In Case You've Wondered

My blog is where my wandering thoughts are interspersed with stuff I made up. So, if while reading you find yourself confused about the context, don't feel alone. I get confused, too.

If you're here for the stories, I started another blog: scratchingforchange.blogspot.com

One other thing: sometimes I write words you refuse to use in front of children, or polite company, unless you have a flat tire, or hit your thumb with a hammer.

I don't use them to offend; I use them to embellish.

jescordwaineratgmail.com

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Blue Tops

Decades ago, after the layout crew drove the stakes to alignment and grade, they took a piece of blue lumber crayon and marked the top of the stake. This gave the stake a distinction when the earth, or base finally reached grade. Without it, the wood stake was damned near impossible to discern among the similar colored material.

While this helped to locate the stake, the motor grader operator still needed a helper. That helper "ran the blue tops" with the operator to keep them exposed and tell the operator how much high, or low, they were with the grade.

I had the "opportunity" to run blue tops; even for long periods of time. Others avoided it, but I relished it over other labor work. No heavy lifting was required and it gave me the opportunity to work with the survey crew when they were setting new, or replacing stakes. Learning how to set grade was a step up from grunt work and I intended to move beyond just being a laborer.

So how was it? There was a lot of running; especially when you had a good operator. As he motored along adjusting his machine, I would quickly uncover the stakes as he passed, or tap them back into the hole, if he managed to pull one loose. After that, I had to run to get in front, gauge the amount of fill, or cut, and signal the operator.

As we worked, the compactors worked along behind. The constant weight was steadily compacting the material, which would eventually reach the required density.

 A good operator would pass over the stake almost on grade, which would only require a quick swipe with my boot to uncover the stake and hurry to the next.

A bad operator could cover the stake with enough material to make it hard to find. Uncovering the stake took longer, which meant a sprint to the next stake to keep up.

With an asphalt road, the base grade would eventually be so close, the stakes weren't really relevant. At that point, the operator's skills came into play. They would set the blade, hardly touch the controls and the "ride" was established. While the stakes were important, the final profile of the road was more important. The operator would remove the final imperfections of grade stakes and the final compacted material was sprayed with an asphalt prime. After that, either a seal coat or asphalt was placed.

I'm guessing I was in the best shape of my life at that time. Considering I was getting paid to be running in the outdoors, the trade of physical fitness for money was a pretty good deal. Other than the pay, I'm thinking there are people - stuffed into a cubicle - that wish they had the same opportunity.

15 comments:

  1. Are you by any chance, into Cranes? My brother-in-law was the hardest worker I knew, and now he's in his 70's. It's as if the entire brain trust of his empire will be gone soon. Never to be duplicated.

    See if you can pull up PADGETT CRANES in Indiana.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I need to apologize. I run hydraulic cranes; even wrote a post about a lift.

      Here you go:
      http://sratchingtoescape.blogspot.com/2011/09/makng-lift.html

      Delete
  2. Well, you need to pick his brain and document what you find - even if it doesn't make sense. Old hands, like your brother-in-law probably forgot more than most people will ever know.

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    Replies
    1. definitely. No one wants to work anymore.

      Delete
  3. Here ya go sugar: http://padgett-inc.com/fabricationerection/sheet-plate-fabrication.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They're one of the "big boys". From what I read, they're still owned by a few individuals and not overwhelmed by corporate bureaucracy. Hopefully they stay like that for a long time. Corporations have a tendency to gut the better companies, remove any innovative thinking and making the typical employee run like a scalded dog at the first chance to escape.

      Delete
  4. > I'm guessing I was in the best shape of my life at that time.

    I hear that. When I was in school I worked part time hustling shopping carts and stocking shelves. Always moving. Just a month after starting my cube job, I could already see the baby fat setting in...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If your appetite stays, the inevitable is only months away.

      Delete
  5. And here: http://padgett-inc.com/cranes/crane-services.html

    Damn.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Fascinating. I still remember, while still in the service, my three mile morning runs. Now, a full trot would wear me out.

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    1. The first day I ran blue tops, I had on a pair of Red Wing steel toe slip on boots. By that evening, I had a new pair of lightweight, lace-up work boots.

      That first day was brutal.

      Delete
  7. You commented at Lotta's about that concrete vault.

    The foundations we lay for society are often invisible, but necessary for the success of that society.
    The posts you write may influence that one person who influences a nation.
    Philosophical enough?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, if I influence anyone, I hope it's for the better.

      Delete
  8. " the trade of physical fitness for money was a pretty good deal."
    We barter our time (a finite resource) for money.
    Some people's time is more valuable spent in physical exercise, some in mental, some in both.
    Some have other sources of wealth and need not barter their time. Perhaps they charitably give it away, or squander it (if you believe we have a moral/spiritual obligation to steward our time).
    A blessed man is one who is paid to do what he enjoys.

    ReplyDelete