Let them grunt

Showering cheap grace on sweating sinners
When I was young I spent two summers “icing” refrigerated cars on Burlington trains. We shuttled, shirtless, atop railroad cars under the Sioux City sun to the 16-degree ice-making room, from which we dragged out 300-pound cakes of ice. Our Heil truck took the ice and us to the edge of bunkers, where we piked or smashed the cakes. The first few days were purgatorial, since the year-rounders tested us summer timers as we struggled, learning how to flip the ice cakes with our tongs, using thigh muscles instead of back muscles. Using back muscles was like weight lifting, and at first—like weight lifters—we grunted. Anyone who was still grunting in the second week, however, was derided, ostracized and shamed into leaving.


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