The Unheralded Life Arc of a Scrap of Iron Ore

In July of 2018, a piece of mangled metal was unearthed at a construction site in eastern New Jersey. Exposed to that afternoon’s sun and prostrate upon the loosened soil, it appeared equal parts Unredeemable, Ignominious, and Unwanted.

But this metal has not always existed in such a pitiable condition. It was once sheathing outside of an appliance—perhaps a washing machine or a refrigerator. It was once smeared with fingerprints and speckled with magnets and finger-paint artwork.

Decades before, it had surely been affixed to the appliance by a combination of machines and the hands of men whose plant was perhaps the primary industry of a flyover Midwestern town.

It had almost certainly been delivered to the plant by a truck driver who had insisted that the forklift operator load the sheet metal Just So and had tenaciously adjusted and re-tightened the straps at every rest stop on his journey there.

The sheathing had more than likely been designed and built to exact specifications by a research and development team in New England six years prior. They had probably struggled for weeks to dampen the vibrations during the spin cycle of the washer, but had worked long hours and made their production deadline. They received the bonuses their families had hoped for, and one even took a vacation to Ft. Lauderdale.

The metal itself had been shipped from a Great Lakes port like Marquette on a freighter, and prior to that it had been loaded, unloaded, reloaded, stockpiled, inspected, refined, and—initially—mined.

Behold! The unheralded life arc of a scrap of iron ore! No pomp, no circumstance. Handled by a hundred human hands, regarded by none. Unearthed to bring life, design, and purpose to ore. Buried and unearthed again to be exported as demolition debris.

July 26, 2018

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