Occasionally we had to set a pole in a pasture with a steep slope and no trees.
If the only place to put the digger derrick was well below the pole, then it became a hand dig job. We would dig the pole hole and then hand dig an anchor above the pole hole. After winching the pole into position off the anchor, we would dig a “gopher” hole. That’s a trench for the butt of the pole to rest in, acting as a guiding for the pole to the hole.
It was necessary to put a vertical object in the pole hole for the pole to slide down as it was being raised. Otherwise, the pole would dig into the earth as it was being raised. You could use a spade and spoon handles or a board.
One crew I worked on had a bulldozer cutting edge that we set in the hole. It was about 5’ long and had a bar welded to the end that kept the piece from falling into the hole. Once the pole was in the hole three or four feet you had it made. That worked really well.
Now sometimes if the pole was small enough and we had enough muscle we would raise the pole by hand. We would use pike poles and a deadman for that.
Another trick was to wrap, and staple, guy wire around the butt several times, then catch the guy off to the anchor. That allowed the pole to start raising before it went downhill too much. Next, we hooked the digger truck boom winch to the pole somewhere above balance. Raising the boom as high as it would go we would pull the pole up with the boom. It helped to have a couple of tag lines on the pole to guide it. Certainly better than standing next to the pole trying to guide with pike poles. The “gopher “ hole helped tremendously to keep the pole lined up. Using the boom put a lot of strain on the hydraulic cylinders. I know of at least one time when the hydraulic cylinder bent.
We used whatever we could to set poles; dump truck beds, forklifts, backhoes, bulldozers, etc. Once we were setting a 30’ service pole by hand and a tree crew ran over to help. There were too many people. The pole lifted before the butt started into the hole. We lost the pole, and everybody jumped out of the way! No one was hurt and we set it as planned with fewer people.
Dick Weaver- Retired Lineman