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there is awfully little to say to a diary.

Overwhelming, stupendous diary, CH. I read it breathlessly yesterday evening, and have again now.

It tickled a memory too, albeit not as gruelling as yours. It took some searching to realise it was the feeling of being 1600 meters underground, boots in 20 cm of water, trying to measure the orientation of a fault in darkness except for the light on my helmet, perspiration dripping down my face and the sound of drills blasting through my earplugs... Mining easily ranks up as the second circle of hell, if you'd ask me. Receiving that first breath of fresh air when racing up the mine shaft was a godsend.

by Nomad on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 04:09:36 PM EST
A heartfelt thanks to all who appreciated my adventure, and my attempt to write it.  And thanks for sharing the mining, roughneck and oil field stories.  Thanks also to stormy present, who reminded me that the damn task was illegal according to OSHA standards.  I couldn't believe that this crew of hard-assed bikers (like Chrome Carl) were teary-eyed beaten coming out of that hold.

A strange end-note.  When i went back to pick up my last check, they asked why i hadn't been back at work.  I told them i thought "go home" meant being fired.  They said no, it just meant i was finished for that night, but that my work was good and i could keep working for them.  After that experience, i declined.

btw, i went out for drinks with some of the crew at a seedy waterfront biker bar later.  i expected they would be laughing at me for being a xxxxx (wimp).  Instead i had won respect, for they said, it was a bad tank, and we shouldn't have been in there.  wow.

5 weeks, every day (i missed 1 and a half days), amongst the hardest in my life.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 05:04:43 PM EST
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that served Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna, NY in 1966. I lived about 16 miles to the east and, of course, worked night shift. I could see the lighted sky above the plant about 12 miles away, begin to smell the metallic oxide smell at about 9 miles, and I could hear a low roar at about 6 miles. Walking through the main gate was very much like entering the Gates of Hell.

As other comments have noted, no OSHA, no EPA, no safety glasses, no steel-toed shoes, no ear plugs, no respirators. No smiles on the guys going inside, either - a few on the guys leaving.

In 1976 I was the second-shift union steward in a steel foundry. They had a paper mask pinned on the wall in the "Human Resources" room. I asked them if that was for lung protection. Answer was a smirking "yes"; Could I have one? "Yes". How much? "Free". How often could I get one? "One per day". By the time I left that plant in late 1977, about half of my shift was wearing them, and we could get two per day (change out after lunch). The one comment from all of the users - "hey, when I spit, it's not all black."

This foundry was the oldest operating steel foundry in the country at the time. The sign-up list from 1865 was also hanging on the HR office wall. Of course, it had been upgraded many times, but the actual labor practices were essentially unchanged. "Riddle, ram, and run." One night the main dust collection system for the shakeout stopped running. The foreman wanted me to keep the guys working, but I led them outside instead. He relented, but I still got a meeting at HR the next day, plus the day-shift steward told me that I really shouldn't stop work, unless the foreman concurred. I told them that I would most certainly stop work for all such situations. Even guys on day-shift came up to me and thanked me for the action. Good times!

As you say, it certainly makes one understand which side we're on - and why.

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 06:36:34 PM EST
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    The entire yard's called together for a safety meeting, "sponsored" by the engineering management of the company operating the tanker berthed this morning.  Forty or sixty men, and one writer, circle the white hat chiefs, the tanker's huge stern looming over the drydock.  The white hats stress the importance of safety procedures, paying attention, keeping alert, noticing possible dangers or unsafe conditions, and reporting them to your supervisors whenever discovered, like we'd snitch on our brothers.  There's not one word you could disagree with, and it all seems so conscious.  They care about our welfare, and they want this docking to be productive and safe.  To prove to us their deep desires, we're given commemorative safety decals to stick like medals to our hardhats, i guess so we can tell our grandchildren we were there when the SS (name of Texas city, of course, it's a fucking oil tanker. Editor.  Fuck off Ed, bring on the lawsuits, the shit tanker is the Galveston, Writer.) got refitted in drydock, safely, if we're still able to have genetically whole children after working here.  Why they didn't hand us each fifty bucks if they wanted to emphasize safety is beyond my laborer's laborious comprehension.
    But at least i've got a decal on my hardhat.


"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 02:30:04 AM EST
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