I don’t mean “age” as in a single year of your life. I mean “age” as in a phase or time when everything was simply golden. You know, that time or place that you always summon when telling stories, those memories that always make you smile or mumble, “Man, I would go back to that time in a heartbeat.”
I’ve heard plenty of tales from my husband’s Golden Age, which ranges from 2005 to 2007 in London, England. If I say he worked as a day laborer, he’d tell me to bite my tongue, but that’s what he was, but among an elite class (as the story goes) of what were known as “boarders.” These men were responsible for transporting several tons of specific construction materials on their backs up endless heights of stairwells into high-rise buildings. In the U.S., we call those materials sheetrock. In London, they are called plasterboards. And my husband’s golden age was his time “on the boards.”
The work was not for the weak, either of body or character. A single sheet of plasterboard weighs forty pounds, and these men carried two or three on their backs up staircases sometimes as high as thirty stories, only to deposit their loads with nary a nick or crack, descend the steps and hump the next load up, repeating the process for hours without breaks. This was their job, the work they did eight or more hours a day, every day, building unspeakably beautiful bodies (I was there – I remember!) and lifelong friendships. They were revered by other tradesmen and ogled by women all over London (especially in the summer when the heat and work was so taxing they’d strip down to their skivvies and still carry on their work). They were strong, solid, mountainous men who believed they embodied pure masculinity. They worked hard, drank hard and were the envy of many men.
In 2006, my husband was voted “Boarder of the Year” by his co-workers, affectionately deemed “the lads.” Now, almost ten years later, that elite group of laborers is scattered about the globe, some in Africa, some in Australia or Canada or Europe, one, for sure, in Las Vegas. They keep in touch, always reminiscing about the golden days of boarding and dreaming up schemes for a reunion that will likely never happen.
I remember being in London in 2005. My sister had come to visit so my husband was sleeping on the floor while she shared the bed with me. We woke in the middle of the night to pounding on the door. My hubs jumped to his feet. He was shirtless and his brilliant, sculpted profile gilded in pale blue moonlight. All of the long days on the boards built into the beautiful bulges of his chest muscles and the rounding of his shoulders and arms. He left the room to tend to the door. I wasn’t sure if my sister had awoken from the noise, but she had, because the second he closed the door behind him she said appreciatively, “Damn!”
It was a hell of a golden age.
My golden age is 1997 to 1999. In the summers between high school years, my best friend and I would go into the mountains of southern Utah, stay in my aunt’s tiny log cabin and run trail rides with an outfit owned by family friends. We were two teenaged girls who worked and played on horseback all summer long with two teenaged boys who were the dearest of friends. The work was hard – sometimes we couldn’t walk straight at the end of the day – but it was magical.
Rain or shine, mud, wind, freezing or boiling temps, we tended 25 horses each day, feeding, brushing, saddling, riding, unsaddling, brushing, transporting, feeding. The roundup process was one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of. Two of us would drive out to the pasture and saddle our horses. My horse’s name was Strawberry. She was a red roan with white mane and tail, long strong legs and a fiery spirit: the perfect mountain horse. We’d halter the other 23 horses and tether them together.
The riders would flank the long line of horses and guide them out of the pasture, across the highway, through a meadow, across the highway again and through another meadow into the corral at the trailhead. During this process, the other two wranglers would sit on horseback on the highway, stopping traffic so we could cross. We must be in several hundred family photo albums as the sight always drew tourist’s cameras and camcorders. It was a pretty awesome sight to watch a long line of horses riding in perfect symmetry.
We rode all over those mountains, camping out by lakes and catching fish for dinner. We rode at night during full moons, chased deer, explored caves, hiked to waterfalls, danced under the stars and around campfires, got thrown, kicked, stepped on, bitten, smacked into trees, witnessed some harrowing accidents and narrow scrapes, watched sunsets over sweeping aspen and pine vistas and awoke to blankets of fog crusting the damp meadow grass. We jumped over a dangerous hill called The Disappearing Act that was so steep that the horses went airborne all the way to the bottom of it. It was wild. It was dangerous. And we’d do it over and over again. We loved every moment of it.
Ahh, the golden age. I would love to hear about yours!