Wednesday, February 17, 2010


In many cites around the US and in many countries, the vision of the Fullers’ provides houses for those who can’t afford them. We the volunteers build, and the homeowners build right along side us. The homeowners pay back into HFH on a no interest loan, which buys the materials for the next house as well as funding the administrative expenses. Many of the volunteers are local people, but someone realized there was a mobile population of retirees that might like something useful to do, and started the RV Care-a-Vanner group. We are given a free (sometimes) full hook up camp spot for 35 hours of work a week and also doughnuts!

I’ve always had a hankering to do this since helping out during some rally at a build site, and when my job prospects all flew away, it occurred to me to give it a try. (or I listened to He who organizes my life…)

The camp spot is a parking lot in the middle of Las Cruces, and all the slots are filled with RV’s. Most of the people here have done many builds, and some in many places. The skill level varies along with the stamina, but everyone is cheerful, and helpful. If you read the website, you know that the Fullers were rich and unhappy in Atlanta and gave it all up for a Christian commune. There they developed the idea, and when Jimmy Carter helped with a build, HFH grew quickly.

Me, I am stiff and sore and my knees are tired of ladders, but I’m having a wonderful time and hope I can stay longer than next Sat. If not, I will be looking to do this again. There is a whiff of protestant earnestness; we begin the day with some sort of prayer. That’s fine, although the first week a woman read a lot from the Bible, and a daily lesson book and then her husband gave a long and hesitant prayer. It seemed too long and made assumptions about the rest of us that I found mildly irritating. So yesterday I jumped in and talked about Jesus, who as God could just make a chair in an instant, having to learn the fundamentals of carpentry from his father. Perhaps a few splinters and bad saw cuts were a way to be more human. This was met with much approval, so I guess others were as tired of too much institutionalized holiness as I was.

The second week is slow, we were way too efficient at putting up the sheet rock, and now have to wait until the professional mudder/taping crew is done, and the wall texture people, and we may get to paint on Friday. I’m sort of hoping someone will cancel so I can stay on.

Las Cruces has a magnificent mountain range to the east, the Organ Mountains. Good toothy profiles and a nice icing of snow. On Sunday I went geocaching on the western side of town where there is a slight rise and I drove up to see the whole city spread out with the mountains beyond. My geocaching was hampered by the recent rains which flooded two caches away, and by Darth Vader’s increasing starting difficulties. He is now at the truck Dr. getting a new alternator and starter motor. Ouch said my wallet, but he is due for these things, and deserves them. Once again, I managed to find a diesel truck lover to fix him

The Rio Grand runs right through here, and has been tamed to water 100’s of acres of pecan trees. (Actually, a lot of the water was taken out up stream already, the Rio Grand in Big Bend only has Mexican water in it.) The trees are planted in strict geometry, so driving through them is a little dizzying, and the ground beneath is swept absolutely clean. Why such tidiness? Harvesting pecans is an amusing process because picking the nuts is done by a giant machine with a giant hand that grabs the trunk of the tree and shakes it! Then giant sweepers drive up and down these tidy lanes picking them up off the ground. After that they go though some sort of sorting and cleaning. All this is done in the late fall, but this year’s rains have made the ground too muddy for the machines. I saw a video of the tree shaking and sweeping, but would love to see it all first hand. I’m a big fan of seeing how machines take over tedious agricultural work, especially when it duplicates human actions in an amusing way.

I have rarely been in a place where everyone is as nice as can be. We are here to do good, not to show off, (although the guys do a little bush peeing over who knows more about construction). Somehow, being warm and polite to each other is in the air, actively in the air. It remains to be seen if this flavor comes from the folks in charge here, this particular set of workers, or if all HFH centers are like this. “Where seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day”. It’s good for me, as my tendency towards sailor-like language is in check even with the most stubborn sheet rock screw.

It turns out that I can stay another two weeks. There is a sort of extra spot right by the office that I have squeezed into. I like to think I have been useful, but they may also feel a little sorry for poor Daisy all by herself.


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