Petroglyph: pet·ro·glyph /ˈpetrəˌɡlif/ noun 1. a rock carving, especially a prehistoric one.
Oh, the Nevada Test Site! What an absolutely abysmal, depressing, fruitless, frustrating, exacerbating, painful, deplorable, reprehensible, self-loathing, hateful, disgraceful, shameful, lamentable, disreputable, regrettable, discreditable, grievous, unfortunate, wretched and DISHONORABLE position it is to be working as a Maintenance and Operations (M&O) subcontractor to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on the Nevada Test Site!
That was me. I was all of those abject adjectives listed above for 14 years, from 2001-2015, up until such time that I got fired. Yes fired, as in ‘put all the things from your desk in a box, turn in your meal card and lapel pin’ — FIRED! Reason: trying too hard to not be any of those 20 abject adjectives listed above.
It would therefore seem a non-sequitur sort of thing to declare that job one of the most enjoyable and exciting times of my life in terms of the challenge. To work that job the way I did was living life on the very edge. At any given time I was one second or one inch out in front of getting caught and fired. Nothing there made sense; therefore to me it wasn’t even real. And not being real meant it was just a game, one that I could play if I dared — and I dared!
The NV Test Site was more than an accident-free work zone, it was a work-free safety zone. There were so many measures in place to ensure absolute safety that it was barely north of impossible to accomplish any work. The bureaucracy was rigorous to the extent of being fully impenetrable: a magnificently fruitless endeavor to attempt to navigate. A stalwart stonewall of an immovable bastion of bull$hit was the bureaucracy.
Hence the game to circumvent, bypass, undermine and manipulate the system — transmogrify the treachery and make it perform on my own behalf. Working alone in every case was quintessential to successfully defeating the system, as it eliminated all possibility of being compromised.
Trusted agents came and went. I took them on as needed but always (ALWAYS) treated them as though they would turn on me at any juncture: always carrying them through the jobs as if they might have to be cut away at any second. By doing that I was never caught short-handed and in jeopardy of mission failure.
My last great mission on the Test Site was to build a large live-fire small arms training range on a huge parcel of totally barren desert-scape. I chose the area for its total lack of any man-made facilities or structures whatsoever — it was the only area of its kind on the entire Test Site.
I overlaid fire fans — directions and distances of range parameters — onto topographical maps of the area, then set out to drive the trace of the different sectors of the range. My plan was to drive the outlines of the range fans every day, thus creating a readily recognizable trail for a road grader to eventually follow in cutting the roads that defined the range fans. It was a gruelling process, but it created a distinct trail that, as a matter of fact, can be seen from GoogleMaps satellite imagery.
It was just outside of the fan to the east of my eastern-most range that my trusted agent and I came to wander into a dried creek bed. We moved along a length of it mainly just out of wanderlust, then came to rest and eat at a spot that had vertical rock faces some 20 feet high on either side.
We two partook in a military MRE food ration for our lunch break. A point into the meal I took to noticing the rock face to my front; an interesting sort of pattern it had… more so it had a sort of design as if someone had intentionally scratched some sort of picture… with a rock maybe, or…
“OH, HOLY $HIT!!” I blurted out.
“What, what is it? What’s going on?” My puzzled trustee inquired as she looked around.
I didn’t say or do anything. I didn’t want to point to what I saw; rather, I wanted her to discover it herself without my coaching to prove I was not just imagining what I was seeing.
“OH, HOLY $HIT!!” she blurted out.
Aaaand there we had it — petroglyphs; we had discovered petroglyphs carved into the rock face in that dried creek bed. It was not at all a joyous thing, for we both knew that the proximity of these newly-discovered petroglyphs would cancel out any continued production of our live-fire range complex. Gawd, did I ever feel sunk.
“What’ll we do?” yeah, sure… that was truly the question of the moment.
“We have to report these petroglyphs to Archeology.” My trustee lamented.
“No, we don’t,” I postulated, “Why do we have to do that? Every time those booger-eaters make a new discovery the first thing they do is make the whole surrounding area off-limits forever so just THEY can get in and see it, then spend the rest of their lives going there to take selfies and group photos with their girlfriends — they can sit in closets and suck brown eggs!”
I paused momentarily with my hand clasped over the imaginary ripcord that connected me to my trustee, ready to pull it and cut her away if she was contrary.
“Yeah, yeah you’re right — them eat brown cake!” she returned.
“Whew! …why ‘brown’ cake?”
“IDK… why a ‘brown’ egg?”
I took a few photos of the petros… the glyphs… because they were definitely cool and had never been seen before by anyone on the mighty Test Site. We returned to the business of tracing the range fans with our truck, suffering through 16 flat tires in the process of the entire task. Because of it, I took to carrying two extra spare tires in the bed of my truck.
I mentioned the petroglyphs to a few folks in the company that appreciated that sort of thing. Now, that was a mistake… but it wasn’t a huge mistake. I got an email from an employee of the Archeological department of the company asking me where they were located.
“If they were up your ass then you would know where they were, Sir,” had been my official response, a response that the body of personnel in Archeological did not officially sanction. They got ugly and threatening in their demands to know where the petroglyph face was located.
“Perhaps you’d care to take a long walk off a short pier,” I speculated in the last email I sent them before several of them showed up at my office with an upper-level manager. I was ordered to reveal the location of the Archeological discovery.
“Hokay!” I clapped and rubbed my hands together, “Let’s go; I’ll take you there right now and show you!”
The crowd was pleased, surprised and collectively smug. My own trustee stood blinking in surprise and disappointment. When I told her to take half the entourage with her in another truck and follow me she looked downright hateful at me — meh!
I drove with some folks in my truck; the remainder rode with my trustee in tow. At the end of the trek, I jumped out of the truck and stood by a vertical rock face gesturing to “the petroglyphs” with my arm and hand as if presenting merchandise on Bob Barker’s Let’s Make a Deal.
“Ain’t she a beaut!?!” I challended.
The puzzled crowd: “What the hell is this?”
“Why it’s a rock face with petroglyphs carved in it, cain-cha see?” I smiled with pride as I ran my hand over the “petroglyphs”.
“You idiot, there’s nothing there!”
“Huh? Yes, there is! See here how these marks form a horse with a rider, and over here is a hawk and bobcat. Then this… this rah-cheer sorta looks like a bow and an arrowhead — I’m sorry, a “projectile point” — and then here’s a wigwam or a teepee, IDK just two tents.”
“Ok, we’ve seen enough — let’s get out of here.”
“Snap, you mean these aren’t petroglyphs after all? Sorry, I just don’t have the trained eye that yooz people do. False alarm then. Now, which one of yooz is the one who called me an idiot?”
With that we left what amounted to the very first vertical rock face I spotted on our drive out to see the mysterious petroglyphs. It’s vanity, I think is what it is, that made those folks in Archeology think they were the only ones smart enough to recognize petroglyphs and find petroglyphs, and therefore the only ones who deserved to gaze upon them.
They weren’t smart enough to recognize the game being played there though. There exists a game in every situation imaginable. I recognized it and chose to play it in order to twist the situation around to perform on my behalf. In the end I had all the ranges and all the petroglyphs and just moved on to find the next game that needed to be played.
By Almighty God and with honor,