Seeing the Beauty in Bulldozers

By Vincent Carroll, Editor of the Editorial Pages
Rocky Mountain News, November 11, 2002

"The world is a miracle, history's and the universe's long shot," a good writer once observed. "It runs uphill. It's a miracle. Drive up and down in it as I do. Look closely at it. See its moving parts, its cranes and car parks and theater districts. It can't be. It could never have happened. It's a miracle."

I can't remember who wrote those lines, but I copied them down years ago from a novel I was reading. And I think of them now and then when I'm driving through the T-REX project, which like so much else in the modern world, is a miracle that we take for granted. It could never be. And yet there it is.

Like thousands of other commuters, I've watched T-REX knock down and replace bridges, rebuild interchanges, scoop out mountains of dirt along I-25, add lanes and delete them, or redirect them to the left or right - all the while without even halting traffic for more than a few paltry hours at a time.

Actually, that's not strictly true. I haven't "watched" them because part of the miracle is that the T-REX crews do their work at night, under artificial light. So each morning commuters find themselves in the position of the shoemaker in Grimms' fairy tale, who discovers a new pair of shoes each daybreak sitting on the table, a gift of elves laboring through the night. One day you drive under a bridge and the next time it is gone. Who took it down? T-REX gnomes, apparently.

Now I'm not here to tell you that T-REX is perfect, because it's already had its share of stumbles, like the cracking concrete on the new Franklin Street bridge. But if you retain any capacity for awe at grand undertakings, you can't help but occasionally be impressed.

Nowadays, the reflexive reaction among many people to the sight of bulldozers, dump trucks and concrete mixers is environmental angst and a vague sense of guilt that such projects are even necessary. Which I could understand if they were slicing through a park. But when they're not, why not admire the human ability to shape the landscape to our advantage?

Our ancestors were not reluctant to do so. What were the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World but the most spectacular of all human constructions? T-REX is no Colossus of Rhodes, of course, let alone a cathedral or a Sears Tower. It's a smaller, plainer sort of miracle - the kind we mostly overlook amid all the other improbable phenomena in a world that runs uphill.


Page created 28 April 2003
Last updated 28 April 2003