i A Time and a Place...: The Rest of the Story...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Rest of the Story...

It is quite a coincidence that the name of Orin Tucker came up at the 4th lunch.
In the year 1962 I worked for a construction company based in Los Angeles, putting a septic system in Drakesbad State Park in the North-eastern California, Lassen Mountain Park. My foremans' name was Big Jim McDermott. The owner of that construction company was Orin Tucker, the once leader of the Orin Tucker Band with singer, Wee Bonny Baker, who was now Mrs. Orin Tucker. How about that!

While we were working in the park, digging ditches, laying sewer lines and filling springs with gravel to filter water going to the cabins, it began snowing. We worked a day while it was snowing but had to leave before the snow got very deep.

It was 17 miles back to Chester, the nearest town. We had a drag-line we used to help dig the ditches and move dirt. The dragline had tracks instead of rubber tires and the tracks didn't have cleats on them; they were smooth. This would present a problem going back because the dragline had to be driven back and the roads by now were pretty slick. The boom on the dragline was sixty feet long and not retractable. That meant someone had to walk behind the dragline and hold a rope tied to the end of the boom and help guide it around corners.
Guess What? I was next to the youngest member of that crew so, along with the youngest fellow who was 19 years old, I was elected to do the job.

By the time we started back, it was snowing hard and the roads were slick as snot. I forgot the other guys name but he and I tied the rope on the end of the dragline boom and started walking along behind, guiding the boom around curves in the road.

We were doing some heavy duty grumbling and, in a while, Big Jim came along in his jeep and asked how we were doing. We told him we were cold as hell and, being the gentleman he was, he whipped out a bottle of Seagrams and handed it to us and said, "Have a drink and get warm." We were more than happy to do that little thing and we did! Actually, we had more than a few before it was over.

By the time Big Jim left, we were very happy and ready to go to work! In another mile or so, the motor on the dragline heated up and we had to stop for a while. It sat there and proceeded to boil the water out of the radiator. The driver said one of us had to go to the creek just below the road and get a bucket of water. The kid, who was quite a bit drunker than I was, said he'd do it and I agreed.

He put on a pair of hip boots so his legs wouldn't get wet as he sloshed through the snow down the hill to the creek. The snow obscured the bank going down so it was impossible to see just where the edge of the creek was. However, that didn't deter the kid and off down the hill he went. We watched him for a ways until he dropped out of sight. A second later we heard a splash and heard some very bad words being shouted. I had never heard a creek called any of the things he was calling it.

Now it was time to panic. I could imagine the kid floating down the creek so I started down after him.
About half way down I met him coming back up with a bucket of water. I took the bucket and told him to go ahead.

When we got back to the top, he sat down on the edge of one of the tracks.I noticed his legs wouldn't bend so I checked him out.

He began to shiver and I told him to let me pull the boots off him. He agreed and I grabbed one and yanked. He came off the track and sat down abruptly on the road. Evidently his boots had filled with snow and were now trying to freeze solid.

It took us a while to dig the snow out of his boots and get them off his feet. By now he was shivering pretty heavily. His clothes were all soaked so, after we got his boots off, he stripped to his underwear and we wrapped him in a blanket and sat him right next to the motor which we had re-started.
After a while he warmed up and Big Jim brought him a dry change of clothes and we headed out again.

The rest of the trip was uneventful and we reached Chester an hour or so before dark.

After this job, we went to El Portal, the southern entrance to Yosemite Park to install yet another septic system, but that's another stoty.


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