam-spewing mouths that go crunch as they close, surrounded by a hundred men on a hundred other platforms on the floor of a dark drafty hangar, all doing the same thing, their faces looking forlorn and trapped, and yet resigned to playing that subhuman role for eight hours a day in return for eight free hours (at wierdly varying times) and eight more hours of peaceful sleep. Is that a bargain price to pay? Unemployed, with a wife six months pregnant, I envy them.
I drive back to the farm alone and search for a small project to lessen my sense of uselessness: building a ladder for a fire escape from the bedroom window. Jan announces dinner as I finish putting the tools away and I sit down without washing hands to a garlicky cheese casserole, yoghurt grown on the mantle and cauliflower salad from a head scavenged out of the dumpster in back of Super-Valu. After dinner we bring out the cash book and check book and savings book. We total our expenses since arriving here and categorize them: Land payments, Food, Insurance, Maintenance, Clothing, Automotive. Minimum $450, maximum $550 per month. With no work our savings and loans run out in six months.