“You Want to Ride the Ball…..”

“You Want to Ride the Ball…..”

(originally written in March 2017)

 

 

I heard some version of that sentence at least three times. It still haunts me a bit from time to time. Allow me to work up to giving you more information at the end of the blog.

During the summer of 1978, I began working as a Union Laborer. School was out and I wanted to earn some extra money. One of my brothers knew the Union Steward and he had no problem getting me a union card. That is, he had no problem after I paid $500 for “dues” which was interesting since the union only charged $350. It is called “greasing the wheel” and I was set. I had no issue with paying the money because a union worker made a good wage. I was set to work from June 1- August 10.

Grab a Broom

I was assigned to work at the new power station they were building just outside of Havana. The first day they took all my information and assigned a foreman to me. I was to grab a broom and clean all day. They had part of the plant up and union men of all trades were working on it. I was to clean an area that was the outside perimeter of the plant. I was told NOT to clean the inner circle. It was open to the sky in that area and workers were working high and they wanted to keep people out of the area on the ground level. They told me that was to prevent injury and things could be accidentally dropped from high. They assured me nothing had every fallen but it could. By 9AM I am cleaning and sweeping and leaning on my broom like any good union laborer when about 10:30AM I heard a whizzing sound and then workers yelling. One of the groups above had allowed a roll of cable to slip out of their grasp and it can down to the ground with a whizz. Whiping around and it would have decapitated any one in its path. So much for nothing every dropping.

Geniuses at Work

A couple of interesting things happened that I want to share that didn’t directly affect me but is related to the power plant construction. The first one deals with a railroad. There was a crew that was to build a railroad track from one end of the site to the other. Rails were mounted on five foot planks and then they were placed together (linked) to form the tracks. Problem was… they started with a crew on one end and another crew on the other end and they miss meeting each other by a good 50 feet. They had to go back and remove some of them and re-do the linking so they could complete the project. This took about 3 days to get it back on track.

Another day here was a horrible thing happen. Every day new pieces of steel were lifted up and beams were placed in the building of the plant. One particular day I happened to notice them swinging in the beam and a guy standing on the adjacent beam slowly signalling the beam into the correct place. He got to the last part and told the operator to set it down. Just as he did it moved about 3-4 inches and it was set down on the feet of the guy doing the signalling. Long story short he was taken to hospital and had three toes on each foot gone. The beam had crushed them. Ugh.

Sitting Idly

Another thing was I was working in the back lot of the site and I came across a guy sitting in a crane. He was just sitting there. He sat there for about 4 hours and then when I came back past him I struck up a conversation. I asked him why his crane was not running and why he just sat there. He said several days before he was sent out there to work and when he was done they instructed him to leave his crane and they would have him bring it up the next day. Problem was… in between that time they had unloaded a very large load of lumber in the path of his return. They couldn’t get him back. He was told to go to his machine and just sit there until the path was clear for him to return. It was 6 days later that they finally got him back. He was paid the entire time to just sit there.

What to Do With Lazy Workers

One oddity happened. I had worked there for about 3 weeks with a guy named “Butch”. He didn’t work hard and he showed up about three days per week. The supervisors called a short meeting one morning and informed all of the workers that Butch had been promoted and was to become a supervisor immediately. Wait, this is the guy that doesn’t work hard and only 3 days per week? Yep. About 3-4 weeks later we got the scoop. They put him in that job to make him show up. It worked. Butch was there everyday and didn’t have to work, only supervise. I guess somebody was a genius to think of that.

Jackhammer

I had a horrible couple of weeks when I was assigned, daily, to run a jackhammer. They needed concrete taken out of a 80’x60′ area that was 14 inches deep. It was a mistake and they neeed to rectify it. So for about 10 working days I ran that hammer. It was hard work, slow work and when I got home I was shaking a bit like a jackhammer. Then they rewarded me for four days ( I never complained to them about the jackhammer) and was given a job “spotting.”

Making Sure Nobody Gets Covered Up

This job is on the ground as the backhoes are working. The holes are about 40 feet deep they have a laborer in the hole doing some digging to make it a clean dig. So I stood on top of the hole and watched the laborer work as the backhoe also worked in the same hole….. if the laborer should get covered by the backhoe I was to signal the operator to stop and then I was to alert others that he had been covered up. Then three of us were to go into the hole and dig him out. It never happened.

The Ball

One day my foreman’s boss approach me and ask me if I wanted to work high. I asked him what he meant and he pointed to the top of the building. I stood there for a long while and then I began to talk.

Me: “You want me to work up there?”

Boss: “Yes, it’s an easy job. All you do all day is make sure everyone has water. You check the water jugs.”

Me: “I don’t know.”

Boss: ” It’s easy. They have flooring and railings up there and besides you make a $1 more per hour.”

Me: ” Ok, I guess I can.”

Boss: ” Good. You want to ride the ball up?”

Me: “huh?”

Boss: “The ball. The ball on the crane. just grab ahold and ride it to the top.”

Me: “Nah, I don’t think so.”

Boss: “Ok, there are steps that go up there. ”

So off I went. I found the stairs and headed up. Oh but wait! The stairs ended at the fifth floor and there are eight stories to the building. What am I looking at? Oh my. There was a straight up ladder that extended to the sixth, seventh and eighth story. Straight up. I stood there for a few seconds when some random guy came by and asked me if there was a problem. I told him I was unsure about climbing the ladder to the top. He responded with, ” do you want to ride the ball up?” I declined and grab the rungs of the ladder. White knuckling my way one at a time. I reached the top level. What am I going to do now? I had to swing my legs over to get on the flooring of the work area. I froze for a bit. Some guy asked me if I was ok and I shook my head affirmatively and slowly swung my leg over and crawl over to reach the top.

I was at the top and not feeling very well.  My new supervisor approached me and asked me if I was ok.

New Boss: ” hey buddy, you ok, you don’t look so good.”

Me: ” I guess I am ok.”

New Boss: “Great, let me get you started and you now that you make a $1 more per hour working high, don’t you? (I nodded) You have five areas up here to make sure they have adequate water supply. If a water jug gets almost empty you need to signal the guy down there running the ball. Tell him and he will send a new one up.”

So he pointed to my first area and I started over there…but one thing didn’t look good. They told me there was flooring a railings up here. Technically, they were correct. BUT it was boards running from beam to beam with a rope railing around the edge. GULP. So I started over. Slowly I inched my way over, holding on to the railing. The boards were bowing in the middle and I felt really uncomfortable. I reached the water and it was fine. I told myself I couldn’t do this job. I inched my way back and got to some solid footing when another random guy stopped me.

Random Guy: “Hey buddy, you ok?”

Me: “No I don’t think so. I don’t feel real good working high.”

Random Guy: “But you get a $1 more per hour working up here.”

(I thought that $1 more isn’t going to help me when I die up here)

Me: ” I think I need to go back down.”

Random Guy: “Ok, you want to ride the ball down?”

Me: “No thanks.”

So I decided to forego the dollar more and head back down. I walked over and then it struck me that I need to go back down a straight ladder and I froze. I had to swing my leg over and grab the rungs of the ladder at the same time. I stood there. Another guy asked me if I was ok and repeated the same offer to have me grab the big ball on the crane and ride it down. I mustered the courage to climb down. I finally, reached the ground, and my legs were shaking and I felt ill.

Once on ground,  the first supervisor came to me and I told him I couldn’t work high. He said it should be worth it for a $1 more. I made some comment about being at the top and seeing Canton from there and how I wanted to live to have a family and the dollar meant nothing to me. I told him I was sick and was going home.

That night, laying in bed, I could visualize everything I saw from the time starting up to getting back on the ground. I passed up the extra money but that didn’t bother me. The next day back to work, the supervior told me that less than 20% were cut out to work high.

I wonder if things would have been different if I would have ridden the ball.

 

 

Previous Blog Posts:

Sunday Fight Behind the Root Beer Stand

Remembering My Time Around Easton

“Oh Well, I Will Strike Her Out Anyway”

What Were Our Parents Thinking?

Call the Sheriff

Kilbourne Condom

I’m Still Paying For It

My First School Basketball Team

The History of Me- My Birthday

 

Words From your Grandpa

Words From your Grandpa

I really don’t anticipate that my grandchildren will ever read these words but I plan to tell them anyway. Being a grandparent is an awesome thing that happens to a person. It is kind of like a reward for enduring the parenting years. I never dreamed of being a grandparent. Not because I didn’t expect my kids to get married and have children but I never thought about getting old. Really, I didn’t think about all those old people I remember from my days would translate into me being old enough to have grandchildren.

There’s something to be said about grandkids. They are transforming to the soul. Watching, listening and being part of their life is an awesome thing to be part of. Whether you view it personally or it is shared through Facebook, FaceTime or some other means, it is a fun thing to be part of their growing up.

Yes, it is much different when you do that as a parent. You are the one that is most responsible for shaping them into becoming functioning adults. Now those kids and their spouses have done fantastic work in raising their kids and have allowed us to be part of the outside shaping of their lives.

I’m still learning this grandpa thing and how to be good at it. I will always be a dad and that role will never end even after I am gone. They will continue to hear my inner voice by the things I said and now will be able to pass that wisdom to my grandchildren. I think being a grandfather means I can spend my time offering them love and the little bits of wisdom I’ve managed to collect over the years.

 

To my Grandchildren:

You can do anything. Sure, I can sense the apprehension of that statement but you were born with a purpose. No one is like you and no one has the same gifts as you do. Use those gifts and trust them when the opportunity arises to do good in this world. Be confident in those gifts and use them with confidence and passion.

Trust Your Parents. Yes, that is the same as obeying them. You will not always agree with them in what they are saying or doing but they deserve your unconditional love. By doing this, you will create a lifelong bond. This bond will be needed when you make a mistake or are dealt a cruel loss. Having your parents love and loving them back will soften the blow when hard times come into your life. Respect your Parents.

Listen to your heart. Tune out all the distractions in life and all the noise around you. This allows you to understand and you will hear your heart that God uses to pour out his love for you. You are beautiful. You don’t need to be perfect to be beautiful so allow love to stream over you which will make you feel valuable, worthy and beautiful.

 

 

Enjoy Life. Do things that are fun. It doesn’t matter if you are a child or an adult. Enjoy. Dance, jump and skip around every chance you find. Live life to the fullest. Take time to sketch something, play a game, read a book or color. Find time to enjoy at all stages of your life.

 

Don’t be Judgmental. You don’t know what someone else is going through until you’ve walked in their shoes.

 

 

Practice Good Manners. It doesn’t cost a thing. Practice them and make an impression.

 

Work Hard. Every day is an opportunity to be better then they were the day before.

 

Seek a Valuable Life. A valuable life isn’t always found in what you do or what you have; a valuable life begins with understanding that the point of being alive is to love as much as you can along the way. A valuable life is about giving love to yourself when you need it and giving love to others when it’s requested. A valuable life is about sharing your heart when you are ready. A valuable life is measured by the times you trade your mistakes for grace; bitterness for forgiveness and hate for love.

 

Love God with All Your Heart. What does this actually mean? You take time each day to work on building a relationship with him. You do that through prayer. Give him the best of your affection. Share your joys with God. Run and Sing to Him. Allow him to know your private hopes and dreams. Let him know you appreciate what he does for you and tell others what he has done. This type of relationship allows you to seek him out when things aren’t going well. Cry to him, Admit you him your human errors. Apologize to him. Be honest with him at all times even when you are angry or disappointed in him. Then listen. Listen closely to the things he says and ask if you don’t understand.

 

These are a few of the things that I believe will help you be a better person.

Love,

Grandpa

 

PS. I’m still learning how to be a good grandfather.

Is Retirement Biblical?

Is Retirement Biblical?

In broad terms, retirement is withdrawing from your work and seeking the ability to live life to the fullest without obligation, worry or commitment. Retirement allows for the mentality to do what you want when you feel like doing it. It is a reward for hard work.

There are those that will tell you that retirement is not biblical? That is not so. The only mention of retirement found in the Bible is stated in Numbers 8:23-26 where God tells Moses that the Levites (who are the priests that are in charge of serving God but doing lots of work around the Tabernacle) would be allowed to begin work at age 25 and then work until mandatory retirement at age 50.

However, these priests were not expected to bag their bags and go the nearest beach in Tel Aviv but were “expected” to begin assisting the younger men in their work. It was a new work now. It was the mentoring of younger men by providing wisdom from their 25 years of experience in serving the Lord.

Now if you go to a Bible Commentary, you are likely to find that the elders are under no obligation to do any work that requires labor but are to become counselors which in turn allows the younger men to assume more responsibilities.

The Bible is full of men that work long into their life such as John the Apostle was still writing while he was in his 90’s. Moses was 80 when he asked for freedom of the Israelites slaves. He worked until he dies at age 120 years old.

Retirement should mean you are no longer doing the work of old but now have increased time and opportunity to do God’s work. This is God’s design. Everyone has the opportunity to use the time given to them after their working retirement. What is important now is we must decide how to use and redeem the time that God has given us. We must take every chance we have to serve the Lord.

One particular job of labor is to be pursued as long as possible and as productive for as long as we can. However, God calls us to labor in his vineyard until he calls us home. Be faithful, glorify God, serve the common good and do all you can to further his kingdom.

 

 

 

 

Sunday Fight Behind the Root Beer Stand

The Fight. Let’s get one thing straight right now. I wasn’t involved in The Fight. I was an accessory I guess, though.  More on that later on.

Sandy VanOrman and I hung out together the last couple years of high school from time to time. We had some interesting things that happened to us together. Here are a few recollections of those times. I remember we used to make tapes together with music and our own broadcast. Such as a newscast that would stop and then a current song was stuck in there to fill in the words we wanted to say. An example might be…. ” Here we are on Michigan Avenue in Chicago” (then the song Walkin’ Down the Street singing do-wah-diddy-diddy-dum-diddy do) and “look there is a man with a gun coming towards us” first would be athe song…(there’s man with a go over there) and followed by (song We Gotta Get Out of This Place, if it’s the Last Thing we ever Do”) We thought they were hilarious.

We both enjoyed music. In fact on February 9, 1964 we went on a youth group trip on the train to Chicago to see a play that was chaperoned by Carol Kreiling. We got home about ten minutes until seven to my house and no one was home. On the TV that night was The Beatles making their first visit to the Ed Sullivan Show. We got two badminton rackets and played along with them in my living room. That was for every song they played and we knew all the words to it. We loved the British Invasion.

Some Sunday Football

Sunday afternoons were spent playing football. We would sometimes play behind the Lutheran Church in Manito with Kirk Hilst, Nello Rossi and a host of others. We would play tackle and it got brutal but we never  broke any bones. On occasion we played on the side yard of Sandy’s house (the one he stills lives in). That lasted for a pure two hours as we started at 1pm and ended at 3pm. This gave me plenty of time to still get to Linda’s house.

Algebra 2 Test

There was only one time I remember doing a bad thing while in high school. I worked the last three years in the principal’s office running errand and doing the leg work instead of going to study hall. During my junior year it was around Christmas time and final exams were upon us. I had ONE teacher in high school in my four years that I didn’t like. I didn’t like him at all. He taught Algebra classes and Geometry. He always had a smart alec thing to say to me. So this Christmas he ran off copies of his Algebra II test and put it in his mailbox. I wasn’t in that class as it was some of the upperclassmen. I swiped one of the tests the day before and decided to give it to Sandy. Lo and behold what did he do? He had a study party somewhere and invited many classmates over to “review” for the test. I was stunned and expecting the word got out. Nope. Sandy never told them where it came from and they all did very well on that test. I dodged a bullet and knew at that moment Sandy had my back.

Drag Race Nationals

I knew nothing about cars. Let me repeat that. Nothing. One day Sandy got tickets to the National Drag Finals in Indianapolis and made plans for us to go. His plans we no lodging, no plans, just go. That first day he was in heaven as we wandered the pit area and he knew every engine and stuff around. I just followed. He talked to everybody and everybody talked to him. About 6pm it was time to get some food and park his car in a bank lot and sleep. Sandy wanders over to me and says, “I got us a room tonight.” Whoa, we were staying in a hotel? Then he says that one of the crew members (4 of them) had offered us their floor to sleep on and he accepted. Did we know these guys? Well, at least I didn’t. Sandy was unfazed and we went to their hotel and slept ( I think my eyes were open all night) on the floor. It was a nice gesture but I had visions of being chopped up while I attempted to sleep. Nothing happened and they invited us to stay close to them all day down in the pit. I can say I went to a Nationals Drag Race but I can’t say I learned much. But Sandy Ford ( he loved his middle name) had a blast and we came home in one piece.

ACT Test Day

Sandy’s mom was a really nice lady but she worried all the time where he was and what he was doing. One particular night we had been out hanging around with Kirk Hilst and wandered back to his house. They had a ping-pong table in the basement and we played and played. It was also the night before Sandy was to take the ACT test. He didn’t tell Kirk or I about that. It was almost 2 AM when we heard footsteps coming down the steps and there was Sandy’s mom, in her housecoat, looking for her son. She saw him playing and stopped in her tracks and exclaimed, “Sandy, you know what time it is? You need to get home, you are taking the ACT test tomorrow.” He told her he woud be home right away. She left and the three of us stood there staring at each other when Sandy exclaimed, “Bup, I think I better go home.”

 

Forest City Church

This is a short story as several youth went to FCCC on Sunday and youth group. It was the boys duty to take the church collection every Sunday. Several times I decided not to go and I always would get a call about 15 minutes before the collection was to be received. They urged me to come and help as there wasn’t enough help. On some occasions Sandy and John Eubanks would stand up front with the money as the preacher gave a prayer for the offering.  They would try to see who could blow out the candles on the alter table (our backs were to a praying congregation)without anyone knowing they were trying to do that.

The Fight

SandyFordVO I think it was a Fall Sunday when this happened. It was likely late September or early October as the weather was pretty decent. This day it was planned. I don’t what started it or anything but today Sandy was schedule to fight Jim Avery behind the root beer stand in the alley in Manito at 2pm. I was going with him. Sandy wasn’t a person that just looked for fights but he didn’t mind sticking up for himself. (my parents asked me later if I know this was going to happen and then they weren’t very pleased with me).

It was 2pm and about 20 teenagers were hanging around in a circle waiting for the main event. Sure enough it started. They danced around and smacked each other with some hard blows but no winner. The crowd was cheering almost non-stop. We were not paying much attention to anything else when the Manito Police car came down the alley and some scattered while others stayed put. The police chief, George DeCanter, got out of the car and asked who was fighting and both of them spoke up and admitted their particiapation. George put them in the police car and told the rest of us to leave or be arrested.

I had one problem. I was 15 and didn’t have my license. You see, I could get several places I wanted to go to without being on the main road. Just take the backway and you can be there. My parents didn’t mind.  Just before they left for the police station, Sandy had George give me his keys and told me to pick him up at the station when things were over. I drove around Manito without a license for a good 80-90 minutes. I probably drove by the police station 10 times waiting for his release. Finally, Sandy got out and he took the wheel. I was feeling like a big shot criminal but never got caught.

We headed out of town and Sandy drove to Havana. He was still talking a mile a minute about the fight, the arrest, the stuff that when on at the station. He drove down to the river to clear his head. We got out and looked away from the car and then we heard the sound. His Ford was rolling down the hill and heading for the river. Luckily, when Sandy got out he didn’t shut his door. We both ran after the car and Sandy jumped in and slammed the brakes about 3 feet from the edge of the water. That would have been something to explain.

 

We had some good times together!

 

 

Previous Blog Posts:

Remembering My Time Around Easton

“Oh Well, I Will Strike Her Out Anyway”

What Were Our Parents Thinking?

Call the Sheriff

Kilbourne Condom

I’m Still Paying For It

My First School Basketball Team

The History of Me- My Birthday

Remembering My Time Around Easton, Illinois

I spent my first 7-8 years growing up in the Easton School District and around their activities. There are numberous things I remember from that time that I will give some recollections about.

Grade School

EastonILEaston Grade School did not have kindergarten so I entered the first grade with Miss Corbin as my teacher. She was a disciplinarian and the principal of the school. You had to tow the line with her. My classroom was up the stairs and to the left. Everyday before school, if the weather was decent, we played bombardment on the concrete just in front of the school. It was 1st grade through 6th grade playing together. I don’t know how it started but everyday this 6th grade girl tried to get me out. I could always manage to catch her thrown ball. All I remember was she was a minister’s daughter. That would have been in the 58-59 school year.

The only time I remember EVER getting in trouble in school was in the 2nd grade. I had Jane Pottorf as my teacher and the room was up the stairs and to the right. This particular day we were practicing for our Christmas program at the high school on the stage. Our class was backstage and Randy Phelps and I were horsing around and I pushed him. He fell into the backdrop and it almost feel over. Miss Corbin marched over and asked what happened and I told her. She proceeded to give me two swats on my butt and that was the end of things. Boy, that could have been a real issue if I knocked the scenery over.

I made myself very aggravagted one day which was Halloween. I didn’t want anyone to know who I was in costume and kids wore them to school. This day I was able to get to school without many knowing it was me. Classmates kept asking who I was so Ben Walters started chasing me. I was the only one in that class that was faster than he was. He didn’t catch me and quickly announced, “that’s is Tom Knuppel because I can’t catch him.” I was irritated at myself for not thinking about that first.

BUS

This is not a big story but I can remember something that would not “fly” in today’s world. Riding the school bus after school was not a fun experience as we were the last ones to get off. We lived on a farm about 2.5 miles from Easton and about a mile from Knuppel’s station. so what we did was get off the bus at the corner of Rt. 10 and Lowers’ Road and walked home. Four of us did that. right down the side of Rt 10 to our house which was about a mile and a half from our house. We got home a good 20 minutes before the bus would have let us off. I was about 7 yrs old, Lyle was 12, John was 14 and Jane was probably 17 years old. We did that everyday. Sometimes we would get a ride home from Carol Kreiling who was drive home from her teaching job in Mason City. Try getting off the bus anywhere but your stop nowadays!

Easton Merchants Softball

My brother Bill played summer softball for the Easton Merchants. They played in Peoria once a week at the Proctor Center. I would try to find a way to the game as many times as possible. Once I was at Knuppel’s station (I had walked there) when I remembered they played that night. I went to the stop sign at the corner of Rt 10 and Rt 136 and waited for them to pull up to the stop. When the car came to the stop (with six large adults in it) Bill told me they didn’t have any room for me as the car was full but somebody said let him go, We’ll make room. I felt special. Some of the players I recollect are Ron Trimpe as pitcher, Zeke Pottorf was the catcher, Jim Trimpe at first, dont recall second base, Tub Pottorf at shortstop and Bill Trimpe at third base. I know my borther, Bill Knuppel played center field but the rest of the outfield escapes me. Bim Estes was on the team and also pitched and was, in my recollection, the most fun of the team (he hailed from Canton). Some of the tougher teams in this league were the She-Kat Club and Palmer House. In the area they had a little general store on the corner about a block away and…. here I was about 6-7-8 years old walking down there by myself getting a sno-cone. Life appeared simpler in this days and very little reason to be afraid.

Living on the Farm

I have several stories from the farm that I think I will leave for another time. Along with that will be a story or two about going to Easton High School basketball games in 1957 and a mention or two of the local restaurant called Kep’s. Also, Kenneth Kramer and Dr. Yero get a mention in the next part.

 

OTHER BLOG POSTS:

“Oh Well, I Will Strike Her Out Anyway”

What Were Our Parents Thinking?

Call the Sheriff

Kilbourne Condom

I’m Still Paying For It

My First School Basketball Team

The History of Me- My Birthday

« Previous Entries