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Ready?” rattled Digger Dan to the Big Dump Truck nearby.
“Ready!” tootled Big Dump Truck right back.
“Give me room,” roared Dan to Stan the Steam Shovel Man.
“I need room
To swing my boom!”
Push and pull, push and pull–
soon Big Dump Truck was full.
“There you are. Take it far,” Dan rumbled to the truck.

Digger Dan was one of my favorite books when I was a little. Written by Patricia Lynn and published in 1953 it was a standard child’s library volume. I am not sure what I liked so much about it, maybe that my folks would read it with a variety of voices and when Digger Dan made digging noised they wold hoot and howl the sounds for us.

illustration from children's book Digger Dan showing a steam shovel showing children on roof to look at the steam shovel

Tomorrow Digger Dan is coming to my house. Or, more specifically, my hole in the ground that was and will be my house. Our contractor tells us that they will need to haul away dirt. I believe him since he has been honest and forthright with us for the past months that we have been trying to get a house going. If he says there will be extra dirt, there will be. I am sure of it. Still, it seems hard to believe that you will have to take dirt away from a hole that is going to have a house in the same hole. The new house is 4 feet longer and 4 feet wider but we need to smooth off a bit of the parking area that should have been bigger all along. It seems like a teaspoon of dirt here and a cup of dirt there would make everything come out even.

Ill grade, and level, and smooth this earth.
I’ll dig and dig for all I’m worth!”
clattered Dan with a rackety, rackety
“Dig and dump!” Stan shouted.
“Dig and dump, take out ever lump and bump!”

“Just watch me!” hummed Dan.
Down went his dipper…open wide.
Gulp…then it closed full of rocks inside.

In the story Digger Dan is not happy about going to work. He decides that he is excited to work when he finds out that the children need a place to be. I feel like Digger Dan must be clattering rackety, rackety tonight waiting for the sun to rise so that he can take dig and dump to make way for our new house. He must be happy to help.

After all these months we got today the signed, sealed, paid for building permit. It is very strange to be in possession of a building permit and to know that something is going to happen on my land tomorrow. It has that same the vague quality a lot of this year has. I plan to go and wave to Digger Dan tomorrow and perhaps it will be less unreal then. I think it is still going to take me some time to get used to the idea that our house is actually, finally going to emerge from the ground. So many of our neighbors houses are fully framed and some have even moved in. We feel like we are the cow’s tail.

It is hard to understand whether being the cow’s tail should be embarrassing for not being able to get it together sooner or a cause for empathy from others because it has been so hard to get things together. Probably both. I have studied on this, like about everything else this year and I cannot say. As I wrote yesterday there have been decision points when we could have made different decisions about our house but I cannot say if we did whether or not would have been different. Right now we are totally clear about the basement/garage/foundation. We don’t know what is happening above it. The outside walls are still a quandary. It feels very strange to “dig and dump and smooth every lump” when the biggest lump of all is how the house is going to be closed in.

When I was looking at Digger Dan’s story online tonight I was struck at how much the culture had changed since the story was written. “Dig and Dump, take out every lump and bump” is not the way we build these days, especially not green and sustainable houses. It is curious to me how things change across time. Our perspectives as a society as well as individuals within the society change. Sometimes those changes are horrifically attained but sometimes they are insidious like the change in the culture of iPads. I see people of all ages using them. Recently I heard a flight attendant say in a preflight announcement, that we should turn off anything with an on-off switch for takeoff. He said. “Turn off all of those iPads, iPods, any of those iThings….” and no one batted an eye. It was normal communications.

The change in our part of the world, the 1 1/2 miles square that burned was wrought with fire but not with the difficulties that many changes require. Sixty six families of us, from families of one to families of many, lost our homes. We lost the things that make our lives familiar. We lost our sense of security and perhaps our sense of complacency. What we did not lose were our lives in the fire.

We are different but we are still us. And tomorrow, Digger Dan is coming to help us move home again.

cover of children's book Digger Dan showing a steam shovel through a window with children waving at it