Ditch Digger

Laborers' Local 320

SW Broadway and Market

Ditch diggers are the unheralded heroes of civilization. Ever since the shovel was invented, men and women have been displacing dirt, making it possible for us to drink water, flush toilets, drive on scenic interstates, and kiss under the Eiffel Tower. Sasha Clapper's been shoveling dirt for five years, and for the last few weeks has been tunneling under Market Street, submerging a four-foot pipe with hydraulic jacks to run a water line. When he's not rocking his hardhat and safety vest, Clapper is intensely migratory. He came to Portland from North Carolina (ladies, you gotta hear his accent) to attend Reed College, where he suffered through three years of math studies before succumbing to wanderlust. He discovered that ditch digging was a great way to fund his travels, allowing him to work as much or as little as he wanted to, and now spends large parts of each year in Anchorage, Portland, and Austin, between epic adventures abroad.

What's the best part of this particular job?

Working by PSU and seeing all the college girls.

Do the girls notice you?

It's hard to tell if they're looking at me or my safety vest.

Do you hoot and whistle at chicks as they pass?

I just usually nudge my partners and point. I've worked with hooters before. It's actually embarrassing when they hoot.

I imagine you get pretty hot and dirty on the jobsite. Is there a way to hose yourself off? Or do you just go straight to the bar?

Sometimes I'll have one of the other guys hose me off, but usually I just go straight to the bar.

What do you love about ditch digging in general?

The freedom. And not just the freedom to come and go as I please, but the mental freedom of being able to spend all day daydreaming and pondering life's mysteries instead of worrying about spreadsheets and whether my tie is straight.

What do you do with your time off?

Roam around and drink whiskey. Last year I went to Spain and North Africa—Algeria, Morocco, and Western Sahara. Next month I'm going to Venezuela for a while.

What's the worst part of ditch digging?

Girls usually think I'm a creep. They seem to have the idea that you're some sort of scumbag if you work in construction. It's because of all those jerks hootin' and hollerin' all the time, giving the rest of us a bad rap! That and maybe the dirt that I'm always covered in.