This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
“What’ll I Do Now, Part Two?”
After finishing work with Charlie Short, it was not long before my next chance for a full time job came along. The power plant in Savoy was just beginning to install a new line from Savoy to Carrollton, Texas. They were hiring everybody that applied for a job. I was one of the many from around our area that went to work for them. The line was coming close to Trenton, so there was not much of a drive to work and the pay was very good. My job was a “Swamper.” I worked with the crew that dug the pier holes for the foundation of the towers that supported the power lines. My job as a swamper was to take a hoe and pull the dirt away from the hole. Every few minutes the operator would raise the auger out of the hole and spin it to clear the dirt from the hole. My job was to see to it that the dirt did not fall back into the hole. I was one of the lucky ones because the machine that I worked with was an older model and it was slow digging. Some of the not so lucky boys had been assigned to newer models and they had to really work hard to keep up with the machine. I worked for Chapman Construction Company on several occasions, one during the summer of 1967 and then later on that same year. The first time I worked for them it was just around Trenton and the second time it was more into Collin County getting closer to McKinney. That is where I had a bad experience on a cold autumn morning. We had been digging the pier holes for one of the towers and when we got to work one morning, one of the holes had caved in during the night. The only way to remove the mud and water was to lower someone down into the hole on a five-gallon bucket with a shovel and scoop up the mud and water. They brought out a winch truck and hooked a cable to the bucket, when it was your turn to go into the hole; you stood on the bucket and held onto the cable while the operator lowered you down into the hole. This hole was about fifteen feet deep at the time. I had already made two trips down into the hole and on my last trip down, I had managed to remove the remainder of the mud and water. All that was left was about one inch of water and then solid ground. As I rode the bucket up to the top of the hole, my head had just cleared the top: the cable broke. I fell like a rock! Straight down and landed squarely on my feet until my knees buckled from the fall. I lay there in the muddy water for several minutes trying to see if I was hurt or not. The people at the top were calling down to me but I was not doing a lot of talking at the time. Somebody quickly hooked up another bucket to the cable and lowered it down for me to stand on for another trip up. This time I made it safely to the top. There were several hands grabbing me as soon as I was close enough for them to get their hands on me. I was wet and cold and my back was hurting. As I said before, I have had lower back problems
for most of my life and I put the blame on two things: The time that Mr. Everett hit me in the lower back my senior year of high school and that fall into that hole. The crew took it easy on me the rest of the day making sure that I was OK. Some offering me their jackets because I was cold and wet. I finished the day and continued to work on that crew for several months until we reached the substation in McKinney. That is when I was given another opportunity to reunite with my good friend O.C. Robinson. O. C. had been working for them for quite a while and they were willing to put us together on a driller to work on a job close to Denton. This was perfect! O. C. and I had always worked well together and we were glad for the chance to work together without any supervision. O.C. was now my boss and I loved it! We worked at his pace, which was fine with me. There were a few times when I questioned his decisions but he was always ready to get us out of any trouble that I thought we had. The company did not provide us with the best equipment but we made do with what we had. There were several times when drilling around Denton we would hit solid rock. On these occasions, we would have to call for the dynamite crew to come out. They would use a jackhammer to bore some holes. They would then set off a few sticks of dynamite so we could continue to drill the holes. The first time we called for the dynamite crew to come out to our site the truck brought out the gas powered air compressor and the dynamite and fuses. We sat under the driller in the shade for over an hour waiting for them to drill the holes and set the dynamite but they never showed. As we were laying there in the shade sharing the half pint of bourbon that O. C. always packed for lunch, he came up with the idea that we didn’t need those guys to blast that rock. We would do it ourselves. “Are you sure?” I asked him. “Sure we can. I used to do it all the time and there’s nothing to it.” I was willing to try. I think I was even excited about the possibility. We hooked up the air compressor and the lines to the jackhammer and drilled several holes about a foot deep into the white rock. O. C. didn’t have any set standard on how much dynamite to use or how many holes to drill. We just played with it until we got a good feel for it. After we drilled the holes, we inserted the fuses into each stick of dynamite. The wires were then connected and run out to the compressor. To set off the charge we took the two wires and touched them to the battery posts on the air compressor. Boom, rocks went flying all over the place. What a rush that was. I was sure we were going to be fired for not waiting. When the crew got there to do the job and found we had already done their job, they just left the compressor and dynamite with us. We never called for them again. That could have been a big mistake. There was a time when we were hitting a lot of rock and O. C. thought it was time for me to do all of the blasting myself. Now I was excited! I hooked up the compressor and used
the jackhammer to drill the holes for the dynamite. I then inserted the fuses and connected all of the wires. I did everything just as we had done several times before. While I was doing this, O. C. was watching me and making sure I was doing everything correctly. After setting everything in place and I was ready to set off my first charge. O. C. took shelter under the driller and I took the wires to the generator. I yelled out something like “Fire in the hole” and touched the wires to the battery. Nothing happened! I was sure that I did everything right so, I tried it again and got the same results, nothing! I looked at O. C. for an answer and he crawled out from under the driller. About the same, time I decided to try again. O. C. had made about six feet from the driller when I made the connection. The dynamite went off with a very loud BOOM! Rocks were flying everywhere! O. C. turned, took two steps and as if he were trying to fly like Superman, threw both hands in front of him and dove back under the driller. The rocks were falling all around him. I was on my knees laughing at the sight. After the rocks and dust had settled, O. C. crawled out from his shelter. He slowly walked over to me and said something like:”Wh Wh Wh what are you trying to do boy, kill me?” We were not given the best equipment to work with so there had to be some problems along the way. One of the main things you need on a large piece of equipment is brakes. This driller had air brakes. The air brakes have an air pump on it to keep air pressure built up to keep the brakes working. Unfortunately for us on this day the brakes were going out. We were on the edge of a very steep cliff trying to dig the last of the four holes for the tower. I had backed the truck into position and locked everything down. We then took some large rocks and scotched the wheels for extra protection. Everything was going well for us until we hit rock again. We couldn’t risk moving the machine again. O. C. said that we would leave the machine where it was. After setting the dynamite, he would lower the auger down to the top of the hole to keep the rocks from doing any damage to the truck. I asked him if he was sure about this plan. I got his assurance that it was the right thing to do. Who was I to argue? After jack hammering several holes getting ready to insert the dynamite, O. C. said that he thought we had better put in one more just to make sure we got it right the first time. I think that made about four whole sticks. That was more than we had ever used before. I ran the wires to the compressor while O. C. lowered the auger to the top of the hole. We then took our positions, I touched the wires to the battery, and all four sticks went off as planned. What happened next was not planned. As the dynamite went off, the blast lifted the rear of the driller about three feet off the ground. The boom that held the auger, which was at the time about fifteen feet tall, began to shake a little. It then slowly moved to the side a few inches, it then turned loose and fell to the ground. I was in complete shock as I looked at my partner who, was just standing there calmly watching the whole thing unravel before our eyes. When he did speak his response to the disaster was:”Boy, I think
we may have used one stick too many.” That was an understatement if I ever heard one. I knew we were going to be fired for this. He walked over to the truck, picked up the microphone on the radio and called the office. All he said was “we were going to need another driller and a wrecker.” About two hours later we had another driller and went back to work. We finished that job a few weeks later. Chapman Construction Company asked us to move to another job down in south Texas. O. C. was not going to leave Trenton and neither was I. That ended our work with them. It was also the last time I worked with O. C. Robinson. We remained good friends for years and we told those stories many times. I think as with all good stories, they get a little better each time we told them. Also, like a fine wine, they get better with age!
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.