Naked on Government Time

This is a TRUE STORY. I swear.

Mr. GG is an archaeologist and over the years he has risen, like cream, to the top, so now he is a bureaucrat archaeologist. He has to go to meetings throughout the country, and once in a while I go with him. When we go out to dinner, the talk is usually about legal stuff, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, Federal regulations, and stuff I call the Alphabet Language: CFR 36, ARPA, NAGPRA, whose job is classified in the G series, and a bunch of basically dull stuff. So I do my best to sidetrack these people. Usually I start by saying something like, “Hey, Mr. GG, did you ever tell these guys about that crew member who thought he was a spy, and stole the government truck and drove to Las Vegas”?
I have to start with Mr. GG’s stories, because he is a supervisor, and has had minions. I was a minion, myself, so my tales are not as interesting. At any rate, this usually devolves into a competition to see who has the best/worst tale of life in the field, and Oh my, there are some good ones.
If you don’t know much about archaeologists, I’ll explain. In college, you go to Field School. Usually this is in some hot, dirty, inaccessible spot in the boonies, where you camp in tents, trailers, or cabins with limited resources. No electricity, so no TV. No refrigerators, no furniture, no showers. Cots, sleeping bags, coolers. Early starts so you can work when the day is cooler. The work, folks, is digging. That’s why then call them Digs. As in, “I went on a dig in New Mexico”. Or, “I dug at Kampsville”. Or, “Were you at the dig when those locals complained when the girls took their shirts off?”.
Digging is hot, sweaty and often tedious work. Done by high spirited college students. Who have limited means to blow off steam. So there is a lot of beer drinking and Romance happening on most digs. It’s not just the temperature that gets steamy. My point, yes, I am going to make one, is that archaeologists are generally free spirited folk, who understand cultural mores, and more likely than not, may spit on those cultural mores. All in an anthropological spirit of course.
At any rate. At one of these bureaucrat meetings, I got the ball rolling, and pretty soon the whole table was swapping tales, and we were whooping it up. Then, let’s call him Indy, tops everybody. This is his story.

Indy and his co-worker were surveying somewhere in the Southwest. When you survey, you walk through a specific area, doing transects, so that you find every prehistoric site, can dump, cabin or stray arrowhead. You record these things, taking pictures, making maps, using your GPS to locate them, so that other people can avoid disturbing these places when they are cutting trees, building roads, grazing cattle, or drilling, or setting up cell phone towers, or some such. Usually these places are kinda rugged. Not merely up hill and down dale, but crawling over talus slopes, sliding into gullies, plowing through sagebrush in deer tick season, and recording the occasional collapsed structure where mice have been squatting, no doubt leaving lots of hanta virus cooties in their wake.
On this particular hot day, Indy and companion had been hiking over rugged peaks and saddles in the forest since daybreak, not finding much, and giving their rugged, sweaty bodies quite the workout. They are working their way down slope, when they come across a reservoir. “Hot damn”, they think. Well, I don’t really know what Indy thought, but it was about lunchtime, and they decided to take their break in that reservoir. They shucked off their heavy hiking boots, peeled off their levi’s and plaid shirts, and sank their aching selves into the cool water.
It wasn’t long before they hear a truck heading up the dirt track that led to the reservoir. It stops, and out steps an officious person from another land managing agency who tells them they are not supposed to be there, because this area is closed to the public. Our boys cross their legs under the water, and calmly explain to the officer that they are surveying, and are supposed to be in the area, and they are just taking their lunch break. The officer drives away. He drives back, and tells them to get along. I believe a few words were exchanged on both sides. Names are taken. The officer leaves, and lunch is eaten. Indy and sidekick resume their survey, putting in another 10 hour day, and finish the job.
The next day, back at the office, Indy’s boss calls him in, and asks him what the *$#@ he was doing the day before. There has been a complaint. Indy calmly explains, but the boss says the officious person from the other agency must be appeased. The boss’s solution is to put a citation in Indy’s personnel file. Since this is not a classic offense, the boss has to come up with something new. Eventually, the boss writes Indy up for being “Naked on Government Time”.
Every few years Indy checks to see if that citation is still there in his personnel file. He says it still is.


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