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Blood Brothers - GC Line - Part 1

It was November 1996 or ‘97, in Northern California. I was working at GC Line, for PG&E, for Ben Arvig, aka Gentle Ben.  

We were reconductoring 20+ miles of double circuit 115kv towers, with 477 ACSR, from San Anselmo sub to Novato. Ben, known for being the size of a large Grizzly Bear, could be fun loving with his close friends, but he didn’t put up with any BS from anyone else. Though, even they were careful not to poke the bear too much!

Ben was a hell of a good lineman and a hardworking and driven Sub Foreman. He reported to Les Hudson (a Legend), our GF. At that time, Ben only had a four-man crew and was tasked with a 115kv reconductor job, probably the biggest job of his career thus far. The job had some complications to it like most do but a job like this would be doable for a rising star Sub Foreman in GC like Ben.

The job:

  • Prep the towers and right-a-way for the wire pull.
  • Beef up the towers, as necessary.
  • Build rider structures.
  • Spot tools & material ahead of time (i.e., insulators, vibration dampers, etc.)
  • Set up the wire and pulling sites.
  • Pull the wire.
  • Repeat.

The weather was stormy and wet, but the temps weren’t bad, 40’s – 60’s. The crew was great. Ben was a great leader and we worked hard. Our crew - Gentle Ben, Rafael Alvarez, aka Spider-lineman, Hog, our EO, and me - was small between pulls,

We were working 6 days a week, usually 10–16-hour days typically. Whatever it took that day. And as can be expected, we would occasionally get pulled off for storm work, as well.

Life was great! OT was good; everything seemed perfect. I was living between Sebastopol and Freestone off Hwy 12 on Gold Ridge Road and working out of the San Rafael yard, near the San Quentin prison. It was an hour plus commute, at 5am, on the way in and usually double that on the way home. All of the North Bay GC Crews were great. After work, we would build the lineman’s houses, pour concrete, or something as well as hang out together. We were a rowdy bunch.  It was a great working season if you know what I mean. We worked, laughed, played, and sometimes fought together.

To be continued

Mark Groves - Lineman

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