(This essay first appeared as “Order and Entropy: Rock, Earth, and Craft” in Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments, Issue 31; Spring 2013)
LTB was grunting. He always grunted as he moved stone, just as he muttered as he shaped it, but this was ridiculous. I looked up, annoyed, then awed—he was heaving an oven-sized block of limestone end over end, grunting with every push.
“That thing’s gotta weigh 300 pounds.”
“Yeah,” he said happily, looking down at it.
LTB stood for Little Timmy Beale, though he was little only in a squat, muscular, troglodytic sort of way. Even among all the characters that made up Grand Canyon National Park Service Trail Crew, LTB stood out. He wore a black bandana headband to keep his stringy-long, sun-blonde hair out of his eyes; he braided the rest behind him. He never wore a hat because he feared it would bald him; his hair receded all the same. His moustache overhung much of his upper lip; he trimmed it with his teeth. He wore short shorts that showcased his tanned, trunk-like thighs; he didn’t wear underwear. He rarely wore work gloves, begrudgingly pulling them on in the bosses’ presence. He preferred his bare hands, his stubby paws, good for grasping a single-jack sledgehammer or breaking apart a mastodon femur to best suck out the marrow.
His block of limestone was to be a foundation stone in the reparation of an old dry-laid retaining wall that supported a section of trail that wound along the lip of the South Rim. Some 20 linear feet of the six-foot tall wall had sloughed into the abyss of Bright Angel Canyon, taking with it most of the trail.
(Cover photograph courtesy of Grand Canyon National Park Museum Collection.)