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Monday, April 6, 2009

HOM: Interplay III

The millwright was a character. He was a little on the lazy side and sometimes only marginally competent, and that made him the butt of a lot of jokes. When a millwright was needed on deck, the #1 lathe operator would blow three blasts on the big horn used to start and end breaks. The millwright had to respond ASAP. Sometimes he slipped into the electrician's shop and curled up in a big bin full of rags for a quick nap, since there were usually no electricians on our shift. A couple of the lathe operators saw him do that one night, so they wired the door to that shop shut & then blew the horn for him. He finally responded, but then had to put a new hasp on the door -- he broke the old one off getting out. Another time, a few folks tipped off the whole crew that he was asleep in there, so when the shift ended, everyone tiptoed out and left him snoring in peace. There was a rumor that, when installing some bracing under the lathe, he welded the brace to the shaft on the motor, and then couldn't understand why he kept blowing fuses when he powered up the machine. I can't vouch for the truth of this, though. He had a little three-wheeled electric cart he'd zoom around on. It was kind of like a mini-chariot and he drove it standing up. Someone hitched the cart to a post with twenty feet or so of rope and then had the horn blown. The cart stopped at the end of the rope, the millwright kept going for a ways on his belly. People boobytrapped his cart fairly regularly by greasing the grips on the handbars and other such shenanigans. He had a bigger electric tool cart he sometimes drove and its seat seemed like a great place for folks to wipe their greasy hands. One of the other millwrights caught a pigeon up in the chip bins, took it in to the breakroom and put it in our millwright's lunch pail. The breakroom had tables with benches and the millwright went off the bench backwards when the pigeon came out in his face. He used to go through my lunch box looking for reading material, since I sometimes brought in a magazine. He peeved me to the point that I emptied a tube of Superglue into the padlock on his tool locker after he just dumped my magazine on the ground after he got done looking at it. He filed a complaint that someone had tried to break into the locker and broke a key off in the lock. The tool lockers were simple wooden closet-sized boxes. Later on, someone took the hasp off of his locker, spun the locker 180 degrees and remounted the hasp and a set of dummy hinges on the back of the locker. He spent twenty minutes trying to pry the door open and complaining that someone had nailed it shut before the truth dawned on him. He was working on number one lathe and had to pull a fuse out of the 440 volt circuit. He accidentally shorted the fuse out and the resulting arc sounded like a .357 pistol going off and gave him a pretty good flash burn. He came scrambling out on deck on his hands and knees, red faced and panting. A few months later, he had to pull the same fuse. He was pretty pale and quite careful this time, but just as he pulled the fuse free the lathe operator smashed a hammer into the steel decking by his feet. It scared him so bad he cried. The mill got in a shipment of special alloy pipe for a project. It sat around for a while and then disappeared, about the same time the wright was showing off a nice pipe grill guard he had built & mounted on his truck... TBC (Me) (Blacktail Books)