The strangest thing is that despite the acres of earth she laid bare so unceremoniously and despite the distance between her violent activities and my life, I wax nostalgic when I browse the pages devoted to Big Muskie. Maybe I feel that way because there's nothing left of the Hulets, not even one of their gnawing steel mouths.
I was about seven or eight when Dad took me to watch the Hulett ore unloaders. He loaded cans of Stroh's into the XKE and drove down closed roads that wound through dangerous piles of debris to Whiskey Island. We finally came upon the Hulett's, which were outlined in white dots of light as they dipped graciously into the bellies of the massive oar boats. The air was thick with humidity and bugs, the smell of gasoline.
"They used to have to unload the ore boats by hand," Dad said.
"Really?" I asked, enchanted.
"Terrible, dangerous job. One wheelbarrow at time," he said, fishing his Zippo from his pocket. He paused and lit his cigarette, snapped the lighter closed with a sound I'll never forget. "Then came the Huletts."
"Must of used to take them forever to empty those boats before that," I said as they arced across the night sky.
"The new ships are self-unloading. They don't need the Huletts anymore. These are dinosaurs, Erin," he said and wagged his Marlboro at them. "You remember these."
A man emerged from another steamy parked car. He was shirtless as he stood before our headlights, a challenge. His pants were unbuttoned. He deflated a bit when he realized we were not a threat.
Dad sipped his beer. "Time to go home," he said.
From then on, I always looked for the Huletts from my perch upon the bluffs of Lakewood Park, particularly at night when their lighted silhouettes were moving ornaments upon the coast--something secret and unique in my derided hometown.
Eventualities unfurled over the years, as did I. The mighty Huletts did not survive. Neither did Dad.
I miss the Huletts.
I miss the damnable industry that surrounded them. I miss their terrifying steel works and gears. And when they were headed to the scrap heap, I wish one of those indignant historical groups that clamored and shook their collective fist had won. After all, they were right. We've lost something.
Maybe I'll drive down to Noble County this summer and visit Big Muskie's bucket--a vicarious pilgrimage courtesy of the coal industry. Maybe I'll place my hands upon her rusty steel flesh. Maybe I'll shed a tear and say a prayer.
Maybe I'll forgive her sins.
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