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Friday, November 10, 2017

A Quitter in action

Many of you know that I used to work construction. Masonry construction, specifically, brick, block, mortar, you know. I wasn't very good at the job. Now I work in distribution and I'm not very good at that either. For a brief time I tried light manufacturing and I wasn't good at that. I'm not really sure what I should do with the rest of my life, good thing I am almost old enough to retire, soon I will run out of options.... That isn't what I wanted to talk about today.

Today I want to talk about a specific incident of my construction career. Bricklayers are notorious for a belief in their rugged individualism. Almost a John Wayne, Charlton Heston aura. At least many I worked with. They carried rifles in their pickups, and owned horses, spit wads of tobacco, and screamed like angry savages.

One of the men I worked for was kind of cheap. He had an old forklift, heavy, tall, and prone to failure. And an old flatbed truck that used to be a Coca-Cola delivery vehicle. He had the back ripped off and a wooden bed installed. It made the bed a little higher than a standard flatbed, but it was a lot cheaper, and a lot older than most and a lot more likely to suffer from things like brake failure.  I hated that truck.

Another thing he did to save money was load his old, tall, heavy forklift right on the bed of his truck. This saved him from having to buy a trailer. But, it made for a terrifying ride, with all that height and weight every pothole, turn and bump seemed destined to topple the truck and kill the passengers. I hated that truck even more when the forklift was on it.

One day we were getting ready to start building a fast food place in a town about 50 miles away. We loaded all of the things we could in the pickup. Drove the forklift down to the rail yard, up onto the platform and onto the back of the truck. It was really the only practical place to do it, and it was unused, had been for years, and only about a mile from the shop.

We got back, loaded everything else precariously around the forklift, chained it all down securely, and started drinking some beer. And then some more beer.

About 7:00 that evening we were all pretty happy, and the beer was almost gone. As we were ready to call it a day, go home and get ready for a new job site one of the tires on the back of the truck just gave up. It exploded, it sounded like a bomb had gone off. There were two tires on each side, and the other one on the same side popped in what had to be a show of solidarity.

With all that weight, height, and sudden motion the truck, forklift, mixer, shovels and equipment all toppled over. It was a terrible sound of screaming, twisting iron and cracking, splintering wood, and made a thunderous crash when it hit. The ground shook with the anger of the weight.

We stood there looking, not knowing what to do next. My boss walked calmly over to his pickup, got his rifle and put the forklift and the truck out their misery, one clean shot to each. We shared a cigarette in solemn remembrance, and then I told him I quit. I didn't want to have to clean that mess up.