Let’s start with the dirt wash. Working on the ranch one day, my wizened father showed me how dirt can actually make you cleaner. It’s true, and oh so sustainable. What cleanser can be more natural than dirt? Anyway, we had just finished replacing spent rods in a windmill. It was my first time as the “monkey man” on the top of the mill (perched up on the top platform without safety gear in order to latch and unlatch the long wooden rods as they are pulled up and out of the ground). Everything you pull up out of a well is greasy and slick with mud, slime and, well… gook. After sloppin’ this stuff all over for a couple hours and taking in views of red-tailed hawks diving for twittering and cooing quail hiding in scrub oak thickets, the monkey man tries to climb down the metal rungs on either side of an angle iron windmill support without slipping off and dying. (Really mom, it’s not that dangerous.)
After I got to the bottom and pulled a long drag of water from a cold tin cup I started to wipe my hands on my pants. It was at that moment that I saw my dad, out of the corner of my eye, bend down and scoop up a hand full of well trodden feed-ground dirt. (You know, the kind that melds with the mucous lining in your nostrils to create mud boogers that at the end of the day you aren’t sure how they got there). Now his hands were greasy. They were much worse than mine. And miraculously as he rubbed the fine silty dirt between his hands the grime and oil began to disappear.
Like the attentive monkey I was, I too bent over and scooped up some dirt. Then I shook off the big clump of manure I got with it and scooped up some more. Magically the dirt removed every stray bit of muck and grease. After slapping my jeans a couple of times my hands were clean enough to cook with. Along with that cleanliness came a revelation — one that meant absolutely nothing to me for over 20 years, but after that made a huge impact. I didn’t need a chemical product to get clean. I didn’t need petroleum to defeat petroleum. Dirt can make you clean. And it is in this truth, this statement of Redneck wisdom that I have found life, and sustainability.