On Monday, I showed up and found my new foreman. He asked me what I knew about running wire. Remembering the outcome of my last promotion, I told him the truth and said nothing.
He handed me three ratchets and told me to have the mechanic weld the sockets and then meet him over at the material yard. At the material yard, I found Don with two other apprentices as scraggly and skinny as me. They were standing next to three broken shopping carts that were lying in the mud. Don went on to explain to us how we were going to climb up the tower, coon down the insulators to the wire bundle, and drop a hand line down. The ground men would pull up the shopping carts, aka spacer buggies, to us, followed by the springy things called spacers. He showed us how to hang the buggy on the wire and secure it to the insulators and get in it. “Tie your ratchets onto the spacer buggy. If you drop it mid span, you’ll be the one beating the bushes for it.” At least the sockets couldn’t fall off.
Nothing about this seemed like a good idea to me but I didn’t want to look like a sissy, so I just nodded my head. Plus, I had gotten a step increase and was up to almost $8.00 per hour now.
Don showed us how to wind a rope tail around the wire for a brake and repeated himself multiple times, “If you let the buggy get away it will coast all the way down to the belly of the span and you’ll have to possum down the wire to get it.” We secured our ratchets to the buggy and loaded them up. Once out there, looking up at the four-wire bundle, I could see why they needed skinny guys. And being dumb didn’t hurt either.
Don put the counter on my buggy and sent up a piece of paper with the measurements on it at each tower. It went slow at first but within a week we were recklessly racing our buggies from structure to structure.
Don was right, when my buddy lost his buggy trying to get a head start on us, it coasted all the way down to mid span. Initially, he was able to crab down the four-wire bundle, for about fifty feet or so. Then without spacers, the wires just splayed apart and he ended up “possuming” all the way down to the waiting buggy. We howled insults at him as we sped past. The loser bought the first beer every night.
We pulled ourselves south for the rest of the year. We crossed rivers, highways, hills, valleys, spotting a lot of deer along the way. Probably over sixty miles or so before we were done.
At the end, the big boss sent us home with a 12-hour double time bonus for getting the last spacers installed during a snowstorm. The first test energization happened on schedule that same night.
If you ever drive under the 765 KV line just north of Harrisville NY, check out the middle bundle spacers. Those are mine.
Like I said, best job ever.
Joe Rosenfeld - Lineman