There is so much about travel that appeals to me, from the sights and sounds of a world far different than the one I left behind to the new foods, like that bowl of coddle I sampled with a perfectly drawn Guinness pint in Dublin, Ireland, or that plate of haggis I paired with a Kilt Lifter IPA in Edinburgh, Scotland.
But until a recent domestic trip to my absolute favorite fall travel region, New England, I never would have guessed that my observations would bring to mind one of the Biblical parables.
That moment came in Plymouth, Massachusetts, when my Lady Jane and I checked out a really terrific tourist attraction, the Plimoth Plantation, an interactive living history site that shows a 1620-era English settlement shortly after the arrival of the Mayflower and also a typical Wampanoag Indian village of the same era to show how the original inhabitants of the area lived and interacted with those Johnny-come-latelies.
Since I think all former high school English teachers who delivered healthy doses of American literature to their charges are, at heart, history lovers as well as lit lovers, given the close connection between what events transpire and the subject matter about which authors have always written, the attraction was right in our wheelhouse.
While there, I got to see and hear both the Native American re-enactors discuss their ways of life and perspectives and the English pilgrims’ as well. All to whom I spoke did a terrific job answering my queries, proving to me they’d not only done their parts in dressing in period-piece clothing but did their homework as well, demonstrating knowledge of the era and geography.
One re-enactor in particular that captivated me was the one on the warm day we were there who was certainly exhibiting the most physical effort.
While many of the re-enactors were inside the crude living quarters stoking open fires and doing a little cooking or just sitting outside whittling a wooden ladle and talking about the challenges of the new world and their roles they played in making a successful village, there was one positively glistening with sweat.
He was straddling a log and notching it with an ax, which actually was a precursor to even more arduous physical labor as he turned sideways and chopped and chopped his way from notch to notch to form the flat side of an eventual building beam once he turn the log four times.
As he worked, he would answer questions as to how long it would take him to notch and create his flat surfaces on all four sides of a log and how many beams it would take to frame each living quarters.
Since the re-enactors only would answer questions that related to their 1620s existence, I couldn’t ask him what I really wanted to know about his 21st century existence.
I wanted to know if each work day, which for this site runs from early spring until just after the Thanksgiving holiday when the pilgrims and Wampanoags culminate another tourist year together by sharing Thanksgiving, if he ever was allowed to rotate to the job of, say, the guy that just sits on the porch whittling a ladle and explaining the difficult trip to get to this new land or the minister inside by the hearth tugging on a pipe and discussing the religious reasons for the migration.
After all, it was far and away the most physically demanding of any of the roles that I saw that day. However, the longer I looked at him, the more I saw that, given his young age and obvious fitness, he was far more equipped to notch those logs each work day than many of the others I saw.
I wouldn’t be surprised if his role never changed and if the pay was the same for all who worked at this highly recommended tourist attraction. If that was the case, I couldn’t help but think of the Biblical parable of the master of the vineyard, who hired some workers at the beginning of the day and more periodically throughout the day and then paid them all the same at the end of the day.
While some who’d labored far longer and, therefore, harder, grumbled, the master pointed out the bottom line, which is each worker agreed to labor for the salary offered regardless of what others were paid. I’m guessing such was the case with the ax wielder.
And, really, such is the case for all of us who have or continue to labor. While we may harbor some jealousies about what others earn for their efforts, when those salaries are made known for workers paid by the state, like that ax wielder, it’s probably best if we just keep our resentments to ourselves and go about our business of notching our own logs.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.