If you have been following my blog, you may have heard references to an individual named Carl. He was my first roommate and the first person I met in Iowa. You may notice I used the past tense; alas, Carl has left the farmhouse and moved on to work elsewhere. Although I only knew him for about two weeks, Carl was an incredibly interesting person, one I do not plan to forget. I would be doing my readers (mom) a disservice if I did not share his essence with you. So let’s explore the wonder that is Carl:
Hometown: Reading, Pennsylvania
First words said to me: “Use the back door.”
Background: A father of “two to six, depending how you look at it,” Carl has been a volunteer fire fighter for 18 years. Driving engines, running hose, fixing equipment… he’s done it all. And that’s on top of a slew of other jobs he’s done (lawn care, battery assembly and grocery store dairy manager, to name a few).
Reason for coming to Iowa: Carl was hired as a twelve-week seasonal at the same wildlife refuge I work at, only moving to the farmhouse for his last four weeks. He is fairly used to moving far from home and taking temporary jobs. I think his logic was, “Iowa? Fuck it, why not?”
Occupation: Fire Technician
Scientific description: Prescribed fire is an important tool used to manage prairie habitat. As a fire-dependent ecosystem, prairies historically caught fire from high heat, low humidity, or things like lightning strikes. And fire was beneficial: it cleared out old, dying grass to make way for new shoots. The extensive root systems of prairie plants (up to 12 feet) allow survival and quick regeneration. Because random fires can be dangerous, habitat managers regularly schedule “prescribed” burns for the health of their prairies, which are manually set by professionals under controlled conditions.
Less scientific description: Carl lights shit on fire.
What he likes about Iowa: That his Pennsylvania “conceal and carry” permit has reciprocity
What he dislikes about Iowa: The lack of good meat
Hobbies: Gold prospecting
I thought Carl was screwing with me the first time he mentioned being an “amateur prospector.” But a bumper sticker and vial of gold flakes convinced me otherwise. Ever industrious, Carl spent most of his time off scouring buckets of “material” (dirt) in local creek beds, hoping for glittering returns. And Carl knows his shit: the mineral indicators of gold and using mercury to chemically separate it from other materials were just two of our conversations that went way over my head.
How we interacted: Carl and I frequently stood in the kitchen, drinking beer and talking about random stuff. Did you know Taylor Swift is from Pennsylvania?
Drink of choice: Busch Light. Also Mountain Dew.
Food of choice: Carl bought a crockpot just to make 6 pounds of pulled pork. The secret ingredient? “Brown sugar, nothing else.”
Moving on to: The black hills of South Dakota, for another fire job
Parting words: “If I don’t see you again, it’s been good.”
Parting gifts: Carl graciously left ant poison, pancake mix, frozen chicken breasts, 3 single serving cups of fruit loops, a cup of pudding (either vanilla or butterscotch… the suspense is killing me!), and a fruit cup.
Also Busch light. But who can blame him?
Unfortunately, the majority of Carl’s best lines are too mature, even for my profane blog. I will tell them sometime in a locked, sound-proof room. In the meantime, here are some of the tamer quotes:
*Gestures about 8 inches in length*
“There’s one mouse about this big I have yet to catch. I call it Mr. Jingles”
“Carl, Mr. Jingles is back.” -Patrick
*Carl emerges, holding a pistol*
*Discussing the 3rd roommate’s name*
“I’ve only heard it twice back home. Based on those people, she’ll either be a redneck or stuck up. I’m hoping redneck, so we can at least get drunk together.”
“I’ll admit it: when it was just me in the house, I cracked a beer and drank it in the bathtub.”
“Don’t take dirt roads after it rains. It’s like driving on snot.”
Final thoughts: I’m glad to have met Carl, even if it only was for a short time. He was an insightful, inappropriate roommate that made moving to a new place much more fun. If you ever find yourself committing arson in Reading, Pennsylvania, chances are he’ll be the one putting out your fire.
And for that, Carl, we thank you.