Editor’s Note: The Trojan Horse Project was blessed with serendipity from beginning to end. Things just seemed to happen when they were needed. Dan Fox, our Construction Coordinator, gives you a taste of his wondrous experiences with the horse and the pleasant surprises she provided.
My favorite Burning Man swag is a necklace, or at least something that can be affixed to an existing necklace. Before the week of the Burn, Douglas and Alaya presented the builders of the Horse a very special medallion, which I immediately prized and wore proudly. While we builders may have begun construction feeling like stagehands building a short-lived set, what we came to find inside that wooden horse was a community of friends that will endure. We achieved utter satisfaction working with other dedicated men and women who pulled together to build something quite larger than the individual parts. I found myself living a wonderful dream, surrounded by wonderful souls who admired each other, appreciated our accomplishments, and found the joy within ourselves. To me, the medallion embodied that spirit.
On the night of the burn, it was my task to cut openings in the horse so the fireworks could shoot outward in great blistering fans. I climbed into the belly of the beast as night fell, armed with a chainsaw and carrying a ladder. Filled with boxes of fireworks, skyrockets, three cords of firewood, and numerous liquid accelerants, the interior of the horse became a treacherous obstacle course, especially in the waning light. I set the ladder where it almost fit, and began to cut six of the largest upper triangles out of the horse.
As I reached up to start the final cut, I heard my medallion hit the ladder, the deck, and finally somewhere below. I began to cry as I sawed away, suddenly saddened but at the same time thrilled and humbled by my experience with the horse and the thoughts it engendered. Inside my head, a voice seemed to ask if I needed help. I replied aloud, “I am 51, balanced on a ladder, chain sawing out plywood panels, 35 feet above the playa, inside a wooden horse loaded with explosives.” The voice said, “And you love every minute of it.” And I did. Every minute. I finished my last task and cleared out of the horse, leaving my lost medallion in the darkness.
The fire from the burn was intense, and it burned in a sustained fury that had the front ranks of the crowd trying to shield themselves from the searing heat. I wondered what the melting temperature of the medallion was. The following day, when I returned to the burn site, even the mighty steel axles had deformed into broad smiles from the heat. I raked the coals, the nails, and the charcoal of the pyre. I imagined the medallion would be a melted slug, but I hoped against hope that I would find even this memento. The next day, only small remnants of the eight-foot tall wheels were left smoldering . Everything else wooden had been consumed. Again, I searched the ashes but found nothing resembling a medallion there or in the piles of bolts and nails. I resigned myself to having lost my precious medal. The very next day, while I was in camp, Ariel, Troy Camp’s “mayor,” walked up to me and said, “Douglas found your medallion as he was making one last sweep of the ashes.” She handed me a blackened, slightly deformed medal and I laughed maniacally at heaven, reunited with a hunk of simulated brass that I will treasure forever.