Originally Posted March 9, 2012.
Not too long ago my wife mentioned that we need to paint the dining room. The last time I helped her paint a room I was left with a splotch of white paint down the front of one of my favorite power plant shirts. It looked like I had stood under a tree where a devious pigeon had dropped a well placed excrement.
And like someone with dementia where one thought leads to another fairly unrelated topic, the thought of my Power Plant shirt with the paint drippings reminded me of the day when I came home from work as a summer help during the second summer of Power Plant Mania with little sparkling spatters of silver paint on my jeans (which I proudly wore for the next few years). I had just finished my painting lessons with Aubrey Cargill.
I had the feeling it would be an interesting day when the first thing that Stanley Elmore asked me when I sat down for our morning meeting was, “Kelvin, are you afraid of heights?” Well, since before that day I hadn’t been afraid of heights, I told him I wasn’t. I decided not to mention that my name was really “Kevin”, since I thought he was only calling me “Kelvin” as a joke.
As a side note, Stanley called me Kelvin for most of the summer. One day toward the end of my summer sojourn, when I was sitting in his office he looked at me, then glanced at the name on my hard hat and said, “Hey! Your name is Kevin! I’ve been calling you Kelvin all summer! Why didn’t you say something?” Still thinking this was just part of the same joke he had been cultivating all summer I just shrugged and said, “That’s ok. You can call me Kelvin if you want. Just don’t call me late for supper.”
Back to the story where he asked me if I was afraid of heights:
Then Stanley, who liked most of all to joke around with people, started hinting through facial expressions of excitement (such as grinning real big and raising his eyebrows up to where his hair line used to be when he was younger) and by uttering sounds like “boy, well, yeah…. huh, I guess we’ll see” while shaking his head as if in disbelief. He told me to get with Aubrey after the meeting because there was a job I needed to help him out with. (Ok. I know. Ending a terribly constructed sentence ending with a preposition – how about this instead: He told me to talk to Aubrey after the meeting because I needed to help him out with a job).
Aubrey Cargill was our painter this summer. He worked out of the garage that I worked out of the last 3 years of working as a summer help. There was a paint room in the back of the garage on the side where the carpenter, Fred Hesser built cabinets and other great works of art.
Fred was the best carpenter I have ever met, as well as one of the finest gentlemen I have ever known. He wasn’t in the category of Power Plant Man, as he didn’t involve himself in most of the power plant operations or maintenance, but to this day, Power Plant Men from all over Oklahoma can visit Sooner Plant on overhaul and admire the woodworking masterpieces created by Carpenter Fred many years earlier (this was the summer of 1980).
I had worked with Aubrey my first year as a summer help. The garage hadn’t been built yet, and Aubrey had not been assigned as a painter, as both units were still under construction. Aubrey was the same age as my father and in his mid-forties that first summer.
His favorite buddy was Ben Hutchinson. Wherever one went, the other was not far away. Throughout the first summer, the lake on the hill was still being filled by pumping water up from the Arkansas river.
Most of the last two weeks that summer I worked with Aubrey and Ben picking up driftwood along the dikes that were built on the lake to route the water from the discharge from the plant to the far side of the lake from where the water enters the plant to cool the condensers. The idea is that the water has to flow all the way around the lake before it is used to cool the condenser again. So, Ben and Aubrey took turns driving a big dump truck down the dike while I walked down one side of the dike around the water level and Aubrey or Ben walked down the other side, and we would toss wood up the dike into the dump truck.
This was quite a throw, and often resulted in a big log being tossed up the dike just to hit the side of the dump truck creating a loud banging sound. Anyway, when you consider that there are probably about 6 miles of dikes all together, it was quite a task to clean up all the driftwood that had accumulated in this man made lake. After doing this for two weeks I learned the true meaning of the word “bursitis”. When the truck bed was full, we would take it to a dump on the west side of the plant and dump it out.
After the morning meeting with Stanley Elmore I followed Aubrey into the carpenter shop. He pointed to two buckets of paint that I was to carry, while he grabbed a canvas tool bag filled with large paint brushes and other painting tools and some white rope that looked like it had the seat of wooden swing on one end.
Aubrey nodded to Fred, and I understood by this that Fred had created the wooden swing that had four pieces of rope knotted through each of the corners of the seat and were connected to the main rope using some kind of small shackle. When I asked Aubrey what that was, he told me that it is was a Boatswain Chair. “Oh.” I think I said, “It looks like a swing.” Like the picture below only homemade.
On the way to the boilers, we stopped by the tool room and I checked out a safety belt. I could see Aubrey nodding at Bud Schoonover about my having to check out a safety belt, and what implication that had. I of course preferred to think that my fellow employees would not purposely put me in harms way, so I went along acting as if I was oblivious to whatever fate awaited me.
We took the elevator on #1 Boiler to the 11th floor (which is actually about 22 stories up. There are only 12 stops on the boiler elevator, but the building is really 25 stories to the very top. So Power Plant men call the extra floors things like 8 1/2 when you get off the elevator where it says 8, and go up one flight of stairs.
Aubrey explained to me that we need to paint a drain pipe that is below us a couple of floors that goes down from there to just above floor 7 1/2 where it turns. He said that he could paint the rest, but he needed my help to paint the pipe where it drops straight down, because there isn’t any way to reach it, except by dropping someone off the side of the boiler over a handrail and lowering them down to the pipe, and that turned out to be me.
He explained how the safety belt worked. He said that I clip the lanyard in the ring at the top of the boatswain chair so that if I slip off the chair I wouldn’t fall all the way down, and then he could gradually lower me on down to the landing.
He didn’t explain to me at the time that the weight of my body free-falling three feet before coming to the end of the lanyard would have been a sufficient enough force to snap the white rope in half. I guess he didn’t know about that. But that was all right with me, because I didn’t know about it either — at the time. We didn’t use Safety Harnesses at that time. Just a belt around the waist.
So as I tied the canvas bag to the bottom of the chair, I saw Aubrey quickly wrap the rope around the handrail making some sort of half hitch knot. I wasn’t too sure about that so I asked Aubrey where he learned to tie a knot like that and he told me in the Navy. That was all I needed to hear. As soon as he told me he learned knot tying in the Navy, I felt completely secure. I figured if anyone knew the right way to tie a knot it’s someone in the Navy.
I clipped the lanyard in the shackle at the top of the boatswain chair and headed over the handrail. I situated the chair to where I had my feet through it when I went over and the chair was up by my waist. As I lowered myself down, I came to rest on the boatswain chair some 210 feet up from the ground.
It is always windy in this part of Oklahoma in the summer, and the wind was blowing that day, so, I began to spin around and float this way and that. That continued until Aubrey had lowered me down to the pipe that I was going to paint and I was able to wrap my legs around it and wait for my head to stop spinning.
Then Aubrey lowered down another rope that had a bucket of paint tied to it. I began my job of painting the pipe as Aubrey had hold of the rope and was slowly lowering me down. Luckily Aubrey didn’t have to sneeze, or wasn’t chased by a wasp while he was doing this. Thinking about that, I kept my legs wrapped around the pipe pretty tight just in case Aubrey had a heart attack or something.
The pipe really did need painting. So, I knew this wasn’t completely just a joke to toss me out on a swing in the middle of the air hanging onto a rope with one hand while attempting to paint a pipe with the other. It had the red primer on it that most of the piping had before it was painted so it looked out of place with all the other silver pipes, but I couldn’t help thinking about Jerry Lewis in the Movie, “Who’s Minding the Store”.
Jerry Lewis is told to paint the globe on the end of a flagpole that is located out the window on a top floor of the building. He begins by trying to climb out on the flagpole with a bucket of paint in his mouth with little success, but like Jerry, I figured it had to be done, so I just went ahead and did it (So. you may have noticed that was a very long sentence. I just counted and there are 112 words – definitely a run-on sentence – I have since cut the sentence into parts and even created a new paragraph all from that one run on sentence).
Fortunately, I found out right away that I wasn’t afraid of heights, even at this height and under these conditions. So, instead of fainting away, I just painted away and finally ended up on floor 7 1/2 which is right next to the Tripper Gallery. I think I finished this a little after morning break. I don’t think Aubrey wanted to stop for break just to lower me down and then have to start from the top again lowering me all the way down one more time holding onto a pipe that had wet paint on it.
This brings me to another point. Notice where I landed. Right next to the Tripper Gallery. Power Plant ingenuity has a way of naming parts of the plant with interesting names. The first time I heard that we were going to the tripper gallery to shovel coal (see the post Spending Long Weekends with Power Plant Men Shoveling Coal), I half expected to see paintings lining the walls. It sounded like such a nice place to visit…. “Tripper Gallery”. It sort of rolls off your tongue. Especially if you try saying it with a French accent and spell Gallery like this: Galerie.
The Tripper Gallery is neither eloquent nor French. It is where the coal from the coal yard is dumped into the Coal Silos just above the Bowl Mills. — Yes. Bowl Mills. I know. It sounds like a breakfast cereal. Almost like Malt-O-Meal in a bowl.
So, the Tripper Gallery is a long narrow room (hence the word Gallery), and there are two machines called Trippers that travels from one silo to the next dumping coal from the conveyor belt down into the coal silo, and when the silo is full, a switch is triggered (or tripped) which tells the machine to go to the next silo. Since the switch “trips” and tells the machine to move, they call the machine the “Tripper”.
I know. That last paragraph didn’t have anything to do with painting the drain pipe. But I thought since I mentioned the Tripper Gallery, I might as well explain what it is. Anyway, when we returned to the shop I watched as Stanley Elmore went over to Aubrey to see how I did when I found out he was going to drop me over the side of the boiler in a wooden chair. I could see that Aubrey gave him a good report because Stanley looked a little disappointed that this Power Plant Joke (even though essential), hadn’t resulted in visibly shaking me up.
Originally posted on December 21, 2012:
There was a phase when I was in college (the first time) when I felt like writing poetry. It was an after affect of my year struggling with a very advanced hyperthyroid when I was 15 and 16. After a close brush with death, once I was on my way to a recovery, I found that I suddenly viewed life quite differently.
I suddenly found myself not so interested in being the science and math nerd that I was before, and now I was more interested in history and literature and the law. This eventually led me to pick up a pen and write poetry. My first attempt at poetry was to go in the bathroom in classroom buildings on the campus of Oklahoma University in Norman and write the proof for the quadratic formula on the wall in the stalls. I would sign it “The Mad Quadratic Formula Writer”.
At this phase of my poetry writing skills, you can tell that I hadn’t completely given up on my interest in Math. I was sitting in a calculus class one day when a fellow student sitting behind me saw me writing the proof for the quadratic formula on the desktop. He said, “Hey! Are you the Mad Quadratic Formula Writer? I was just reading your proof in the bathroom on the second floor!”
To me the proof for the quadratic formula was pure poetry just like Math is a pure science. Over the next few years, however, I managed to change my focus from writing Mathematical poetry and focused more on conventional poetic topics such as gnomes, trilobites and girls. This leads me to the topic of Christmas Poetry. By 1998 I had honed my feeble poetry skills to the point where I could make an acceptable version of a limerick about a gnome a fairy and two elves.
So in December, 1998 when my brother who was a full Colonel in the United States Marine Corp at the time before he retired sent me the following poem about Santa Claus visiting a Marine on the night before Christmas. I, in turn, sat down and in about 30 minutes wrote a poem about Santa Claus visiting the house of a Power Plant Man. Words flowed out as easily as Ralph writing about his wish to have a Red Rider BB gun.
First, here is the Marine story, and then after that, you can read the one about Santa and the Power Plant Man. Notice the similarities….
I made the title for the Marine Poem a link to the website where I found a recent copy of the Marine Christmas Story:
By Nathan Tabor
‘Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
in a one-bedroom house made of plaster and stone.
I had come down the chimney with presents to give
and to see just who in this home did live.
I looked all about, a strange sight I did see,
no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stocking by mantle, just boots filled with sand,
on the wall hung pictures of far distant lands.
With medals and badges, awards of all kinds,
a sober thought came through my mind.
For this house was different, it was dark and dreary;
I found the home of a soldier, once I could see clearly.
The soldier lay sleeping, silent, alone,
curled up on the floor in this one bedroom home.
The face was so gentle, the room in such disorder,
not how I pictured a United States soldier.
Was this the hero of whom I’d just read?
Curled up on a poncho, the floor for a bed?
I realized the families that I saw this night,
owed their lives to these soldiers who were willing to fight.
Soon round the world, the children would play,
and grownups would celebrate a bright Christmas Day.
They all enjoyed freedom each month of the year,
because of the soldiers, like the one lying here.
I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,
on a cold Christmas Eve in a land far from home.
The very thought brought a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees and started to cry.
The soldier awakened and I heard a rough voice,
“Santa don’t cry, this life is my choice;
I fight for freedom, I don’t ask for more,
my life is my God, my Country, my Corps.
“The soldier rolled over and drifted to sleep,
I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep.
I kept watch for hours, so silent and still
and we both shivered from the cold night’s chill.
I didn’t want to leave on that cold, dark night,
this guardian of honor so willing to fight.
Then the soldier rolled over, with a voice soft and pure,
whispered, “Carry on Santa, It’s Christmas Day, all is secure.
“One look at my watch, and I knew he was right.
“Merry Christmas my friend, and to all a good night!”
And now for the story where Santa visits the Power Plant Man!!!
Merry Christmas Power Plant Men
by Kevin Breazile
Twas the night before Christmas, as I flew through the snow,
To a house full of kids, wife, dog and Jay Leno.
I came down the chimney with presents to share,
And to see what kind of he-man actually lived there.
I looked all about, and oh what a sight!
Four kids in their beds, without much of a fight!
A dirty pair of jeans, and a shirt full of holes,
Boots full of coal dust, worn shoestrings and soles.
A hardhat was hung by the chimney to dry,
With safety stickers, scratches, and earplugs nearby.
I felt that something was stirring in my chest,
And I knew that this man was different from the rest.
I had heard about men like this from watching Roseanne,
But now I was in the house of a Power Plant Man!
I looked down the hallway and what should I see,
A tool bag hanging behind the Christmas tree.
As I approached it to look at his shiny side cutters,
I heard a strange sound, like a motor that sputters.
There on the recliner laid back as far as it can,
Lay the worn body of the Power Plant Man!
The hole in his sock showed a big toe that was callous,
From trudging all day through his Power Plant Palace.
His face was unshaven, his clothes were a mess,
He needed a shower, of that I confess.
I knew through the nation all people could stay,
Warm in their houses, all night and all day.
From the power that hummed at the speed of light,
And silently flowed through the houses at night.
Day after day, and year after year,
Blizzards and storms with nothing to fear.
As the Power Plant Man lay on his chair fast asleep,
I thought about others like him that work just to keep,
Our world safe from the cold and the heat and the night,
By keeping us warm, or cool and in light.
I looked in my bag for a gift I could give,
To the Power Plant Man who helps others to live.
I found that nothing seemed quite enough,
For the Power Plant Man had all “The Right Stuff”.
As I looked through my bag for the perfect choice,
I suddenly heard a muffled cigarette voice.
The Power Plant Man had stirred with a shock,
And all that he said was, “just leave me some socks.”
Then he rolled on his side, and scratched his behind,
And a tear swelled in my eye that left me half blind,
I knew that Power Plant Men were selfless inside.
They lived to serve others with courage and pride.
I pulled out some socks and put them under the tree,
Then I walked nimbly back to go up the chimney.
Before I rose to return to my sled,
I picked up his hardhat and placed it on my head.
It was then that I realized the soot on my brow,
Had come from his hardhat I put on just now.
I often get soot on my clothes and my face,
But tonight I had been blessed by the man in this place.
So as I flew through the night to finish my plan,
I took with me some of the soot from that Power Plant Man!
Merry Christmas to all! And to all a Good Night!!!!
Originally Posted March 30, 2012:
Have you noticed that some people are so proud of their middle name that they prefer to be called by that name instead of their first name, like Andy Tubbs, who is really Carl Andy Tubbs? Others don’t really care for their first name, so they go by a nickname like Sonny Karcher who is really Clarence Karcher. Others would rather you didn’t know their middle name because it doesn’t seem to fit the rest of their name or their personality.
I used to think that Dee Ball’s mom decided to call him Dee Ball because that way it would be easy for him to spell when he had to spell it in school. Another person I thought had a similar experience was O D McGaha (pronounced Mc Gay Hay). The O and the D were his first and middle names. They weren’t abbreviations, so there is no period after them. His name wasn’t Odie, it was just O D.
Later in life, out of curiosity, I decided to look into Dee Ball’s background a little more closely, since I was writing this post mainly about him and he seemed reluctant to discuss his middle name one time when I asked him about it when I was a new summer help at the plant. I found out that Dee’s middle name is Theron. The only other person I know with a name like that was Charlize Theron, an actress. Neither of us knew about Charlize Theron at the time since she was only 3 years old during the summer of 1979.
I suppose if someone knew that Dee’s middle initial was a T, they probably would have nicknamed him Tee Ball.
Anyway, enough about middle names. Let me move on to the story about Mud, Maggots and Motor Vehicles and what it all has to do with Dee Theron Ball.
I learned very quickly my first summer as a summer help at the power plant that one of the worst smells a human being can experience is the smell of rotting fish and maggots with a dash of smoldering dirty diapers thrown in for spice. During the summer of 1979, every Monday and Friday I would go with Dee Ball down to the two park areas with plastic bags and my Handy Dandy Homemade trash stabber to clean up where the fishermen had been fishing.
There were a few trash cans out there that we would load into the back of the truck and haul off to the junkyard located at the perimeter of our main plant grounds. There was always a well baked pile of fish guts and soiled and soaked disposable baby diapers flowing over the top of the trash cans. Most of which had been baking in the hot sun for at least a day or two, and sometimes all week. The diapers came from families that came to swim in the swimming area. At that time they had piled some sand in one area and put some buoys out in the water to keep the boats away and tied a raft out away from the shore a short distance.
It is so hard to describe the actual smell of this conglomeration of waste materials and maggots the size of grubs that I can only come close by describing the effect that it had on me when I had to inhale a whiff.
I am sure that if I had ever wretched up my breakfast, it could only have made matters better. My own immune system kicked into autopilot and I was generally left holding my breathe not because the smell was so terrible, but because my auto-immune system had decided that it was better to suffocate than to suffer the intake of another breath.
Dee Ball didn’t seem to mind too much and I just took it to mean that his older and wiser soul had learned to dampen the effect through the use of cigarettes and maybe something between his cheek and gums. I wasn’t too sure how old Dee Ball was when I first met him, but later figured out that he was around 40. His hardhat looked like it was about that old. Though I would have guessed he was a little older.
His body was thin and worn out. Wrinkles were already appearing around the edges of his face. He had light blue eyes that you wouldn’t notice unless he was excited, and then his eyebrows would go up and reveal a set of wide blue eyes. He wasn’t excited in general, but he was what some would call…. “jumpy”. Meaning that if you grabbed his knee and hollered at the same time he would have jumped right out of the window of a moving truck.
In later years during my summer help experience, I seem to remember Ken Conrad doing that to him. After Dee pretty near jumped out of his clothes, Ken Conrad would get such a kick out of it that he would almost fall over laughing, which would make me laugh at Ken for being so goofy.
Dee taught me the fine art of using a winch truck like the one shown above, only ours was Electric Company Orange. The first day we went to the park to clean-up trash that summer, after lunch, we returned with the Winch Truck. That was my first experience being a passenger in a larger truck with Dee, and it was one I will never forget.
Not because there was some great tragedy, or we saw a huge deer walk across the highway in front of us or anything grandiose like that. But because as we were driving down the highway and neither of us were talking I suddenly became aware of a new and different “puttering” sound. At first I wasn’t sure if I had heard it at all because it was so low and almost in tune with the truck motor.
Listening to it more intently I could ascertain that the sound was from somewhere inside the cab of the truck. So without being too obvious I began taking inventory of the front seat. It sounded like it was coming from somewhere between Dee and I, but there wasn’t anything there. The truck was fairly new and clean. As I began to examine Dee, I realized that the puttering sound was emanating from Dee’s mouth. He was making a puttering motor-like sound as a small boy would make as he plays with his toy trucks.
When we arrived at the park I asked Dee what he had done before he had moved to the Power Plant (you may notice that I asked that of just about everyone I worked with), and he told me he used to be a truck driver for the electric company. I had the idea that he still wished he was back in a big rig rolling down the highway.
Though Dee was just four years younger than my own father, I often felt like I was watching a young boy in an older man’s body. Dee enjoyed doing very simple things, and like Sonny Karcher who had told me that what he like most in life was to mow grass, I understood Dee without him having to say another word. He liked to drive trucks.
With those thoughts still rolling around in my mind when Dee backed the truck up to an old trunk laying on the ground of what used to be a pretty good sized tree, I began wondering if Dee Ball knew what he was doing. He turned the Winch on and had unhooked it from the back of the truck and was throwing slings around this big trunk laying longways behind the truck.
I had never seen anyone use a winch truck other than a tow truck picking up the front end of a car to tow it away. So, I stood back and observed. Dee hopped back and forth much like a leprechaun, running the winch motor one way, then the other, and walking back to adjust the slings.
Then as neat as it could, the tree trunk lifted up on one end and with Dee Ball at the controls, he lowered the front end down on the back of the truck. Letting some slack loose, Dee moved the slings around the back end of the trunk and began pulling the winch in. As he did this, the large trunk came to rest on the bed of the truck. Learn something new every day.
Dee Ball loved to drive trucks, but unfortunately, he had the worst luck when it came to driving them anywhere. Here are my personal experiences on three occasions. The first one was while we were in the park and I was walking around picking up trash, and Dee was slowly driving a pickup across the grass watching me and looking around for things that we might need to do while we were there, when all of the sudden he said, “huh, seems like I ran into something.” So, he tried backing up. No. That didn’t work. He was stuck on something. so, he rocked the truck back and forth a couple of times, and when he couldn’t break free, he turned the truck off and went around front to see what had snagged him.
It turned out that he had run over a tree stump sticking up about two feet. It was in some brush, so you couldn’t see it unless you looked closely. I mentioned in an earlier post about Larry Riley (See the post Power Plant Genius of Larry Riley) that the engineers in Oklahoma City had decided exactly where the trees needed to be, so they had cut down all the trees in the area and planted new ones.
Well. This was one of those trees that was unfortunate enough to have been there before the park was built. The stump was stuck between the front bumper and the radiator. Unfortunately, in his fervor to release the truck from this nemesis, he had smashed and punctured the radiator and some yellow green fluid was squirting from a tiny hole.
As this was our only transportation, we were sort of stuck. So, I looked around and about a mile away down at the corner of the lake where highway 177 and 15 East meet, there was an electric company construction crew putting up a large metal High Voltage Electric Pole.
Dee asked me if I would run over there and ask them if we could borrow a saw. At the time, the lake level was a probably 3 feet below being full, which meant that the park area was somewhat larger than it is now, and you could walk all the way from the park to the electric pole without having to hop over the barbed wire fence that lined the plant property. So, I jogged on over there and they were glad to help. They drove me back and we were able to free the truck from the stump. We took the truck back to the shop and removed the radiator and had it sent to a radiator repair shop in Ponca City.
The second memorable event (well, chronologically, this was the first) having to do with trucks and Dee Ball was when Dee and I were sent to Oklahoma City to pick up new trucks from a large electric company vehicle garage. We were driven by another person who dropped us off. We drove the new trucks back to the plant.
I was in a flat bed truck. This was like driving a U-Haul truck, as you couldn’t see through the rear view mirror because there was a black plate in the back window. It was a thrilling experience trying to maneuver through Oklahoma City traffic in a vehicle where I couldn’t see who was in the right lane because my mirror wasn’t set correctly. It wasn’t until I was off the Interstate and making my way through Perry Oklahoma before I felt like I could relax.
I returned to the plant about one hour after I had left the garage. Time went by, and Dee Ball didn’t appear. Another hour went by and still no Dee. He had been driving the large dump truck that Aubrey Cargill, Ben Hutchinson and I used later to pick up driftwood from the dikes (See the post: “Power Plant Painting Lessons with Aubrey Cargill“).
Finally around 3 hours after I arrived, Dee drove the new dump truck into the shop. The most obvious problem was that the “O” was missing from “FORD” and there was a dent in it’s place that ran down the front of the truck. It turned out that Dee had been driving down the highway and his cigarette fell down onto the seat between his legs and disappeared under him. As he was flailing around trying to find his cigarette, he had run off the side of the Interstate and hit a reflector post like they have to warn you where the edge of the road is by an exit.
The third memorable event having to do with trucks was when Dee Ball and I had been to the park to pick up trash and on the way back to the plant a quick cloudburst had come by and dumped some rain on us. When we went to the junkyard to dump out the trash, we made it down into the junkyard all right, but when it came time to leave, the truck couldn’t make it up the road because the mud was too slick on the road and the crew cab just slipped and slid back and forth.
So, I ended up literally building a rock road for Dee to drive on up the hill (this was when you actually had to go out the construction gate and back in another gate to get to the junkyard). While I was finding rocks and putting them under the back wheels of the truck, Dee would back up and take a run up the hill while I was behind pushing him with all my might.
Finally after well over 1/2 hour and cutting into our lunch time, the truck was finally free. Unfortunately for me, I had been pushing the truck up the hill while placing myself behind one of the back wheels, which meant that I was covered from head to toe with the mud that had been flinging up from the back tire. When we returned to the shop, I just walked into the shower and hosed myself off, clothes and all.
I wasn’t with Dee during other times, like when he took our new crew cab and while leaving the park, turned too soon after exiting the front gate and dented the side of the back door on the fence post. Or when…… Well. I could go on. Needless to say, by my third summer as a summer help, there was a standing order that Dee Ball was not allowed to drive a vehicle.
Two years after that, while I was a janitor, I was walking over to the Engineering shack to sweep and mop when I saw Dee Ball come around the corner in a forklift. He was on his way to fill it up with Diesel. As I saw him pull up to the pump I thought to myself, “Oh, I see they are letting Dee Ball drive again.” After I had mopped the floors in the engineering shack, I headed back to the main plant, there was a winch truck pulling the forklift out of the soft ground where Dee had parked it to top off the Diesel and where it had become stuck. It put a big smile on my face for some reason.
During my first and second summer while I worked with Dee Ball, at times he would stop by a large equipment building that was located out in a field by the dam where the discharge from the river pumps poured water into the lake. Dee told me that when the plant is completed they would split the garage and have a separate yard crew. He had been told that this was going to be his shop.
The place was big enough to hold a number of large tractors with brush hogs. It was run down though, and was probably used when they were building the lake and dam for the heavy equipment to be repaired and parked. Dee had been told that if he came to work at the Power Plant that he would be made the head of the yard crew.
I came to learn that a lot of people were told stories like that from the Assistant Plant Manager when he was trying to coax people to move their homes north to this power plant out in the middle of nowhere. Dee was never made the head of the yard crew, and the yard crew was never separate from the garage. Dee was always pleasant and courteous and was always a joy to work with. Even when I ended up covered in mud. I will always consider him a good friend.
After I left the power plant and went to work for Dell on August 20, 2001, I wrote letters back to my friends at the plant letting them know how things were going. This is the one hundred and twentieth letter I wrote.
10/4/05 — Electrical Internet
Dear Sooner buddies,
Hey. I was just reading an article about the Internet and it reminded me of one of our Power Ideas. — Oh. You remember. “We’ve Got the Power” in 1990. And how it gave everyone that warm and fuzzy feeling for each other….and how it sort of brought everyone together in a wave of kindness….. Well. At least that’s the way I remember it…..or is it.
Anyway. I remember one of our “way out there” ideas was to have our company invest in research on using the electric lines for Internet access, because that’s where the big bucks are going to be in the future.
But silly me (remember…this was pre-World Wide Web days). I forgot that OG&E makes electricity, and even though they said that they wanted to do other things, the only thing they “really” wanted to do was spin those turbines and pour out the juice to the community.
Well. Read this article:
Note to Reader: I removed the link because it no longer works. In order to read more about the “We’ve Got the Power” program read the post “Power Plant We’ve Got the Power Program” and “Power Plant We’ve Got the Power Stress Buster“.
‘Cause, here it comes. — Of course, I still hear our illustrious Supervisor of Equipment Support (Well. He was over the Engineers at the time) telling Summer Goebel when she asked me how to setup her computer to use High Memory, “It doesn’t matter how much memory your computer has, it can only use the first 640K anyway.” — I can still hear the sound of Toby ducking under his desk in his cubicle when I gave Arnold my response.
Ok…. Note to Reader: My response was “You may be stupid, but I’m not!”
I thought this would be an interesting article for you to peruse.
Another Note to Reader: The article was about research into using the electric lines to your house to carry your Internet.
Your friendly Dell programmer.
Kevin J. Breazile
Global Financial Services I/T
After I left the power plant and went to work for Dell on August 20, 2001, I wrote letters back to my friends at the plant letting them know how things were going. This is the one hundred and nineteenth letter I wrote.
9/16/05 — Dell me about it
Hello Friends from Sooner and beyond,
Remember me? Someone reminded me the other day that it has been two whole months since I wrote to you guys. Gee. Has it been that long? I thought it was only early last week. Boy does time fly when you’re having fun (or whatever I’m having).
Well. Things have been going well with me. I’m on a different team now. I’m in what’s called “Release Management”. That means that we deploy all the applications into production for our area. Our area has grown, so that we not only have all the Financial applications at Dell, we also have all the HR and Product Group applications also.
I’m still being asked to write programs real fast that do things that they need right away, and that’s probably the reason I have not had time to write. I now have three computers on my desk and I’m using all of them most of the time.
It keeps me hopping, but then, that’s what my cube mates like to see. It keeps them entertained. — They ask me why I enjoy working so much, and I tell them. “This isn’t hard. You ought to try shoveling coal with my buddies up at the power plant for a while. That’s hard work.”
They just roll their eyes around and act like I’m crazy. — Well. I might be crazy, but I don’t see what that has to do with anything.
So. Now that I’m on Release Management, I’m expected to be involved on a lot more projects now. So I’m having to learn a lot of different things.
I’m also called an “Application Administrator” for Oracle Financials. That’s like the Financial Module of SAP. — Yep. They finally decided that since I could figure out how to access everything anyway, even though Jim Arnold had told the world many years ago that no one needs Internet Access except for him and Summer Goebel, they might as well make me “Application Administrator”.
Note to Reader: To learn more about trying to access the Internet at the Power Plant read this: Power Plant Quest for the Internet.
I think it’s a good title to have, since when I pass by, people seem to bow in my presence. — Of course, that could be because my deodorant has failed because of all of my nervous energy, and they are trying to keep their lunch down in their stomach.
I have missed you guys terribly, and I have been having some more crazy dreams of the power plant. I heard you guys were putting up better security around the plant. It’s about time.
You never know when an old retired Maintenance Supervisor might try to make an appearance when it’s not even “Men’s Club”. I don’t think they should allow him into the plant, for his own safety.
I remember when he cared so much about my safety that he told Andy to tell me that I couldn’t come out for a visit a couple of years ago because it wouldn’t be safe. — At least I was able to get in there in time to wish him well on his retirement.
He was probably thinking about what I said about safety in my PowerPoint presentation when I left. I was going to make a website and put the presentation out there so that he can go look at it any time he wants just in case he forgets.
I suppose one of the reasons I don’t feel so compelled to write to you guys lately is because I know that things are looking up for most of you. Before; I thought you might need a little cheering up every now and then. Now that the dumbily duo have gone, I know you are doing a lot better.
I have heard about Ray Eberle’s wife and about Jimmie Moore, and my family is keeping them both in our prayers every day. Keep me updated on how they are doing. I haven’t heard much news coming from your way lately. Let me know how things are going.
Your friendly Dell Programmer,
Kevin James Anthony Breazile
Kevin J. Breazile
GFCS, HR, and PG IT
After I left the power plant and went to work for Dell on August 20, 2001, I wrote letters back to my friends at the plant letting them know how things were going. This is the one hundred and eighteenth letter I wrote.
7/6/05 – Things are getting Hot at Dell
Dear friends from Sooner Plant,
Has it really been two whole months since I have written? Wow. That must be a record for me keeping my mouth shut! I did have a vacation during that time and I did go to training, and we did have a couple of holidays and I did forget to write most of the time, even though I think about you guys and the plant about EVERY DAY!!!!
I had this real weird dream where I was at the power plant and it was in the evening when it is kind of dark. I’m not sure what I was doing there, but I was really amazed with this new conveyor system that you guys had.
It ran all over the plant and it moved equipment and barrels around automatically and the way it worked, it could move anything anywhere on the plant grounds where they needed to go, because the entire ground was made up of strips of conveyors that looked like asphalt sidewalks, but they moved along like conveyors.
Then in-between the sidewalks was grass, but the grass moved between the conveyor systems so, for instance in my dream I was watching this barrel go by and it went down this asphalt conveyor and was pushed out into the grass, where the grass carried it over to another conveyor and then to another patch of grass until it hit an asphalt conveyor that was going in the direction where it needed to go and off to the coal yard it went.
So it was like the plant was running all by itself and people didn’t have to move stuff around. They just moved themselves. — It was actually a little creepy.
I heard that your honeymoon with Wendling has already come to an end. — I suppose that’s too bad. I guess he came and did what they wanted him to do, and now that Jim Arnold is gone, he can go do other things. — Maybe that’s why I haven’t felt the urgent need to write to you guys before.
I knew you were all in bliss in your Shangri La Palace at Sooner since you were relieved of a few trouble makers. I hope your new plant manager is acceptable for you guys. I know that the times I had to deal with John Parham they weren’t always the most pleasant. But I can chalk a little of that up to my attitude at the time.
I do know that he insisted one time that the heat energy being lost out of the top of the precipitators at Muskogee equaled only around 4000 watts of power (or so). Which was so ridiculous, I knew there wasn’t any sense in arguing with him… but you know me. I can’t keep my mouth shut.
Anyway. I went to see the Grand Canyon on my vacation and that was a lot of fun. Everything went well. When I got back after being away for over 2 weeks, it took me about a week to read all my e-mails.
Then I had training for another week. I took a week long database course called: Oracle PL/SQL advanced programming and performance tuning. — Now every time I turn around I’m looking for something to tweak to make it better. — I think I’m getting on some of my “cubicle mate’s” nerves. Maybe I should stop making that squeaky “Tweak” noise every time I try to Tweak something.
Well. Let me know how things are going up there. What’s the latest?
Your friendly Dell programmer,
Kevin James Anthony Breazile
After I left the power plant and went to work for Dell on August 20, 2001, I wrote letters back to my friends at the plant letting them know how things were going. This is the one hundred and seventeenth letter I wrote.
5/5/05 – Taking a breath at Dell
Howdy Folks (That’s Texan for “Dear Sooner Plantians, and friends”),
It’s been about 5 weeks since I wrote last, and this is the first time I have had a moment to stop and take a breath. Like Gimli said in the Lord of the Rings, “Keep Breathing. That’s the Key”.
Things went well with the Kronos upgrade. — That’s the one where we didn’t have any consultants on site to do it. I had found most of the reasons why “no company had ever upgraded without the consultants on site before”, but not all of them.
Their installation instructions left a lot to be desired and their code was all wrong, but that’s all behind me now and everything is running better than it has ever run before, so everyone’s happy, (except for some report formatting issues — which I’ll deal with shortly — You would think with a name like “Crystal Reports” that the format would be “clear”. Like “Crystal”. — You know. From the movie with Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson, where Jack says, “Am I clear?” and Tom says, “Crystal” — Oh. Nevermind. I’m ramblin’ again…..).
So our business partners gave me great Kudos and they refer to me now as “#1”. They gave me an “On-The-Spot” award for $100 and told everyone from my director down in our All-Hands meeting last week that I had done all these wonderful things and how I had solved all of their issues, and that I was such a great person to work with……
Boy. I was just glad no one saw me slip that pocket watch on the chain back in my pocket after I had hypnotized them all or I might not have gotten away with such praise.
Gee, I haven’t had that much attention since Jasper Christensen called me to his office to tell me that I couldn’t have access to the Internet because the staff had decided that no one at our plant needed access to the Internet except for Jim Arnold and Summer Goebel, and they only needed it so they could have “e-mail”. — Oh. Those were the days.
Note to Reader: To read more about Jasper Christensen and the Internet read this post: Power Plant Quest for the Internet.
I used to receive so much attention. — Almost as much as “The Birthday Phantom”. — I actually used part of that program in another program I wrote here a couple of years ago that sent out e-mails to users with links in it to PowerPoint presentations and Excel sheets every Monday morning.
Note to Reader: To read more about the Birthday Phantom, read the post Power Plant Birthday Phantom.
Instead of getting hardhat stickers down here, they give us other things instead (since we don’t wear hardhats). Today when I came to my cubicle I found a nifty key ring that looks like it is made from pewter and has a picture of the world with Dell written across it and it swivels around inside of a ring. It says: “America’s Most Admired Company” for 2005.
They gave us that because Fortune Magazine named Dell as America’s most admired company. — It reminded me of when we would get those jackets that would say that Sooner Plant was the most efficient plant in the country. We had the lowest operating cost of over 300 or so different power plants.
I’m just glad I’m working for a company with such integrity. — Gee. Now I’m sounding like a commercial. — We really do everything we can to be a real ethical company. That’s refreshing.
You know. I’ll bet no one on the staff ever figured out that one of the main reasons Sooner could produce power so cheaply was because the precipitators were so properly tuned that they hardly used any power. (hu hu — That’s me breathing on my fingernails like I’m acting cool.).
Normally the Precipitator uses more power than anything else in the plant — Normally, it uses about as much power as the rest of the plant. — But not at Sooner. — Nope — The whole idea that a preciptator needs “Power” to work is all wrong to begin with.
That was the hardest thing to convince people who had real thick skulls (like Bohny-Headed Engineers are opt to have. — No. I didn’t misspell that), because they just couldn’t accept the fact that in order to move particles of airborne ash an average of 2 1/4 INCHES to the collection plate didn’t require as much 1,000 times the energy it takes to pump that same ash 1/2 MILE in a pipe to the Fly Ash silo up at the coal yard.
It makes sense to me that the precipitator doesn’t really require “Power” to operate (well. A small amount). It just requires “voltage”. — That’s what STATIC is anyway. It’s VOLTAGE, not POWER. — And that is an ElectroSTATIC precipitator.
If it’s using Power it’s not Static!!!. Geez. This is only “Rocket Science”. And rocket science isn’t all that hard these days with computers. Geez. — Oh. Sorry. Ramblin’ again. — You can tell I’ve been dreaming about Precipitators again. — Don’t you just hate it when that happens?
Well. I better go work on my IDP (Individual Development Plan) while I have the chance. — I’m supposed to take tomorrow off since I was on call last week. — Isn’t that neat? When you are on “Hots”, they let you off a whole day the following week. — I’m not complaining. Sometimes it takes me so much by surprise that I forget to breath. I need to remember. “Keep Breathing. That’s the key.”
Talk to you later,
Your friend from Dell,
Kevin James Anthony Breazile
Kevin J. Breazile
Global Financial Services I/T
After I left the power plant and went to work for Dell on August 20, 2001, I wrote letters back to my friends at the plant letting them know how things were going. This is the one hundred and sixteenth letter I wrote.
3/30/05 — Upgrading at Dell
Dear Friends from up North and beyond,
Gee. I was reminded this morning by Steve Blansett that I haven’t written for a while. When I went to look how long, I see that it has been about a month and a half. That must be some kind of record. Don’t think that just because I haven’t written that I haven’t been thinking about you guys — like you really sit around and wonder if I care or not.
Anyway. I’m in the middle of upgrading our timekeeper application to the latest version. Last year when we did this, it was a major project and we had consultants here for about 3 months and we worked and worked in development in order to upgrade this application.
Today there is just me. No consultants. No months of planning. Just me. The consultants keep calling me and asking if I have started the upgrade yet, and I hear them snickering in the background.
According to Kronos “no” company has ever successfully upgraded this product without consultants before. — They want their “big bucks”, and we aren’t going to pay them unless we have to.
So, Everyone is looking at me to do this without any help. — I started the upgrade this morning at 7:00. It is expected to take about 34 hours or so to do this. So….If I still have a job in a few days, you’ll know that everything went well. If not, then…..Well. — I won’t think about that now.
— Oh. You just reminded me of something I should do for this upgrade!…………There. I did it. That will help.
It does help to have spent over 34 hours starting up the precipitator before. Having experienced walking back and forth in the T/R Cabinet Room for 36 hours makes it a little easier to spend only 34 hours upgrading this application.
Oh. Gotta run. The database has been backed up. Time to go to work!!!
Wish me luck.
Kevin J. Breazile
Global Financial Services I/T
After I left the power plant and went to work for Dell on August 20, 2001, I wrote letters back to my friends at the plant letting them know how things were going. This is the one hundred and fifteenth letter I wrote.
2/18/05 – Cruisin’ at Dell
Dear Sooner Plantians and other friends,
Ok. It has been a whole week and not one of you replied back to me to tell me that neither Dell nor OG&E have 5 characters in their names. Gee. I would have thought I would have gotten a rise out of at least one of you.
It struck me suddenly the other morning when I was in the shower, (where I usually have my great revelations), that Dell and OG&E both only had only 4 letters in them instead of 5, and I had made such a big deal about it in my last letter to you guys.
So after I was finished with my shower, I went and put a band-aid on my forehead so no one would see the bruise that was developing after I had banged my head several times against the shiny tiles in the shower. Anyway. It’s much better now and so am I.
Well. This has been a fairly good week. The weather has been all right and the traffic hasn’t been too bad (for Austin anyway). It has been a quiet week as far as my projects have gone.
Monday was a little hectic as we put all the people from India into the Timekeeping application. That all went well, so I got “Atta Boys” for that. But I will always remember the phrase that I learned while working at Sooner Plant; “One ‘uh oh’ erases all the ‘atta boys’, so I don’t get too excited when something goes well, because I know that there is always another hour after that one where everything can go to pieces.
I talked with my manager yesterday and told him that one of my goals this year was to become a First Responder. They have classes here that I can take, and then they give me a red flag to put up on my cubicle so that people can look around real quickly in case they are having a heart attack or something and I can grab my “Elvis Wand” and run to the rescue.
I’m already a “Starpoint Responder”, which means I can zap people with the Defibrilator and do CPR and first aid and that sort of stuff. So I immediately knew what to do the other day after my revelation in the shower. So I have a purple flag on my cubicle and an Orange Vest.
What I do is when we have a fire drill or a real fire for that matter, I put on my orange vest (so I look like a crossing guard) and I walk around all the cubicles in my area and make sure that everyone is out of the area before I leave. They call me a floor sweeper when I do that. So you see, I haven’t really gone that far since the days when I was a janitor sweeping up the Turbine Room Floor.
I think that one of 4 things is happening here. One thing could have been that you guys never read these letters and so none of you noticed that I had said 5 letters when there was only 4.
Or maybe it is the case that last week there was 5 letters in these names and now there are only 4. Or maybe you saw that there were 4 letters and you knew that I was so hard-headed that if you told me that there was 4 letters instead of 5 you realized that I wouldn’t believe it anyway.
Or maybe now you are reading this and wondering why am I giving you 5 things now that is happening here when I said that there was one of 4 things is happening here.
Just for that, I figure that I should end this letter with 5 paragraphs instead of 4. Maybe next time I will just write a letter to myself because it has been so long since I have heard from some of you that I wonder if you are getting my e-mails at all.
I haven’t heard from my old “Roomie”, and I haven’t heard from my “Foster Father”, I have heard from my friend that always calls me “Little Buddy”. It has been so long since I’ve heard from Doug Black that I figure he might be Doug Gray now for all I know.
I haven’t heard from my “Bucket Buddy”. I haven’t heard from my “Carpool Buddies” or even from my “Pigeon Training Partner”. — Oh. All right. I’ll quit my whinin’. It hasn’t really been that bad. — I hope all is going well with you guys. Maybe no news is good news. — I’ll write later.
Your Friendly Dell Programmer,
Kevin James Anthony Breazile
Kevin J. Breazile
Global Financial Services I/T
After I left the power plant and went to work for Dell on August 20, 2001, I wrote letters back to my friends at the plant letting them know how things were going. This is the one hundred and fourteenth letter I wrote.
2/11/05 – Dell and OG&E
Dear friends from Sooner Plant and other worthy friends from of old (not meaning that YOU are old),
I was just sitting here twiddling my thumbs…..Well actually, I have just finished putting three of my programs into production, and now I have a moment of silence before moving on to my next project…..and I thought “isn’t it interesting that both Dell and OG&E have 5 characters in their name?”
Is this just a mere coincidence, or is there more to it? After all. I have spent my entire adult life working for companies that have 5 characters in their name! Is this some kind of omen or something?
Should I pick lottery numbers that all are multiples of 5? Should I go work on another degree so that I will have 5 little titles after my name? Is this why I have 5 fingers on each hand?!? My curiosity just will not sit still until I figure out what it all means!
Oh. Wait…. I just realized that it isn’t really important, and that I should drop all of this foolishness and move on to something more exciting…..
Like a new paragraph!!!! So…Here I am on a new paragraph, and I’m beginning to think that I should make this letter 5 paragraphs long, but wait. I stopped thinking about that already because I was dropping all of that foolishness. Anyway. Things are going well down here. How are things up there? I feel like I’ve been living in Seattle the last few weeks because it has been cloudy and rainy almost every day for over two weeks. — Kind of dreary weather, but it’s not too bad.
I was thinking about a program that I was going to write way back when I was still working up there. It was going to be a program that had a picture of the inside of the boiler and you could rotate it around (3D like) and point your mouse at different parts of the boiler tubes and it would give you all the information about that section of boiler tubes so that you could see the thickness and which tubes had been replaced, with their tube numbers and all that sort of stuff. You could even drill down and look closer at each tube.
I would have written it, but I never could get all the information together that I needed to make it work. It seems that I remember Mark Fielder having a tube of prints that he used to keep all of that stuff updated. That was what I was going to use for most of the information. — Don’t know why I was thinking about that, I just was.
Next Monday we’re adding India to the Timekeeping application. We will have about 50,000 employees using it then. I’m basically the only person that supports this application so I’ll be putting that into production. I’ll be crossing my fingers that everything will work out well. So I expect that next week will be an interesting one.
There is someone from Employment Services over there teaching them how to use it now. The Employment Services people this week called me the “Super Kronos Man”. They said they were going to give me a cape and have someone walk in front of me with a fan blowing on me so that the cape would stay flowing out like I was flying all the time.
I don’t know if I have mentioned this to you guys or not, but I have been keeping an “Elvis Wand” in my cubicle, so that when someone has a serious problem with their computer, I just get out the Elvis wand and wave it over their computer to fix their problem.
Well, Last January 8th, which you all know is Elvis’s Birthday, I went to this Mexican Restaurant named “Chuy’s” and I picked up another Elvis wand (it’s really just an Elvis Fan on a stick that you can punch out the eyes and look through it so that you look like you have an Elvis Face), so I have had two Elvis Wands in my cubicle lately.
This has allowed me to fix twice as many computer problems than before. Every once in a while I will take one of those Elvis faces and just slide it up over the cubicle so that my old manager, or the System Administrator will see it, and then slide it back down and go on like nothing has happened. — People are beginning to wonder. — It’s funny how Power Plant Humor just isn’t properly appreciated in the rest of the world. I wonder why.
Well. Just so I don’t make this letter 15 paragraphs long, I’m stopping now to say that I miss all you guys and I hope everything is going well up there. Keep up the good work. Stay Safe!!!, Watch out for the Yellow Flag and the 4 imps and don’t let the bed bugs bite!!! I’ll write later, let me know how things are going up there. — It was good hearing from you guys.
Your friendly Dell programmer,
Kevin James Anthony Breazile, BA, BS, MRE, MBA
Kevin J. Breazile
Global Financial Services I/T