Along the Line

English: Cameron, LA, 11-10-05 -- Lineman Mari...

English: Cameron, LA, 11-10-05 — Lineman Marion Chappell from Utah repairs a damaged power line from Hurricane Rita. FEMA is helping Local governments get Roads, Bridges, and Utilities back in operation so residents can move back. MARVIN NAUMAN/FEMA photo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The other day over at The Watchtower we started off discussing relevance as applied to the church, and as often happens with that brilliant group of commenters we wandered a bit off topic. Incidentally these comment streams that Jessica promotes are one of the wonders of the world, if you haven’t, you really should join us. In this case, Jess’s co-author and I had a quick aside on teaching theory. We were talking about the generation raised in the ’60s for context.

ChalcedonThere was much folly in that generation and its response to ‘student rebellion’. If you let the young think that they know it all, you are not telling them anything they do not already know. If you tell them they don’t, you stand a chance of teaching them something. In 40 years of teaching that has stood me in good stead. Probably explains why they stay away.

Me: To amend a bit, if they stay away, I would bet that you can be quite intimidating, I suspect SF and I also have the knack, it cuts down on the nonsense. Those who want to learn will persevere. 🙂

Chalcedon: Neo – in relation to your comment, I have always found that the students who stayed away were most welcome to do so; those who came seemed to learn something. University is meant to be fun as well as a place of learning; too often people forget the second part of that.

Me: I agree, although my teaching is of another kind entirely, those who are too busy skylarking to pay attention are better off elsewhere, and so are the rest of us, they cause accidents and injuries. I’ve sent a couple home on foot.

Jessica: In your line of work, not paying attention can be rather serious.

Me: Indeed it can. I need to write a post on some of the stupid things that happen when attention isn’t paid. The funny ones, not the deadly ones.

This is the result.

A line crew is a team, I know that’s very trite but, it’s also very true. every man is important as is his job. It doesn’t matter whether your the grunt running the shovel, the operator on the digger, the lineman up the pole, or in the bucket, to be safe and effective it has to be a smooth functioning team. one of the key parts of that is that you pay attention. About 25 years ago I was working for a contractor, replacing poles, hot, of course. I was the second lineman on the crew so most of the time I was playing grunt, backfilling, tamping, framing poles, all the stuff you do learning the business. It’s in some ways the hardest job on the crew because you can really screw up production if you’re slow or get things wrong. Physically, it depends on conditions. I enjoyed it then, and probably still would, at least sometimes. We had a great crew, if we had the proper soil type and pole selection we could drive up and change out a pole in 15 minutes, hot. And we had fun as well.

Anyway, I got jerked of this crew about the 4th of July because one of our tree trimming crews got caught without a hot qualified lineman on it, (most linemen detest tree trimming but it’s part of the job). So, I spent most of the rest of the summer out in Montana screwing around with a mess of trees (which mostly seemed to be Russian Olives, which are ugly as sin itself) after the cottonwoods bloomed, with so much seed that we were cleaning radiators every half hour on our chippers. Anyway that contract ended Labor Day and I came back and worked with Art’s crew again through about Thanksgiving, and then a week in North Dakota‘s Bakken field. And then I got laid off for the winter, as is normal.

Shortly after New Year‘s the office called and asked if I wanted to head down to Kansas for a job they had running, and liking money, I said yes, and again hooked up with Art. The point to all this is that when I was playing grunt for Matt, our senior lineman, or him for me as well, the framing was nearly perfect and because the we both knew the sequence to follow, the next part needed was always hanging on the handline, ready to go. We paid attention to what we were doing.

A few weeks later, they asked if I’d come up here because the new kid lineman they had on vegetation management (as we call tree trimming now) thought he was too important to do it and wanted to build line. So,, that’s how I got to Nebraska.

A few months later, Art’s crew was doing a job a few miles away from us so one Sunday we popped over for a few beers with them. By then I had heard the story but wanted to hear what Matt and Art said.

While they were still down in Kansas we had heard the had energized a 3 θ extension without deadend insulators (Bells we call them, that what the insulators in my Gravatar are) which of course burned the pole down, nobody got hurt but it’s expensive and embarrassing. Knowing who was there, I thought I knew what happened, and I was right. After I left, they had a couple of new graduates from lineman school assigned. Like so many kids in the trades, the were too busy screwing around, skylarking we call it, instead of paying attention.

What Matt told me that day is a good lesson for us all. This is very nearly a direct quote.

If you had been there, NEO, it would have never happened because even if I forgot, which I did, when I reached for the assembly on my handline, the bells would have been there, and if I had tried it you would have stopped me because you always paid attention to what we were doing.

He’s right and it’s also true that if I had been in the bucket, he would have caught it for the same reason. We are professional linemen, and because we are professional, we know we’re not perfect and so we check each others work. Doesn’t matter if your a 60 year old lineman, like Matt and I or a 22 year old fresh out of school. The first thing you need to learn is to pay attention. The Devil’s always in the details, like insulators, because a piece of southern yellow pine slightly bigger than a 4X4 six feet long isn’t going to stop 13,000 volts for long. I bet it was pretty spectacular though, somehow they didn’t get any pictures of that one 🙂

OK here’s the quiz for today.

Mary’s father had five daughters, the first was January, the second February, the third March, and the fourth April. What was the name of the fifth daughter?

And here’s your reward

About Neo
Lineman, Electrician, Industrial Control technician, Staking Engineer, Inspector, Quality Assurance Manager, Chief Operations Officer

20 Responses to Along the Line

  1. JessicaHof says:

    Rather proves the point – and that in some lines of work, carelessness can cost lives. Nice trailer – and the answer? Mary? 🙂


  2. Enjoyed the post and the quiz Neo. But seeing a young Henry Fonda brought back a lot of old memories. My uncle knew him well and my uncle’s boss, hid out with Henry in a Kenyan Safari Club for many years because they blew the whistle on a bunch of the mafia in Las Vegas and Reno – there was a contract out on them. Strange that both he and my uncle’s boss ended up dying after returning from Africa after many, many years; my uncle’s boss in a car bomb while in New Mexico and Henry under some unusual circumstances. My uncle as well had a mysterious mishap while riding a horse alone. Seems the mob has a long memory. Anyway, your job does seem to require complete attention to details; while other folks, where it shouldn’t matter so much, can lose their lives just by doing the right thing.


    • neenergyobserver says:

      That can happen in my work as well but, for all of us doing the right thing is best,


      • Servus Fidelis says:

        It is true, but it doesn’t always seem so to the surviving families.


        • neenergyobserver says:

          That is true but, the key word there is seem, you and I know that doing the right thing is always, well, right.


        • Servus Fidelis says:

          That is true. My uncle and his boss, Ray Ryan were from Evansville, IN so maybe you had heard of them. They were in the oil business and had invested in the casinos along with Henry Fonda and others. It was during Bobby Kennedy’s investigation into the American mafia that they became federal witnesses to some of the corruption and criminality that was going on in the casinos. Ring a bell?


        • neenergyobserver says:

          The Bobby Kennedy investigations, surely. I was pretty young at the time, of course, but in reading about it it struck me that he really turned on his daddy’s friends on that one. It was needed but it was also a bit capricious it seemed like to me. I grew up clean in the other end of Indiana where we tended to watch the corruption in Chicago more than anything else.


      • Ah so! It may part of the reason that Peter and Jane turned out so bad. I think they had no use for the Federal Government and were probably anti-american after that (don’t know) – but seems a fair guess.

        My uncle’s “accident” happened 1 week before he was to go to DC to testify in a congressional hearing. Some folks came and demanded his briefcase and my aunt gave them everything without asking who they were (never identified themselves in any way). They just demanded all his documents. That’s why I’m not so sure he had a horse accident at all.


        • neenergyobserver says:

          I hear you, those boys played for keeps, so it’s entirely possible.


        • Servus Fidelis says:

          Actually my memory was very poor – looked into it. I got Henry Fonda mixed up with William Holden of all things and Palm Springs mixed up with the Nevada Casinos. Also, Ray was blown up in Evansville. Don’t know why I thought he was in New Mexico when that happened. Oh well, I guess I have lost a few brain cells over the years.


        • neenergyobserver says:

          Happens to us all, seems like, Henry Fonda seemed out of place there but, I’ve never been into movie stars so I didn’t know either.


        • Servus Fidelis says:

          Yeah this article straigtened me out. Apparently Ray Ryan was no saint. My uncle only managed his oil leases but I bet he had info that Ray had left him for his dealings with the IRS ietc.


  3. Pingback: The Torch of Liberty « nebraskaenergyobserver

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