Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Scratching deep in the grey matter

I've had a few jobs in my don't begrudge me my memories, that's all I got!

I…got a job working for a road construction company in Dallas off Industrial Blvd. near downtown. It was a summer job, I was going back to school in the fall, so I thought. My buddy Doyle got me the job, he had worked there for several summers. Knew I was gonna be in trouble on the first day when they put me on an asphalt laying crew and told me to go broom off the water on the side of the road so they could lay some asphalt there. I kinda wondered why everyone else had grungy boots covered in caked on asphalt and I only had tennis shoes. Got my feet wet brooming the water and then they put me to shoveling hot asphalt…it comes out of the cooker at 2 hundred and some degrees. Hot stuff! I jumped right in and shoveled with the best of them. My shoes started steaming from being wet but they dried out soon. Didn’t discover till that evening when I pulled off my shoes just how blistered my feet were. Bought some boots! Never did work the asphalt crew again.
They sent me down south to work on a freeway system there. Watched a steam roller get loose and barrel down an off ramp toward the bottom. Then we noticed a kid hanging on for dear life and riding her to the bottom. They gave me a pickup truck that had a gas operated power broom hitched up to it. I was to broom off the shoulder of the road so they could shoot some tack and spread gravel down on it. (Tack is what they called the hot tar they spread). Was doing alright till the danged thing died. I had a 55 gallon drum of gas in the back of the pickup and so I filled the broom’s gas tank and prepared to start it again. You had to straddle the tire and give the hand crank a might twist. This thing was so old that it had a gravity fed glass bowl above the carburetor that had to fill with gas before starting it. Well, I hadn’t shut off the valve so the glass bowl was into overfilling and dumping all that overflow into the carburetor. I cranked and cranked to no avail because, I assume now, that that carburetor was flooded. Well I finally got some reaction from the piece of junk when the crank hung, then the engine backfired, pitching me off the tire and into the dirt on my back causing all my breath to be knocked right out of me.
Well, I was busy nurturing myself and hadn’t notice that the backfire through the carburetor had caused a fire! I grabbed some rags from the back of the pickup and began flailing them at the growing flames. All I did was catch the rags on fire and begin spreading the fires to several different locations with each swat. I then tried stuffing various rags in amongst the flames in hopes of denying oxygen and snuffing out the flames…wrong. The tenacious blaze simply engulfed my offerings and rekindled to new heights. Lastly, in final desperation, I heaved a couple of handfuls of dirt at the worsening flames and then turned my thoughts to disconnecting the pickup from the inferno that was growing when I remembered the full gas tank I had just filled. Didn’t want to lose a second piece of equipment and my ride. I left the blazing broom sending plumes of smoke skyward and headed back to tell the tack truck guys what had happened.
I pulled up on the opposite side of the road facing the opposite direction and one of the crew yelled for me to back up and give the tack engine some gas. I crammed her into gear and started back. Some idiot had picked that particular time to pull to a stop right behind me with his snack truck. My pickup had a load of sand in the back with the tailgate down. I crumpled the front end of that truck with the tailgate. They sent me to the house driving a old flatbed truck that had all kinds of equipment in it. This thing had some problems as well. You couldn’t dim the lights with the dimmer switch on the floor or the whole electrical system would shut down. So in order to operate with the bright lights on all the time and not offend other drivers some genius and simply duct taped half the headlights so it would still function. It was late, I was tired. I had noticed that broom handle sticking out way too far beyond the bed of the truck but I paid it no more attention until I traveled across the white line on a long sweeping left curve as a Greyhound bus approached. I thought I had come to enough to retreat back to my lane when I heard the whack. When I looked in the rearview mirror the broom handle was gone and the bus was pulling over onto the shoulder. I floor boarded it meaning I stomped the accelerator.
Didn’t go back on that crew again. They sent me out to run a sheep foot and do some compacting on newly graded roadways. Now a sheep foot is a big heavy round apparatus with feet of steel that tamps down freshly graded dirt in preparation for laying asphalt. I had driven this tractor before and its brakes were shot. You had to stomp on them to get the dumb thing to stop. Well I was doing okay till they hollered its lunch time. They told me to take it down the hill and park it in front of the road grader. Started down the hill with some speed in anticipation of some grub when I remembered the brakes. Began to pump the pedal, began to stomp the pedal, began to apply both feet to the pedal, began to jump up and down on the pedal. Then a flash of brilliance hit me. I’d just steer it around the obstructions and onto the flat and wait for gravity and lack of momentum to slow us. About that time is when the heavy load I told you about began to make itself known. It came to bear on the hitch of the tractor causing the front tire, the steering tire, to suddenly raise off the ground. With steering gone I settled in for the ride and noticed we are headed for the front end of that road grader. Hit with a mighty jolt. Steering wheel just spun having sheered all semblance of remaining mechanisms in the process.
After lunch they assigned me to a road grading crew, probably figuring I couldn’t get into trouble with anymore equipment standing on the ground. My job was to tell the guy running the grader what to do, that is, whether to fill in or grade off the dirt of the roadway. Simple you say. Well, they gave me a folding wooden ruler to take measurements with and told me to be careful with it as that was the only one they had. I promised and then as I walked off the unfolded end somehow got between my striding legs and snapped in two.
They brought me out a pick slip on the spot. I was fired!

1 comment:

  1. I think I see the problem with you working with the State,,you weren't leaning on your shovel like you supposed to!! Ain't that what all those road fixin guy do? Lean?