It transcends all cultures. True to any and every child, irrespective of race or place. As Historic Scotland stewards we know the magnetic attraction of gravel. One of my standard Monday morning jobs is to sweep the granite chips from the ancient wall tops, to clear the Ale Wife's stone trough, to retrieve handfuls of 'Lanark Red' from a turnpike stair, that is a Great Hall and a Ruthven Range away from the quarry source. There seems little limit or no distance that a child will move gravel, so long as an adult does not intervene.
We're sitting at a standard Argentinian concrete table nursing coffee and a breakfast of pan casero delivered by a cycling baker, watching a family's four children haul road construction material across the grass to their table, build a tower then haul it all back again. Utterly pointless, totally consuming.
Next time we're sheltering from a Zonda. The wind that crashes down off the Andes and races out of the South. It operates on a switch. Moving from silent calm to tree-stripping ferocity in mere moments. We're in the young mountains and a dry desert, volcanic country, giant boulders of rotting granite, rendering down to the grit berm that we're sitting on. This time it's bananas and desiccated bread rolls, the entertainment offered by a road construction gang...worker ants building a highway. The proportion of each stone to each ant would, in humans terms, be akin to new Olympic records in the weightlifting arena. Their purpose is to clear away the detritus of rubble, to leave an unimpeded route for the other workers who are stripping a palo verde shrub of its yellow petals, hauling them up their own Chilcoot Trail. Toiling in long lines, their Herculean task hindered by that Zonda that plucks them from the crest and flings them and their load back downhill. They never give up. Totally pointed; utterly consuming.