Working and earning “my keep,” was always paramount as it was for the other three Webb sons. I have mentioned some of those undertakings in previous missives.
Two of us maintained paper routes from elementary school through high school graduation and beyond. Every one of us learned the art of sacking groceries and carrying them to the vehicle for the shopper.
Then, there was the fireworks stand during holidays, plus “clerking” in the variety store that owned the fireworks stand. I have written of nearly blowing myself to “kingdom come” during my bulk gasoline delivery tanker truck.
HOMETOWN TEAGUE was well known for several decades for brick manufactured there. I spent one extraordinarily hot summer pulling platting off the tops of brick kilns that “cooked” in the neighborhood of 10,000 bricks. I tried my hand at one long haul of brick to a house under construction several hours away and that contributed to my lifetime of back problems.
Speaking of hot, I spent a little time at the manufacturing facility of Jack’s Manufacturing Co. putting together the window air fans that were found in many homes prior to the emergence of central heating and air-conditioning.
Of course, one of the hottest jobs I ever held was on the railroad bridge gang pulling damaged cross ties and installing new fully-treated-with-creosote ties. I’m telling you, friends and neighbors, that was Blister City.
But, the most audacious job situation for me was working on a pipeline right-of-way survey crew. It wasn’t particularly hard from a physical labor standpoint, but it was what the job put in my 20-year-old hands — a machete — that I thought made it rather bold.
MY JOB was point man for the survey crew, necessitating the machete to cut a better path through the mostly wooded-terrain that the pipeline was going to traverse.
An earlier crew had surveyed and marked the path, leaving stakes with ribbon to steer the line’s course. Our job was to map the terrain’s physical look and to verify the sightings for keeping the pipeline going in the right direction and to help determine pipe ditch depths for the whole couple of hundred miles. That crew had barely marked the path and did little clearing except as it applied to their route.
As point man, my job was to pull the 100-foot measuring “chain,” and to take the machete they’d placed in my just-out-of-teens hands and cut down bushes and weeds so it would be easy for the contractor crews to dig the ditch and lay the line.
OUR SURVEY crew consisted of three college boys (with me as the eldest) and a young Sinclair Pipeline engineer, who handled the transom and plotted the terrain for the pipeline route. One young man held the large wood and metal gauge that gave readings to the engineer at the back end of the 100-foot chain, so he could plot the elevation.
Out front, I whacked away with the machete to clear the path, using the flagged stakes in the ground left by the initial survey crew.
While I had dreamy visions of heroism in my young head dealing a death blow to some vicious snake that dared cross our path, it never happened nor did we encounter any hostile Indians. And, there was more good news in that we didn’t run into any large animals, other than cattle, that were likely to challenge our progress.
But, the money was good and several nights a week the young engineer took us honkeytonking to “meet chicks.”
Playing with a machete much as Jungle Jim would and chasing chicks a la Engineer, proved a fun job with good money for that summer.
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.