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My Face in the Mirror

April 20, 2013

It was a hot windy day in the summer.  I was on a soil temperature run.  We had installed temperature probes last year, in several farm fields across western Manitoba.  The run was something we did once a month in the summer.  Usually I went with the professor or a student, but this time I was by myself.

The first site was a summerfallow field.  The probes were all buried below the plow level, with a board covering the thermocouple wires.  They were set along a transect across the field.  As I paced them off from our marker at the edge and located the boards by poking with a steel rod, dust kept getting in my eyes.  At each probe, I dug up the board with a shovel.  The wires were inside a plastic bag under the board.  I took readings from each pair of wires with a portable temperature meter and recorded them in a small book.  The blowing dust was unbearable.  It was getting in my eyes and covering the pages of the little book.  It was only by keeping my back to the wind to provide some shelter that I was able to take the readings.  I re-buried each probe in turn and moved on to the next one.  Finally, I finished and got back into the car.  Finally, I was out of that wind.

It was lunch time.  I was hungry, but more than that I wanted something cold and wet.  I drove to the nearest town and went into the hotel beverage room.  I knew I could get a cold beer there, along with a hamburger and french fries.  I was on an expense account!  The cool air was refreshing.  I sat down at one of the tables.  When the waiter came over, I asked for a beer.  Next was a quick trip to the washroom to wash my hands.  That’s when I caught sight of my face in the mirror.  What’s that?  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  It was a shocking sight.  My face was completely black, except for my eyes and my mouth.  I’d never seen myself like that before.  I’d certainly never been in public like that before.  What could the waiter have thought of me?  My quick trip to the washroom turned into a longer one, as I washed my face and neck as best I could.  My face in the mirror was almost normal once again.  That cold beer was wonderful when I returned to my table.  Oh, it was good!  The waiter never said a word about my appearance when he took my food order.  Maybe he’s seen customers encrusted with dirt before.  Maybe he was just being discreet.  I’d never had a shock like that before.

The remainder of the trip was uneventful.  The other sites were much better.  They all had crops growing.  Even though it was still hot and windy, they didn’t have blowing dust like the first one.  As soon as I’d checked in for the night at the motel, I had a shower and washed all that grit out of my hair.  Finally I was clean again.

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