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The first time I met him, I was a young lineman, and he was a veteran troubleshooter. He wasn’t big but you knew he wasn’t someone to take lightly. 

He was slim but sturdy, with a gravelly voice and carried himself with an air of confidence that someone of his experience would. He had a penchant for being a maverick, non-filtered cigarettes, and linework.

A few years later, he returned to the construction department, opting to work steady shifts. Although we worked in different groups, I had the opportunity to work alongside him on many occasions. Being the junior man, I would just automatically want to take on the larger share of work and try to give him the break. He was the respected and seasoned mechanic; he deserved the chance to have an easy day. But he wasn’t that kind of guy. He liked the work, being up there, talking, laughing and being a partner, working alongside you. If he was assigned to a gang or truck, other than his own, his climbing tools went with him. And he didn’t shy away from using them.

One day when both of our partners were on vacation, he was reassigned to my gang.  We were replacing several sections of old secondary wire in a network area. A simple job, but the racks and wire were in poor condition.

 My truck, at the time, was a Material Handler, one of our organization’s first generation of that type of equipment. It was a good rig, but slow. It had a two-speed throttle for the boom, that moved at a snail’s pace compared to most of the other buckets in our department.

I was up on the dead-end pole, as we were pulling in the new wire over the old. He was the ground man, guiding the pull. Suddenly, the pulling basket, momentarily, hung up in one of the racks. When it released, it jerked up into the existing bare secondaries, setting off a reaction of arcing, burning and swaying cables. What began in one section, cascaded along the run of wires. I grabbed the secondaries at my location and tried to pull some tension to stop the swinging and banging. Too late! The only thing to do was to get past the initial problem and hold the phases apart…before everything burned down.

I started to boom down. Seeing how much time this might take, he grabbed his tools from the bin and without hesitation, ran down the street to the next pole. He was up and steadying the phases as I was cradling the boom. It was a mix of emotions, a bit distressing, realizing the time it took to get down and at the same time, fun, seeing him respond in such a professional and calm manner. His actions helped to avoid a potential fiasco.

Terry Bellew

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