Tag Archives: Cimarron Turnpike

Power Plant Trip Leads to Game of Frogger

Some days when everything seems to be going just right, some little thing comes along that throws a wrench into the end of a perfect day. That’s what happened to the husband of the timekeeper at the coal-fired Power Plant in North Central Oklahoma. Vance Shiever had spent the day baling hay into large bails in a pasture outside Morrison Oklahoma. All day while he worked, off in the distance he could see the plant where his wife Linda spent her week days.

Linda Shiever

Linda Shiever

Linda Shiever was one of the first two employees hired at the Coal-fired plant along with Sonny Karcher.  She was hired on May 30, 1978, just 10 days after her marriage to Vance.  During the 20 years I worked at the Power Plant, I heard Linda talk about Vance often.  So, when Ray Eberle began telling me a story about him, I already had a picture of Vance in my head much like Paul Bunyan (having never met him in person):

Like this Paul Bunyan only with tinted glasses. Actually, this is a historian named Wayne Chamberlain

Like this Paul Bunyan only with tinted glasses. Actually, this is a historian named Wayne Chamberlain

Ray Eberle said that he had stopped to visit Vance this particular Saturday afternoon when Vance was just finishing up loading the bales of hay onto a large flat bed semi-truck trailer.

Large Round Hay Bale

Large Round Hay Bale

About that time, Walt Oswalt drove by and saw his best buddy Ray standing out in the pasture talking with Vance, so he pulled off the road to visit Vance and Ray.  This is the same Walt Oswalt that I wrote about last month (see the post:  “Mr. Frog’s Wild Power Plant Ride“).  Ray’s nickname for Walt was Frog.  Even today when I talk to Ray, he refers to him as Frog.

While Ray, Walt and Vance stood there talking, Vance looked off in the distance toward the Power Plant looming in the distance.

Power Plant at sunset

Power Plant at sunset

He mentioned that even though his wife has worked there for 20 years (at that time), he had never actually been to the plant.  Ray said that he would be glad to give him a tour of the plant right then and there if he wanted to see it.  This was a tempting proposition for Vance, who had been curious for many years about what actually went on there.

Vance said that it would be great if he could have a tour of the plant, but unfortunately, he still had to tie down all the bales of hay on the truck before he headed off to Muskogee to deliver his load by morning.  At this point Walt spoke up and said that Vance should go with Ray on a tour of the plant.  Walt said he would tie down the bales.  Vance replied that he wanted to make sure the bales of hay were properly secured before he took his trip down the turnpike to Muskogee.

Walt was insistent that Vance should go take a tour of the Power Plant and that he would tie down the bales of hay.  He knew how to do it.  Vance gave Walt some instructions about how to make sure the bales were securely tied down, and Walt kept reassuring Vance that he knew what he was doing.

A truck loaded with large round bales

A truck loaded with large round bales properly tied down

Walt finally convinced Vance that he could handle the hay bales, and Vance went with Ray Eberle to tour the Power Plant.  Ray said that Vance was so excited to finally be able to see the plant up close.  Ray gave Vance the full Power Plant Tour, which can take a few hours, especially with a professional story teller such as Ray Eberle:

Ray Eberle

Ray Eberle

It was dark when Ray and Vance returned to the pasture where the large semi-truck was parked.  Walt was taking a nap in his car waiting for them to return.

Walt Oswalt

Walt Oswalt

Vance asked Walt if he had tied down the bales of hay, as it was too dark to tell for sure.  Walt assured Vance that the bales of hay were securely tied down to the bed of the trailer.  He had no need to worry.  Now it was time for a second favor…

Ray had given Vance a long desired tour of the Power Plant, so Ray asked Vance if he would do a favor for him.  Ray had never had the opportunity to ride in a “Big Rig” Semi Truck, so he asked Vance if he would let him ride with him to Muskogee and back.  Walt would follow along behind them to bring Ray back home when they arrived in Muskogee.

Vance was glad to return the favor.  Ray climbed into the truck and it pulled out of the pasture and onto the dark highway 64, then the Cimarron Turnpike that ran next to Morrison.  Walt, following along behind.  The traffic on this particular stretch of the Cimarron was always light, especially on a Saturday night.

This was a perfect day for Vance.  He had spent the day doing what he loved.  Baling Hay and loading it on the trailer.  The first class tour of the Power Plant with the best tour guide in Oklahoma and the surrounding states (since Mark Twain is no longer with us).  Now, driving down the highway with a load of hay with a good friend sitting shotgun.  What could be better?

Ray was thinking that there was something in the air that just wasn’t quite right.  The few other cars that were driving down the highway seemed to be driving a little more erratic than usual.  Well, it was Saturday night….  Maybe that was the reason a couple of cars swerved around the truck honking their horns before speeding off into the night.

Eventually, one car pulled up alongside the truck so that Vance could see the person in the passenger side.  They were frantically pointing back behind them.  Oh No!  Yeah.  That’s right.  If you have been reading this post with more than a simple glance, you have already surmised what was happening. Vance quickly pulled off the side of the road and came to a stop.

Ray finally realized what was happening at that point…  As they were travelling down the highway, the bales of hay had been flying off the truck into the middle of the dark highway.  Vance jumped out of the truck yelling, “I’m going to kill him!  I’m going to kill him!”  He stood in the middle of the highway, fists out at his side, waiting for Walt to show up… after all, he was following the semi when they left the pasture.

Ray could see Vance standing in the middle of the highway like Paul Bunyan, with the red glow of the tail lights dimly lighting the back of the truck.  Waiting for Walt to arrive… but Walt didn’t show up.

Ray and Vance spent the next hour or so walking down the highway pushing the large round bales off the side of the turnpike.  Luckily, few cars were travelling on the Cimarron Turnpike that night and no one was hurt (yet).  After walking a couple of miles back to the truck both Ray and Vance were worn out.  They were beat.  All the rage that Vance had felt when he realized that Walt had not tied down the bales was gone.  He was too tired at that point.

About that time, Walt Oswalt came driving down the highway and saw the truck pulled over.  He pulled up behind the truck.  Vance was too tired to confront him for his failure to secure the bales.  Where had Walt been for the last hour and a half while Ray and Vance had been rolling bales of hay off of the road?  That’s what they really wanted to know.

Walt said that when they left the pasture he suddenly realized that he was hungry, so he went down to the diner in Morrison and ate some supper.  When Ray was relaying this story to me, he said, “Walt’s stomach probably saved his life.  By the time he showed up, Vance was too worn out to kill him.  Besides… that really wasn’t Vance’s nature.  But there for a moment, I thought if Walt had showed up right away, his life may have been in danger.”

Of all the Walt Oswalt Stories, this is my favorite.  When I sat down to write my post this morning, this story was on my mind, so I thought for a moment what would be a good title.  I thought of the game of Frogger where the frog jumps across the road dodging the cars.  In this case, of course, it was the cars that were dodging the round bales of hay that were placed there because of the actions of a man whose best friend calls him “Frog”.  So, I wrote:  “Power Plant Trip Leads to Game of Frogger”.

A game of Frogger

A game of Frogger

Then I thought, I have pictures of Ray and Walt.  Let me see if I can find a picture of Vance on the Internet.  So, I did what I usually do in this instance.  I opened up Google and searched.  I typed Vance Shiever, Morrison Oklahoma.  The link at the top of the page said, “Vance Lee Shiever – Stillwater News Press:  Obituaries”.  Oh No!  What?!?!

I quickly clicked the link and my heart fell.  There was a picture of a man smiling back at me… Vance Lee Shiever.

Vance Shiever

Vance Lee Shiever

Vance died this past Tuesday from pancreatic cancer.  I had no idea!  I have been so busy this past week that I haven’t even logged into Facebook since last weekend.  If the dates are right, (because I know that Stillwater News Press often misspells names and dates), then Vance is having his funeral service this very afternoon.  I don’t believe for a moment that this is just a coincidence.

I have found that the members of the Power Plant Family in which I was a member for 20 years keep in touch in various ways.  Sometimes it is by e-mail. Sometimes it is through Facebook.  Other times, we just think about each other, and we just seem to know that something is up, even when we aren’t sure what.  I believe that is what happened this morning.

This past month three people have died in the Power Plant Family.  Walt Oswalt, Vance Shiever, and Ray Eberle’s wife Barbara.  I have often heard it said at the Power Plant that things always seem to happen in 3’s.  This Power Plant Post was one story about those three.

I thought that I should find a better picture of Vance, so I logged into Facebook, and the first picture that came up was this picture of Vance, the photo that was used by the New Press:

Vance Shiever, adored husband and father

Vance Shiever, adored husband and father

I can now picture Vance watching over his family from Heaven.  By the way that Linda always spoke of Vance, I know that he was one of those rare people full of kindness.  I also picture him going through the videos of his life with Saint Peter.  All those happy days he spent with Linda, and their children Beau and Lindsey….

Then as Saint Peter works the remote, he pulls up the video of Vance out in the field loading the round bales on the trailer as Ray pulls up in his truck.  As they watch this story unfold, they both break out in laughter as they watch Vance standing like Paul Bunyan in the middle of the highway waiting for Walt.  Saint Peter puts his arm around Vance, as they turn and enter the gates of Heaven.  Saint Peter mentions one last thing to Vance, “Yeah.  It is like Ray said…. Walt’s stomach saved his life.”

Addendum to this story:

After posting this last week, Ray Eberle contacted me and pointed out that Vance had died one year ago to the day from the date I created this post on November 7, 2015.  He actually died November 7, 2014.  No one had told me about Vance’s death, and when I pulled up Facebook, the first picture I saw was a picture of Vance, which further enforced my thought that he had died this past week.  The family was remembering his funeral service from the previous year. — This would explain why the Stillwater NewsPress said that he died on a Monday, when the date was on a Tuesday.

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A Power Plant Day to Remember

Originally posted June 1, 2013:

There seem to be some days of the year where every few years, I am not surprised to learn something out of the ordinary has happened. Almost as if it was a personal holiday or anniversary for some unknown reason. One of those days of the year for me is June 25. It is 2 days before my sister’s birthday and another grade school friend of mine…. It is a few days after the beginning of summer…. It is exactly 6 months or 1/2 year from Christmas. We sometimes jokingly refer to June 25 as the “anti-Christmas”.

June 25 was the date my son was born. Exactly 14 years later to the day, Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett both died on the same day, as well as a relative of mine.

Farrah Fawcett

Farrah Fawcett

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson

A day my son remembers well. He told me that we went out to eat at Logan’s Roadhouse for dinner, and reminds me of the people that died on that day. He has a detailed memory of his 14th birthday and what we did during the day on June 25, 2009.

June 25 exactly 10 years to the day before my son was born, I have a very vivid memory of the events that took place that day. Because the events of this day are often in my mind, I will share them with you. It was a day where I spent some time with a True Power Plant Man, met a true hero and dealt with the emotions of two great tragedies. The day was June 25, 1985.

I had been an electrician at the coal-fired power plant in North Central Oklahoma for a little over a year and a half, which still made me an electrical apprentice at the time. Surprisingly, that morning Bill Bennett told me that he wanted me to go with Ben Davis to Enid to find a grounded circuit. He said that it would be a good opportunity to learn more about the auxiliary generators that were in Enid Oklahoma. They were peaking units that we would use only during high demand days during the summer.

The reason I was surprised was because I didn’t normally get to work with Ben. I had worked with him the previous fall at the Muskogee Power Plant when we were on “Overhaul”. You can read about that “adventure” in the post: “Lap O’ Luxury at the Muskogee Power Plant“. Ben wasn’t on my crew in the electric shop, so we rarely ever worked with each other.

Ben Davis

Ben Davis

Ben and I loaded some equipment into the back of the Ford Pickup and climbed into the truck. Ben was driving. The normal route to take to Enid would be to go south on Highway 177 and then go west on the turnpike straight to Enid. Ben had worked at Enid a lot in the past, and over the years, had taken different routes for a change of scenery, so he asked me if I would mind if we took a different route through the countryside. It was a nice sunny morning and it was early enough that the heat hadn’t kicked in, so we took the scenic route to Enid that morning.

I remember going by an old farmhouse that over 12 years later, Ray Eberle shared a horror story about. I remember the drive. We were pretty quiet on the way. We didn’t talk much. Ben was usually a quiet person, and I didn’t think he would appreciate my tendency to ramble, so I just smiled and looked out the window. I was glad that I was with Ben and that I was given the opportunity to work with him. I looked up to him. To me he was one of the True Power Plant Men that gave you the confidence that no matter how bad things may become… everything would be all right, because men like Ben were there to pull you out of the fire when you needed a helping hand.

When we arrived in Enid, it was nearing the time that we would normally take a break. Ben asked if I minded if we stopped by Braum’s to get something for breakfast. Of course, I didn’t mind. I have always had a special affinity for food of any kind. Braum’s has an especially good assortment of delicious meals…. and deserts.

Braum's is a great place to go for a Chocolate Malt and a Burger. It is only found around Oklahoma and the surrounding states not too far from the Oklahoma border.

Braum’s is a great place to go for a Chocolate Malt and a Burger. It is only found around Oklahoma and the surrounding states not too far from the Oklahoma border.

We pulled into the Braum’s Parking lot and Ben parked the pickup toward the far end away from any other cars. Somewhere where we could watch it as we ate. I climbed out of the truck and walked toward the entrance. As I passed the handicap parking space next to the front door, I noticed a white Lincoln parked there with a license plate embossed with a Purple Heart.

On like this, on this one didn't belong to Sam

One like this, only this one didn’t belong to Sam

When I saw this license plate, I wondered who it belonged to in the in restaurant. When I walked in, I immediately knew. There was the hero sitting in the corner booth. There were two elderly men sitting there drinking their coffee. I had wanted to buy them breakfast, but it looked like they had already eaten. I went up to the counter and ordered a sausage biscuit and a drink. Then I walked back around by their table. I paused and looked at them. I smiled….

I wanted to say, “Is that your white car parked right out there?” After one of them said yes, I wanted to say, “Thank you for serving our country.” For some reason I didn’t say anything. I just smiled at the two of them and sat down two booths down the row from them. I’m not usually one for keeping my mouth shut when something comes to mind, but that morning, I kept quiet. This is one of the reasons I think about this day often. Whenever I see a purple heart on a license plate, I think of the two elderly heroes sitting in Braum’s that morning on June 25, 1985.

After eating our breakfast we left Braum’s at 9:30 and Ben drove us to the Auxiliary Generators so that we could find the grounded circuit and repair it. There were some other chores we were going to work on, but that was the most interesting one. Ben had worked on enough grounded circuits in this mini-power plant to know that the first place to look was in a mult-connector, where cables came into the control room and connected to the cables that led to the control panels.

a multi-pole connector like this only bigger.

a multi-pole connector like this only bigger.

Ben was right. We quickly found the grounded wire in the connector and did what we could to clear it. As we were finishing this up, the phone rang. The phone was in the garage, and we were in a control room that was like a long trailer parked out back. A bell had been placed outside of the garage so that people working on the generators or in the control room could hear the phone ringing. Ben went to answer it while I finished insulating the connector and connecting the circuit back up.

After a few minutes, Ben came back into the control room and told me that we needed to go back to the plant. He explained that on June 25, 1985 at 9:30 his father had a heart attack in Shidler, Oklahoma. They weren’t sure of his condition, but it didn’t look good. They were going to life-flight him to Tulsa. I immediately knew how he felt.

Life Flight from Tulsa

Life Flight from Tulsa

I remember the morning in my dorm room in college in Columbia Missouri when my mother called me to tell me that my own father had a heart attack and that he was in the hospital in Stillwater, Oklahoma and was being life-flighted to Tulsa. I called up one of my professors at the College of Psychology and told him that I wouldn’t be attending class that morning. He told me he would pass it on to the other professors. Later, when I was in Tulsa, many professors from the University of Missouri in Columbia sent flowers to him in the hospital in Tulsa.  My dad used to teach at the University of Missouri.

I remember grabbing a small suitcase, throwing some clothes in it and going straight to my car and driving the 345 miles to Tulsa. It is a long drive. It becomes an even longer drive under these circumstances. That is why as we were driving back to the plant, and Ben was going faster and faster down the highway, I understood him completely. I was praying for the safety of his father and the safety of the two of us.

Ben had expected that by the time we made it back to the plant that his father would be on his way to Tulsa. I suppose he figured that he would go to Shidler and pick up his mother and any other family members and would head to Tulsa. Unfortunately, when we walked into the electric shop, he found out that his father was still in Shidler. No Life Flight would be coming for him. Not for a while at least.

You see, another event had taken place at 9:30 on June 25, 1985. Let me explain it to you like this….. When Ben and I walked out of the Braum’s in Enid, Oklahoma that morning, directly down the road from this Braum’s 100 miles east, just outside of a town named Hallett, an electrical supplies salesman was driving from Tulsa to our power plant in North Central Oklahoma. He was on the Cimarron Turnpike going west.

The salesman looked to the south and he saw something that was so bizarre that it didn’t register. It made no sense. There was a herd of cattle grazing out in a pasture, and while he was watching them, they began tumbling over and flying toward him. He said it was so unreal his mind couldn’t make any sense out of it. Suddenly his car went skidding sideways off the road as a deafening roar blasted his car. He came safely to a stop and just sat there stunned by what had just happened.

Looking to the south, the salesman could see a large mushroom cloud rising in the distance. Something that looked like a nuclear explosion. After composing himself for a few minutes, he drove back onto the road and continued on his way to the plant, not sure what had happened. Upon arriving at the plant, he learned (as did the rest of the employees at the plant) that a fireworks plant had exploded in Hallett, Oklahoma. Here is an article about the explosion: “Fireworks Plant Explosion Kills 21 in Oklahoma“. This was a tragedy much like the West Texas Fertilizer explosion on April 17, 2013 at 8 pm.

What this tragedy meant for Ben was that there wasn’t going to be a Life Flight from Tulsa for his father. They had all been called to Hallett for the tragedy that had occurred there. I believe that Ben’s father survived the heart attack from that day. It seemed like he was taken by ambulance instead.

The timing of these events made me think about Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars.

Obi Wan Kenobi

Obi Wan Kenobi

When Darth Vader was trying to persuade Princess Leia to tell him where the rebel base was hidden he blew up her home planet. When this happened Obi Wan Kenobi was on the Millenium Falcon with Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Obi Wan felt the sudden loss of life in the universe when the planet exploded.

This made me wonder….. what about Ben’s father? Had Ben’s father experienced some hidden distress from the sudden tragedy of what happened 60 miles almost directly south of Shidler? The timing and location is interesting. Ben and I were almost due west, and Ben’s Father was almost due North of Hallett that morning when the explosion took place.

Even if it was all coincidental, I have made it into something that is important to me. Don’t most of us do that? Where were you when the Murrah Building was bombed on April 19, 1995 at 9:02 am? What were you doing that morning? I will write about that morning much later. Where were you on the morning of September 11, 2001 at 8:46 am? I remember where I was sitting and what I was doing at that moment. On June 25, 1985 at 9:30 am. I know what I was doing at that moment. Our break was over. Ben and I walked out of Braum’s, climbed into the Pickup truck and made our way to the Auxiliary Generators.

That one day, I had the opportunity to spend some time with a True Power Plant Man, Ben Davis. I spent some time sharing his grief for his father and his mother. I met an elderly hero that had been wounded while serving his country. We all grieved for the loss of young lives from the explosion at the fireworks plant in Hallett. June 25, 1985.

Power Plant Trip Leads to Game of Frogger

Some days when everything seems to be going just right, some little thing comes along that throws a wrench into the end of a perfect day. That’s what happened to the husband of the timekeeper at the coal-fired Power Plant in North Central Oklahoma. Vance Shiever had spent the day baling hay into large bails in a pasture outside Morrison Oklahoma. All day while he worked, off in the distance he could see the plant where his wife Linda spent her week days.

Linda Shiever

Linda Shiever

Linda Shiever was one of the first two employees hired at the Coal-fired plant along with Sonny Karcher.  She was hired on May 30, 1978, just 10 days after her marriage to Vance.  During the 20 years I worked at the Power Plant, I heard Linda talk about Vance often.  So, when Ray Eberle began telling me a story about him, I already had a picture of a Vance in my head much like Paul Bunyan (having never met him in person):

Like this Paul Bunyan only with tinted glasses. Actually, this is a historian named Wayne Chamberlain

Like this Paul Bunyan only with tinted glasses. Actually, this is a historian named Wayne Chamberlain

Ray Eberle said that he had stopped to visit Vance this particular Saturday afternoon when Vance was just finishing up loading the bales of hay onto a large flat bed semi-truck trailer.

Large Round Hay Bale

Large Round Hay Bale

About that time, Walt Oswalt drove by and saw his best buddy Ray standing out in the pasture talking with Vance, so he pulled off the road to visit Vance and Ray.  This is the same Walt Oswalt that I wrote about last month (see the post:  “Mr. Frog’s Wild Power Plant Ride“).  Ray’s nickname for Walt was Frog.  Even today when I talk to Ray, he refers to him as Frog.

While Ray, Walt and Vance stood there talking, Vance looked off in the distance toward the Power Plant looming in the distance.

Power Plant at sunset

Power Plant at sunset

He mentioned that even though his wife has worked there for 20 years (at that time), he had never actually been to the plant.  Ray said that he would be glad to give him a tour of the plant right then and there if he wanted to see it.  This was a tempting proposition for Vance, who had been curious for many years about what actually went on there.

Vance said that it would be great if he could have a tour of the plant, but unfortunately, he still had to tie down all the bales of hay on the truck before he headed off to Muskogee to deliver his load by morning.  At this point Walt spoke up and said that Vance should go with Ray on a tour of the plant.  Walt said he would tie down the bales.  Vance replied that he wanted to make sure the bales of hay were properly secured before he took his trip down the turnpike to Muskogee.

Walt was insistent that Vance should go take a tour of the Power Plant and that he would tie down the bales of hay.  He knew how to do it.  Vance gave Walt some instructions about how to make sure the bales were securely tied down, and Walt kept reassuring Vance that he knew what he was doing.

A truck loaded with large round bales

A truck loaded with large round bales properly tied down

Walt finally convinced Vance that he could handle the hay bales, and Vance went with Ray Eberle to tour the Power Plant.  Ray said that Vance was so excited to finally be able to see the plant up close.  Ray gave Vance the full Power Plant Tour, which can take a few hours, especially with a professional story teller such as Ray Eberle:

Ray Eberle

Ray Eberle

It was dark when Ray and Vance returned to the pasture where the large semi-truck was parked.  Walt was taking a nap in his car waiting for them to return.

Walt Oswalt

Walt Oswalt

Vance asked Walt if he had tied down the bales of hay, as it was too dark to tell for sure.  Walt assured Vance that the bales of hay were securely tied down to the bed of the trailer.  He had no need to worry.  Now it was time for a second favor…

Ray had given Vance a long desired tour of the Power Plant, so Ray asked Vance if he would do a favor for him.  Ray had never had the opportunity to ride in a “Big Rig” Semi Truck, so he asked Vance if he would let him ride with him to Muskogee and back.  Walt would follow along behind them to bring Ray back home when they arrived in Muskogee.

Vance was glad to return the favor.  Ray climbed into the truck and it pulled out of the pasture and onto the dark highway 64, then the Cimarron Turnpike that ran next to Morrison.  Walt, following along behind.  The traffic on this particular stretch of the Cimarron was always light, especially on a Saturday night.

This was a perfect day for Vance.  He had spent the day doing what he loved.  Baling Hay and loading it on the trailer.  The first class tour of the Power Plant with the best tour guide in Oklahoma and the surrounding states (since Mark Twain is no longer with us).  Now, driving down the highway with a load of hay with a good friend sitting shotgun.  What could be better?

Ray was thinking that there was something in the air that just wasn’t quite right.  The few other cars that were driving down the highway seemed to be driving a little more erratic than usual.  Well, it was Saturday night….  Maybe that was the reason a couple of cars swerved around the truck honking their horns before speeding off into the night.

Eventually, one car pulled up alongside the truck so that Vance could see the person in the passenger side.  They were frantically pointing back behind them.  Oh No!  Yeah.  That’s right.  If you have been reading this post with more than a simple glance, you have already surmised what was happening. Vance quickly pulled off the side of the road and came to a stop.

Ray finally realized what was happening at that point…  As they were travelling down the highway, the bales of hay had been flying off the truck into the middle of the dark highway.  Vance jumped out of the truck yelling, “I’m going to kill him!  I’m going to kill him!”  He stood in the middle of the highway, fists out at his side, waiting for Walt to show up… after all, he was following the semi when they left the pasture.

Ray could see Vance standing in the middle of the highway like Paul Bunyan, with the red glow of the tail lights dimly lighting the back of the truck.  Waiting for Walt to arrive… but Walt didn’t show up.

Ray and Vance spent the next hour or so walking down the highway pushing the large round bales off the side of the turnpike.  Luckily, few cars were travelling on the Cimarron Turnpike that night and no one was hurt (yet).  After walking a couple of miles back to the truck both Ray and Vance were worn out.  They were beat.  All the rage that Vance had felt when he realized that Walt had not tied down the bales was gone.  He was too tired at that point.

About that time, Walt Oswalt came driving down the highway and saw the truck pulled over.  He pulled up behind the truck.  Vance was too tired to confront him for his failure to secure the bales.  Where had Walt been for the last hour and a half while Ray and Vance had been rolling bales of hay off of the road?  That’s what they really wanted to know.

Walt said that when they left the pasture he suddenly realized that he was hungry, so he went down to the diner in Morrison and ate some supper.  When Ray was relaying this story to me, he said, “Walt’s stomach probably saved his life.  By the time he showed up, Vance was too worn out to kill him.  Besides… that really wasn’t Vance’s nature.  But there for a moment, I thought if Walt had showed up right away, his life may have been in danger.”

Of all the Walt Oswalt Stories, this is my favorite.  When I sat down to write my post this morning, this story was on my mind, so I thought for a moment what would be a good title.  I thought of the game of Frogger where the frog jumps across the road dodging the cars.  In this case, of course, it was the cars that were dodging the round bales of hay that were placed there because of the actions of a man whose best friend calls him “Frog”.  So, I wrote:  “Power Plant Trip Leads to Game of Frogger”.

A game of Frogger

A game of Frogger

Then I thought, I have pictures of Ray and Walt.  Let me see if I can find a picture of Vance on the Internet.  So, I did what I usually do in this instance.  I opened up Google and searched.  I typed Vance Shiever, Morrison Oklahoma.  The link at the top of the page said, “Vance Lee Shiever – Stillwater News Press:  Obituaries”.  Oh No!  What?!?!

I quickly clicked the link and my heart fell.  There was a picture of a man smiling back at me… Vance Lee Shiever.

Vance Shiever

Vance Lee Shiever

Vance died this past Tuesday from pancreatic cancer.  I had no idea!  I have been so busy this past week that I haven’t even logged into Facebook since last weekend.  If the dates are right, (because I know that Stillwater News Press often misspells names and dates), then Vance is having his funeral service this very afternoon.  I don’t believe for a moment that this is just a coincidence.

I have found that the members of the Power Plant Family in which I was a member for 20 years keep in touch in various ways.  Sometimes it is by e-mail. Sometimes it is through Facebook.  Other times, we just think about each other, and we just seem to know that something is up, even when we aren’t sure what.  I believe that is what happened this morning.

This past month three people have died in the Power Plant Family.  Walt Oswalt, Vance Shiever, and Ray Eberle’s wife Barbara.  I have often heard it said at the Power Plant that things always seem to happen in 3’s.  This Power Plant Post was one story about those three.

I thought that I should find a better picture of Vance, so I logged into Facebook, and the first picture that came up was this picture of Vance, the photo that was used by the New Press:

Vance Shiever, adored husband and father

Vance Shiever, adored husband and father

I can now picture Vance watching over his family from Heaven.  By the way that Linda always spoke of Vance, I know that he was one of those rare people full of kindness.  I also picture him going through the videos of his life with Saint Peter.  All those happy days he spent with Linda, and their children Beau and Lindsey….

Then as Saint Peter works the remote, he pulls up the video of Vance out in the field loading the round bales on the trailer as Ray pulls up in his truck.  As they watch this story unfold, they both break out in laughter as they watch Vance standing like Paul Bunyan in the middle of the highway waiting for Walt.  Saint Peter puts his arm around Vance, as they turn and enter the gates of Heaven.  Saint Peter mentions one last thing to Vance, “Yeah.  It is like Ray said…. Walt’s stomach saved his life.”

Addendum to this story:

After posting this last week, Ray Eberle contacted me and pointed out that Vance had died one year ago to the day from the date I created this post on November 7, 2015.  He actually died November 7, 2014.  No one had told me about Vance’s death, and when I pulled up Facebook, the first picture I saw was a picture of Vance, which further enforced my thought that he had died this past week.  The family was remembering his funeral service from the previous year. — This would explain why the Stillwater NewsPress said that he died on a Monday, when the date was on a Tuesday.

Power Plant Trip Leads to Game of Frogger

Some days when everything seems to be going just right, some little thing comes along that throws a wrench into the end of a perfect day. That’s what happened to the husband of the timekeeper at the coal-fired Power Plant in North Central Oklahoma. Vance Shiever had spent the day baling hay into large bails in a pasture outside Morrison Oklahoma. All day while he worked, off in the distance he could see the plant where his wife Linda spent her week days.

Linda Shiever

Linda Shiever

Linda Shiever was one of the first two employees hired at the Coal-fired plant along with Sonny Karcher.  She was hired on May 30, 1978, just 10 days after her marriage to Vance.  During the 20 years I worked at the Power Plant, I heard Linda talk about Vance often.  So, when Ray Eberle began telling me a story about him, I already had a picture of a Vance in my head much like Paul Bunyan (having never met him in person):

Like this Paul Bunyan only with tinted glasses. Actually, this is a historian named Wayne Chamberlain

Like this Paul Bunyan only with tinted glasses. Actually, this is a historian named Wayne Chamberlain

Ray Eberle said that he had stopped to visit Vance this particular Saturday afternoon when Vance was just finishing up loading the bales of hay onto a large flat bed semi-truck trailer.

Large Round Hay Bale

Large Round Hay Bale

About that time, Walt Oswalt drove by and saw his best buddy Ray standing out in the pasture talking with Vance, so he pulled off the road to visit Vance and Ray.  This is the same Walt Oswalt that I wrote about last month (see the post:  “Mr. Frog’s Wild Power Plant Ride“).  Ray’s nickname for Walt was Frog.  Even today when I talk to Ray, he refers to him as Frog.

While Ray, Walt and Vance stood there talking, Vance looked off in the distance toward the Power Plant looming in the distance.

Power Plant at sunset

Power Plant at sunset

He mentioned that even though his wife has worked there for 20 years (at that time), he had never actually been to the plant.  Ray said that he would be glad to give him a tour of the plant right then and there if he wanted to see it.  This was a tempting proposition for Vance, who had been curious for many years about what actually went on there.

Vance said that it would be great if he could have a tour of the plant, but unfortunately, he still had to tie down all the bales of hay on the truck before he headed off to Muskogee to deliver his load by morning.  At this point Walt spoke up and said that Vance should go with Ray on a tour of the plant.  Walt said he would tie down the bales.  Vance replied that he wanted to make sure the bales of hay were properly secured before he took his trip down the turnpike to Muskogee.

Walt was insistent that Vance should go take a tour of the Power Plant and that he would tie down the bales of hay.  He knew how to do it.  Vance gave Walt some instructions about how to make sure the bales were securely tied down, and Walt kept reassuring Vance that he knew what he was doing.

A truck loaded with large round bales

A truck loaded with large round bales properly tied down

Walt finally convinced Vance that he could handle the hay bales, and Vance went with Ray Eberle to tour the Power Plant.  Ray said that Vance was so excited to finally be able to see the plant up close.  Ray gave Vance the full Power Plant Tour, which can take a few hours, especially with a professional story teller such as Ray Eberle:

Ray Eberle

Ray Eberle

It was dark when Ray and Vance returned to the pasture where the large semi-truck was parked.  Walt was taking a nap in his car waiting for them to return.

Walt Oswalt

Walt Oswalt

Vance asked Walt if he had tied down the bales of hay, as it was too dark to tell for sure.  Walt assured Vance that the bales of hay were securely tied down to the bed of the trailer.  He had no need to worry.  Now it was time for a second favor…

Ray had given Vance a long desired tour of the Power Plant, so Ray asked Vance if he would do a favor for him.  Ray had never had the opportunity to ride in a “Big Rig” Semi Truck, so he asked Vance if he would let him ride with him to Muskogee and back.  Walt would follow along behind them to bring Ray back home when arrived in Muskogee.

Vance was glad to return the favor.  Ray climbed into the truck and it pulled out of the pasture and onto the dark highway 64, then the Cimarron Turnpike that ran next to Morrison.  Walt, following along behind.  The traffic on this particular stretch of the Cimarron was always light, especially on a Saturday night.

This was a perfect day for Vance.  He had spent the day doing what he loved.  Baling Hay and loading it on the trailer.  The first class tour of the Power Plant with the best tour guide in Oklahoma and the surrounding states (since Mark Twain is no longer with us).  Now, driving down the highway with a load of hay with a good friend sitting shotgun.  What could be better?

Ray was thinking that there was something in the air that just wasn’t quite right.  The few other cars that were driving down the highway seemed to be driving a little more erratic than usual.  Well, it was Saturday night….  Maybe that was the reason a couple of cars swerved around the truck honking their horns before speeding off into the night.

Eventually, one car pulled up alongside the truck so that Vance could see the person in the passenger side.  They were frantically pointing back behind them.  Oh No!  Yeah.  That’s right.  If you have been reading this post with more than a simple glance, you have already surmised what was happening. Vance quickly pulled off the side of the road and came to a stop.

Ray finally realized what was happening at that point…  As they were travelling down the highway, the bales of hay had been flying off the truck into the middle of the dark highway.  Vance jumped out of the truck yelling, “I’m going to kill him!  I’m going to kill him!”  He stood in the middle of the highway, fists out at his side, waiting for Walt to show up… after all, he was following the semi when they left the pasture.

Ray could see Vance standing in the middle of the highway like Paul Bunyan, with the red glow of the tail lights dimly lighting the back of the truck.  Waiting for Walt to arrive… but Walt didn’t show up.

Ray and Vance spent the next hour or so walking down the highway pushing the large round bales off the side of the turnpike.  Luckily, few cars were travelling on the Cimarron Turnpike that night and no one was hurt (yet).  After walking a couple of miles back to the truck both Ray and Vance were worn out.  They were beat.  All the rage that Vance had felt when he realized that Walt had not tied down the bales was gone.  He was too tired at that point.

About that time, Walt Oswalt came driving down the highway and saw the truck pulled over.  He pulled up behind the truck.  Vance was too tired to confront him for his failure to secure the bales.  Where had Walt been for the last hour and a half while Ray and Vance had been rolling bales of hay off of the road?  That’s what they really wanted to know.

Walt said that when they left the pasture he suddenly realized that he was hungry, so he went down to the diner in Morrison and ate some supper.  When Ray was relaying this story to me, he said, “Walt’s stomach probably saved his life.  By the time he showed up, Vance was too worn out to kill him.  Besides… that really wasn’t Vance’s nature.  But there for a moment, I thought if Walt had showed up right away, his life may have been in danger.”

Of all the Walt Oswalt Stories, this is my favorite.  When I sat down to write my post this morning, this story was on my mind, so I thought for a moment what would be a good title.  I thought of the game of Frogger where the frog jumps across the road dodging the cars.  In this case, of course, it was the cars that were dodging the round bales of hay that were placed there because of the actions of a man whose best friend calls him “Frog”.  So, I wrote:  “Power Plant Trip Leads to Game of Frogger”.

A game of Frogger

A game of Frogger

Then I thought, I have pictures of Ray and Walt.  Let me see if I can find a picture of Vance on the Internet.  So, I did what I usually do in this instance.  I opened up Google and searched.  I typed Vance Shiever, Morrison Oklahoma.  The link at the top of the page said, “Vance Lee Shiever – Stillwater News Press:  Obituaries”.  Oh No!  What?!?!

I quickly clicked the link and my heart fell.  There was a picture of a man smiling back at me… Vance Lee Shiever.

Vance Shiever

Vance Lee Shiever

Vance died this past Tuesday from pancreatic cancer.  I had no idea!  I have been so busy this past week that I haven’t even logged into Facebook since last weekend.  If the dates are right, (because I know that Stillwater News Press often misspells names and dates), then Vance is having his funeral service this very afternoon.  I don’t believe for a moment that this is just a coincidence.

I have found that the members of the Power Plant Family in which I was a member for 20 years keep in touch in various ways.  Sometimes it is by e-mail. Sometimes it is through Facebook.  Other times, we just think about each other, and we just seem to know that something is up, even when we aren’t sure what.  I believe that is what happened this morning.

This past month three people have died in the Power Plant Family.  Walt Oswalt, Vance Shiever, and Ray Eberle’s wife Barbara.  I have often heard it said at the Power Plant that things always seem to happen in 3’s.  This Power Plant Post was one story about those three.

I thought that I should find a better picture of Vance, so I logged into Facebook, and the first picture that came up was this picture of Vance, the photo that was used by the New Press:

Vance Shiever, adored husband and father

Vance Shiever, adored husband and father

I can now picture Vance watching over his family from Heaven.  By the way that Linda always spoke of Vance, I know that he was one of those rare people full of kindness.  I also picture him going through the videos of his life with Saint Peter.  All those happy days he spent with Linda, and their children Beau and Lindsey….

Then as Saint Peter works the remote, he pulls up the video of Vance out in the field loading the round bales on the trailer as Ray pulls up in his truck.  As they watch this story unfold, they both break out in laughter as they watch Vance standing like Paul Bunyan in the middle of the highway waiting for Walt.  Saint Peter puts his arm around Vance, as they turn and enter the gates of Heaven.  Saint Peter mentions one last thing to Vance, “Yeah.  It is like Ray said…. Walt’s stomach saved his life.”

Addendum to this story:

After posting this last week, Ray Eberle contacted me and pointed out that Vance had died one year ago to the day from the date I created this post on November 7, 2015.  He actually died November 7, 2014.  No one had told me about Vance’s death, and when I pulled up Facebook, the first picture I saw was a picture of Vance, which further enforced my thought that he had died this past week.  The family was remembering his funeral service from the previous year. — This would explain why the Stillwater NewsPress said that he died on a Monday, when the date was on a Tuesday.

A Power Plant Day to Remember

Originally posted June 1, 2013:

There seem to be some days of the year where every few years, I am not surprised to learn something out of the ordinary has happened. Almost as if it was a personal holiday or anniversary for some unknown reason. One of those days of the year for me is June 25. It is 2 days before my sister’s birthday and another grade school friend of mine…. It is a few days after the beginning of summer…. It is exactly 6 months or 1/2 year from Christmas. We sometimes jokingly refer to June 25 as the “anti-Christmas”.

June 25 was the date my son was born. Exactly 14 years later to the day, Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett both died on the same day, as well as a relative of mine.

Farrah Fawcett

Farrah Fawcett

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson

A day my son remembers well. He told me that we went out to eat at Logan’s Roadhouse for dinner, and reminds me of the people that died on that day. He has a detailed memory of his 14th birthday and what we did during the day on June 25, 2009.

June 25 exactly 10 years to the day before my son was born, I have a very vivid memory of the events that took place that day. Because the events of this day are often in my mind, I will share them with you. It was a day where I spent some time with a True Power Plant Man, met a true hero and dealt with the emotions of two great tragedies. The day was June 25, 1985.

I had been an electrician at the coal-fired power plant in North Central Oklahoma for a little over a year and a half, which still made me an electrical apprentice at the time. Surprisingly, that morning Bill Bennett told me that he wanted me to go with Ben Davis to Enid to find a grounded circuit. He said that it would be a good opportunity to learn more about the auxiliary generators that were in Enid Oklahoma. They were peaking units that we would use only during high demand days during the summer.

The reason I was surprised was because I didn’t normally get to work with Ben. I had worked with him the previous fall at the Muskogee Power Plant when we were on “Overhaul”. You can read about that “adventure” in the post: “Lap O’ Luxury at the Muskogee Power Plant“. Ben wasn’t on my crew in the electric shop, so we rarely ever worked with each other.

Ben Davis

Ben Davis

Ben and I loaded some equipment into the back of the Ford Pickup and climbed into the truck. Ben was driving. The normal route to take to Enid would be to go south on Highway 177 and then go west on the turnpike straight to Enid. Ben had worked at Enid a lot in the past, and over the years, had taken different routes for a change of scenery, so he asked me if I would mind if we took a different route through the countryside. It was a nice sunny morning and it was early enough that the heat hadn’t kicked in, so we took the scenic route to Enid that morning.

I remember going by an old farmhouse that over 12 years later, Ray Eberle shared a horror story about. I remember the drive. We were pretty quiet on the way. We didn’t talk much. Ben was usually a quiet person, and I didn’t think he would appreciate my tendency to ramble, so I just smiled and looked out the window. I was glad that I was with Ben and that I was given the opportunity to work with him. I looked up to him. To me he was one of the True Power Plant Men that gave you the confidence that no matter how bad things may become… everything would be all right, because men like Ben were there to pull you out of the fire when you needed a helping hand.

When we arrived in Enid, it was nearing the time that we would normally take a break. Ben asked if I minded if we stopped by Braum’s to get something for breakfast. Of course, I didn’t mind. I have always had a special affinity for food of any kind. Braum’s has an especially good assortment of delicious meals…. and deserts.

Braum's is a great place to go for a Chocolate Malt and a Burger. It is only found around Oklahoma and the surrounding states not too far from the Oklahoma border.

Braum’s is a great place to go for a Chocolate Malt and a Burger. It is only found around Oklahoma and the surrounding states not too far from the Oklahoma border.

We pulled into the Braum’s Parking lot and Ben parked the pickup toward the far end away from any other cars. Somewhere where we could watch it as we ate. I climbed out of the truck and walked toward the entrance. As I passed the handicap parking space next to the front door, I noticed a white Lincoln parked there with a license plate embossed with a Purple Heart.

On like this, on this one didn't belong to Sam

One like this, only this one didn’t belong to Sam

When I saw this license plate, I wondered who it belonged to in the in restaurant. When I walked in, I immediately knew. There was the hero sitting in the corner booth. There were two elderly men sitting there drinking their coffee. I had wanted to buy them breakfast, but it looked like they had already eaten. I went up to the counter and ordered a sausage biscuit and a drink. Then I walked back around by their table. I paused and looked at them. I smiled….

I wanted to say, “Is that your white car parked right out there?” After one of them said yes, I wanted to say, “Thank you for serving our country.” For some reason I didn’t say anything. I just smiled at the two of them and sat down two booths down the row from them. I’m not usually one for keeping my mouth shut when something comes to mind, but that morning, I kept quiet. This is one of the reasons I think about this day often. Whenever I see a purple heart on a license plate, I think of the two elderly heroes sitting in Braum’s that morning on June 25, 1985.

After eating our breakfast we left Braum’s at 9:30 and Ben drove us to the Auxiliary Generators so that we could find the grounded circuit and repair it. There were some other chores we were going to work on, but that was the most interesting one. Ben had worked on enough grounded circuits in this mini-power plant to know that the first place to look was in a mult-connector, where cables came into the control room and connected to the cables that led to the control panels.

a multi-pole connector like this only bigger.

a multi-pole connector like this only bigger.

Ben was right. We quickly found the grounded wire in the connector and did what we could to clear it. As we were finishing this up, the phone rang. The phone was in the garage, and we were in a control room that was like a long trailer parked out back. A bell had been placed outside of the garage so that people working on the generators or in the control room could hear the phone ringing. Ben went to answer it while I finished insulating the connector and connecting the circuit back up.

After a few minutes, Ben came back into the control room and told me that we needed to go back to the plant. He explained that on June 25, 1985 at 9:30 his father had a heart attack in Shidler, Oklahoma. They weren’t sure of his condition, but it didn’t look good. They were going to life-flight him to Tulsa. I immediately knew how he felt.

Life Flight from Tulsa

Life Flight from Tulsa

I remember the morning in my dorm room in college in Columbia Missouri when my mother called me to tell me that my own father had a heart attack and that he was in the hospital in Stillwater, Oklahoma and was being life-flighted to Tulsa. I called up one of my professors at the College of Psychology and told him that I wouldn’t be attending class that morning. He told me he would pass it on to the other professors. Later, when I was in Tulsa, many professors from the University of Missouri in Columbia sent flowers to him in the hospital in Tulsa.

I remember grabbing a small suitcase, throwing some clothes in it and going straight to my car and driving the 345 miles to Tulsa. It is a long drive. It becomes an even longer drive under these circumstances. That is why as we were driving back to the plant, and Ben was going faster and faster down the highway, I understood him completely. I was praying for the safety of his father and the safety of the two of us.

Ben had expected that by the time we made it back to the plant that his father would be on his way to Tulsa. I suppose he figured that he would go to Shidler and pick up his mother and any other family members and would head to Tulsa. Unfortunately, when we walked into the electric shop, he found out that his father was still in Shidler. No Life Flight would be coming for him. Not for a while at least.

You see, another event had taken place at 9:30 on June 25, 1985. Let me explain it to you like this….. When Ben and I walked out of the Braum’s in Enid, Oklahoma that morning, directly down the road from this Braum’s 100 miles east, just outside of a town named Hallett, an electrical supplies salesman was driving from Tulsa to our power plant in North Central Oklahoma. He was on the Cimarron Turnpike going west.

The salesman looked to the south and he saw something that was so bizarre that it didn’t register. It made no sense. There was a herd of cattle grazing out in a pasture, and while he was watching them, they began tumbling over and flying toward him. He said it was so unreal his mind couldn’t make any sense out of it. Suddenly his car went skidding sideways off the road as a deafening roar blasted his car. He came safely to a stop and just sat there stunned by what had just happened.

Looking to the south, the salesman could see a large mushroom cloud rising in the distance. Something that looked like a nuclear explosion. After composing himself for a few minutes, he drove back onto the road and continued on his way to the plant, not sure what had happened. Upon arriving at the plant, he learned (as did the rest of the employees at the plant) that a fireworks plant had exploded in Hallett, Oklahoma. Here is an article about the explosion: “Fireworks Plant Explosion Kills 21 in Oklahoma“. This was a tragedy much like the West Texas Fertilizer explosion on April 17, 2013 at 8 pm.

What this tragedy meant for Ben was that there wasn’t going to be a Life Flight from Tulsa for his father. They had all been called to Hallett for the tragedy that had occurred there. I believe that Ben’s father survived the heart attack from that day. It seemed like he was taken by ambulance instead.

The timing of these events made me think about Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars.

Obi Wan Kenobi

Obi Wan Kenobi

When Darth Vader was trying to persuade Princess Leia to tell him where the rebel base was hidden he blew up her home planet. When this happened Obi Wan Kenobi was on the Millenium Falcon with Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Obi Wan felt the sudden loss of life in the universe when the planet exploded.

This made me wonder….. what about Ben’s father? Had Ben’s father experienced some hidden distress from the sudden tragedy of what happened 60 miles almost directly south of Shidler? The timing and location is interesting. Ben and I were almost due west, and Ben’s Father was almost due North of Hallett that morning when the explosion took place.

Even if it was all coincidental, I have made it into something that is important to me. Don’t most of us do that? Where were you when the Murrah Building was bombed on April 19, 1995 at 9:02 am? What were you doing that morning? I will write about that morning much later. Where were you on the morning of September 11, 2001 at 8:46 am? I remember where I was sitting and what I was doing at that moment. On June 25, 1985 at 9:30 am. I know what I was doing at that moment. Our break was over. Ben and I walked out of Braum’s, climbed into the Pickup truck and made our way to the Auxiliary Generators.

That one day, I had the opportunity to spend some time with a True Power Plant Man, Ben Davis. I spent some time sharing his grief for his father and his mother. I met an elderly hero that had been wounded while serving his country. We all grieved for the loss of young lives from the explosion at the fireworks plant in Hallett. June 25, 1985.

A Power Plant Day to Remember — Repost

Originally posted June 1, 2013:

There seem to be some days of the year where every few years, I am not surprised to learn something out of the ordinary has happened. Almost as if it was a personal holiday or anniversary for some unknown reason. One of those days of the year for me is June 25. It is 2 days before my sister’s birthday and another grade school friend of mine…. It is a few days after the beginning of summer…. It is exactly 6 months or 1/2 year from Christmas. We sometimes jokingly refer to June 25 as the “anti-Christmas”.

June 25 was the date my son was born. Exactly 14 years later to the day, Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett both died on the same day, as well as a relative of mine.

Farrah Fawcett

Farrah Fawcett

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson

A day my son remembers well. He told me that we went out to eat at Logan’s Roadhouse for dinner, and reminds me of the people that died on that day. He has a detailed memory of his 14th birthday and what we did during the day on June 25, 2009.

June 25 exactly 10 years to the day before my son was born, I have a very vivid memory of the events that took place that day. Because the events of this day are often in my mind, I will share them with you. It was a day where I spent some time with a True Power Plant Man, met a true hero and dealt with the emotions of two great tragedies. The day was June 25, 1985.

I had been an electrician at the coal-fired power plant in North Central Oklahoma for a little over a year and a half, which still made me an electrical apprentice at the time. Surprisingly, that morning Bill Bennett told me that he wanted me to go with Ben Davis to Enid to find a grounded circuit. He said that it would be a good opportunity to learn more about the auxiliary generators that were in Enid Oklahoma. They were peaking units that we would use only during high demand days during the summer.

The reason I was surprised was because I didn’t normally get to work with Ben. I had worked with him the previous fall at the Muskogee Power Plant when we were on “Overhaul”. You can read about that “adventure” in the post: “Lap O’ Luxury at the Muskogee Power Plant“. Ben wasn’t on my crew in the electric shop, so we rarely ever worked with each other.

Ben and I loaded some equipment into the back of the Ford Pickup and climbed into the truck. Ben was driving. The normal route to take to Enid would be to go south on Highway 177 and then go west on the turnpike straight to Enid. Ben had worked at Enid a lot in the past, and over the years, had taken different routes for a change of scenery, so he asked me if I would mind if we took a different route through the countryside. It was a nice sunny morning and it was early enough that the heat hadn’t kicked in, so we took the scenic route to Enid that morning.

I remember going by an old farmhouse that over 12 years later, Ray Eberle shared a horror story about. I remember the drive. We were pretty quiet on the way. We didn’t talk much. Ben was usually a quiet person, and I didn’t think he would appreciate my tendency to ramble, so I just smiled and looked out the window. I was glad that I was with Ben and that I was given the opportunity to work with him. I looked up to him. To me he was one of the True Power Plant Men that gave you the confidence that no matter how bad things may become… everything would be all right, because men like Ben were there to pull you out of the fire when you needed a helping hand.

When we arrived in Enid, it was nearing the time that we would normally take a break. Ben asked if I minded if we stopped by Braum’s to get something for breakfast. Of course, I didn’t mind. I have always had a special affinity for food of any kind. Braum’s has an especially good assortment of delicious meals…. and deserts.

Braum's is a great place to go for a Chocolate Malt and a Burger.  It is only found around Oklahoma and the surrounding states not too far from the Oklahoma border.

Braum’s is a great place to go for a Chocolate Malt and a Burger. It is only found around Oklahoma and the surrounding states not too far from the Oklahoma border.

We pulled into the Braum’s Parking lot and Ben parked the pickup toward the far end away from any other cars. Somewhere where we could watch it as we ate. I climbed out of the truck and walked toward the entrance. As I passed the handicap parking space next to the front door, I noticed a white Lincoln parked there with a license plate embossed with a Purple Heart.

On like this, on this one didn't belong to Sam

One like this, only this one didn’t belong to Sam

When I saw this license plate, I wondered who it belonged to in the in restaurant. When I walked in, I immediately knew. There was the hero sitting in the corner booth. There were two elderly men sitting there drinking their coffee. I had wanted to buy them breakfast, but it looked like they had already eaten. I went up to the counter and ordered a sausage biscuit and a drink. Then I walked back around by their table. I paused and looked at them. I smiled….

I wanted to say, “Is that your white car parked right out there?” After one of them said yes, I wanted to say, “Thank you for serving our country.” For some reason I didn’t say anything. I just smiled at the two of them and sat down two booths down the row from them. I’m not usually one for keeping my mouth shut when something comes to mind, but that morning, I kept quiet. This is one of the reasons I think about this day often. Whenever I see a purple heart on a license plate, I think of the two elderly heroes sitting in Braum’s that morning on June 25, 1985.

After eating our breakfast we left Braum’s at 9:30 and Ben drove us to the Auxiliary Generators so that we could find the grounded circuit and repair it. There were some other chores we were going to work on, but that was the most interesting one. Ben had worked on enough grounded circuits in this mini-power plant to know that the first place to look was in a mult-connector, where cables came into the control room and connected to the cables that led to the control panels.

a multi-pole connector like this only bigger.

a multi-pole connector like this only bigger.

Ben was right. We quickly found the grounded wire in the connector and did what we could to clear it. As we were finishing this up, the phone rang. The phone was in the garage, and we were in a control room that was like a long trailer parked out back. A bell had been placed outside of the garage so that people working on the generators or in the control room could hear the phone ringing. Ben went to answer it while I finished insulating the connector and connecting the circuit back up.

After a few minutes, Ben came back into the control room and told me that we needed to go back to the plant. He explained that on June 25, 1985 at 9:30 his father had a heart attack in Shidler, Oklahoma. They weren’t sure of his condition, but it didn’t look good. They were going to life-flight him to Tulsa. I immediately knew how he felt.

Life Flight from Tulsa

Life Flight from Tulsa

I remember the morning in my dorm room in college when my mother called me to tell me that my own father had a heart attack and that he was in the hospital in Stillwater, Oklahoma and was being life-flighted to Tulsa. I called up one of my professors at the College of Psychology and told him that I wouldn’t be attending class that morning. He told me he would pass it on to the other professors. Later, when I was in Tulsa, many professors from the University of Missouri in Columbia sent flowers to him in the hospital in Tulsa.

I remember grabbing a small suitcase, throwing some clothes in it and going straight to my car and driving the 345 miles to Tulsa. It is a long drive. It becomes an even longer drive under these circumstances. That is why as we were driving back to the plant, and Ben was going faster and faster down the highway, I understood him completely. I was praying for the safety of his father and the safety of the two of us.

Ben had expected that by the time we made it back to the plant that his father would be on his way to Tulsa. I suppose he figured that he would go to Shidler and pick up his mother and any other family members and would head to Tulsa. Unfortunately, when we walked into the electric shop, he found out that his father was still in Shidler. No Life Flight would be coming for him. Not for a while at least.

You see, another event had taken place at 9:30 on June 25, 1985. Let me explain it to you like this….. When Ben and I walked out of the Braum’s in Enid, Oklahoma that morning, directly down the road from this Braum’s 100 miles east, just outside of a town named Hallett, an electrical supplies salesman was driving from Tulsa to our power plant in North Central Oklahoma. He was on the Cimarron Turnpike going west.

The salesman looked to the south and he saw something that was so bizarre that it didn’t register. It made no sense. There was a herd of cattle grazing out in a pasture, and while he was watching them, they began tumbling over and flying toward him. He said it was so unreal his mind couldn’t make any sense out of it. Suddenly his car went skidding sideways off the road as a deafening roar blasted his car. He came safely to a stop and just sat there stunned by what had just happened.

Looking to the south, the salesman could see a large mushroom cloud rising in the distance. Something that looked like a nuclear explosion. After composing himself for a few minutes, he drove back onto the road and continued on his way to the plant, not sure what had happened. Upon arriving at the plant, he learned (as did the rest of the employees at the plant) that a fireworks plant had exploded in Hallett, Oklahoma. Here is an article about the explosion: “Fireworks Plant Explosion Kills 21 in Oklahoma“. This was a tragedy much like the West Texas Fertilizer explosion on April 17, 2013 at 8 pm.

What this tragedy meant for Ben was that there wasn’t going to be a Life Flight from Tulsa for his father. They had all been called to Hallett for the tragedy that had occurred there. I believe that Ben’s father survived the heart attack from that day. It seemed like he was taken by ambulance instead.

The timing of these events made me think about Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars.

Obi Wan Kenobi

Obi Wan Kenobi

When Darth Vader was trying to persuade Princess Leia to tell him where the rebel base was hidden he blew up her home planet. When this happened Obi Wan Kenobi was on the Millenium Falcon with Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Obi Wan felt the sudden loss of life in the universe when the planet exploded.

This made me wonder….. what about Ben’s father? Had Ben’s father experienced some hidden distress from the sudden tragedy of what happened 60 miles almost directly south of Shidler? The timing and location is interesting. Ben and I were almost due west, and Ben’s Father was almost due North of Hallett that morning when the explosion took place.

Even if it was all coincidental, I have made it into something that is important to me. Don’t most of us do that? Where were you when the Murrah Building was bombed on April 19, 1995 at 9:02 am? What were you doing that morning? I will write about that morning much later. Where were you on the morning of September 11, 2001 at 8:46 am? I remember where I was sitting and what I was doing at that moment. On June 25, 1985 at 9:30 am. I know what I was doing at that moment. Our break was over. Ben and I walked out of Braum’s, climbed into the Pickup truck and made our way to the Auxiliary Generators.

That one day, I had the opportunity to spend some time with a True Power Plant Man, Ben Davis. I spent some time sharing his grief for his father and his mother. I met an elderly hero that had been wounded while serving his country. We all grieved for the loss of young lives from the explosion at the fireworks plant in Hallett. June 25, 1985.

A Power Plant Day to Remember

There seem to be some days of the year where every few years, I am not surprised to learn something out of the ordinary has happened.  Almost as if it was a personal holiday or anniversary for some unknown reason.  One of those days of the year for me is June 25.  It is 2 days before my sister’s birthday and another grade school friend of mine….  It is a few days after the beginning of summer…. It is exactly 6 months or 1/2 year from Christmas.  We sometimes jokingly refer to June 25 as the “anti-Christmas”.

June 25 was the date my son was born.  Exactly 14 years later to the day, Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett both died on the same day, as well as a relative of mine.

Farrah Fawcett

Farrah Fawcett

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson

A day my son remembers well.  He told me that we went out to eat at Logan’s Roadhouse for dinner, and reminds me of the people that died on that day.  He has a detailed memory of his 14th birthday and what we did during the day on June 25, 2009.

June 25 exactly 10 years to the day before my son was born, I have a very vivid memory of the events that took place that day.  Because the events of this day are often in my mind, I will share them with you.  It was a day where I spent some time with a True Power Plant Man, met a true hero and dealt with the emotions of two great tragedies.  The day was June 25, 1985.

I had been an electrician at the coal-fired power plant in North Central Oklahoma for a little over a year and a half, which still made me an electrical apprentice at the time.  Surprisingly, that morning Bill Bennett told me that he wanted me to go with Ben Davis to Enid to find a grounded circuit.  He said that it would be a good opportunity to learn more about the auxiliary generators that were in Enid Oklahoma.  They were peaking units that we would use only during high demand days during the summer.

The reason I was surprised was because I didn’t normally get to work with Ben.  I had worked with him the previous fall at the Muskogee Power Plant when we were on “Overhaul”. You can read about that “adventure” in the post: “Lap O’ Luxury at the Muskogee Power Plant“.  Ben wasn’t on my crew in the electric shop, so we rarely ever worked with each other.

Ben and I loaded some equipment into the back of the Ford Pickup and climbed into the truck.  Ben was driving.  The normal route to  take to Enid would be to go south on Highway 177 and then go west on the turnpike straight to Enid.  Ben had worked at Enid a lot in the past, and over the years, had taken different routes for a change of scenery, so he asked me if I would mind if we took a different route through the countryside.  It was a nice sunny morning and it was early enough that the heat hadn’t kicked in, so we took the scenic route to Enid that morning.

I remember going by an old farmhouse that over 12 years later, Ray Eberle shared a horror story about.  I remember the drive.  We were pretty quiet on the way.  We didn’t talk much.  Ben was usually a quiet person, and I didn’t think he would appreciate my tendency to ramble, so I just smiled and looked out the window.  I was glad that I was with Ben and that I was given the opportunity to work with him.  I looked up to him.  To me he was one of the True Power Plant Men that gave you the confidence that no matter how bad things may become… everything would be all right, because men like Ben were there to pull you out of the fire when you needed a helping hand.

When we arrived in Enid, it was nearing the time that we would normally take a break.  Ben asked if I minded if we stopped by Braum’s to get something for breakfast.  Of course, I didn’t mind.  I have always had a special affinity for food of any kind.  Braum’s has an especially good assortment of delicious meals…. and deserts.

Braum's is a great place to go for a Chocolate Malt and a Burger.  It is only found around Oklahoma and the surrounding states not too far from the Oklahoma border.

Braum’s is a great place to go for a Chocolate Malt and a Burger. It is only found around Oklahoma and the surrounding states not too far from the Oklahoma border.

We pulled into the Braum’s Parking lot and Ben parked the pickup toward the far end away from any other cars.  Somewhere where we could watch it as we ate.  I climbed out of the truck and walked toward the entrance.  As I passed the handicap parking space next to the front door, I noticed a white Lincoln parked there with a license plate embossed with a Purple Heart.

On like this, on this one didn't belong to Sam

One like this, only this one didn’t belong to Sam

When I saw this license plate, I wondered who it belonged to in the in restaurant.  When I walked in, I immediately knew.  There was the hero sitting in the corner booth.  There were two elderly men sitting there drinking their coffee.  I had wanted to buy them breakfast, but it looked like they had already eaten.  I went up to the counter and ordered a sausage biscuit and a drink.  Then I walked back around by their table.  I paused and looked at them.  I smiled….

I wanted to say, “Is that your white car parked right out there?”  After one of them said yes, I wanted to say, “Thank you for serving our country.”  For some reason I didn’t say anything.  I just smiled at the two of them and sat down two booths down the row from them.  I’m not usually one for keeping my mouth shut when something comes to mind, but that morning, I kept quiet.  This is one of the reasons I think about this day often.  Whenever I see a purple heart on a license plate, I think of the two elderly heroes sitting in Braum’s that morning on June 25, 1985.

After eating our breakfast we left Braum’s at 9:30 and Ben drove us to the Auxiliary Generators so that we could find the grounded circuit and repair it.  There were some other chores we were going to work on, but that was the most interesting one.  Ben had worked on enough grounded circuits in this mini-power plant to know that the first place to look was in a mult-connector, where cables came into the control room and connected to the cables that led to the control panels.

a multi-pole connector like this only bigger.

a multi-pole connector like this only bigger.

Ben was right.  We quickly found the grounded wire in the connector and did what we could to clear it.  As we were finishing this up, the phone rang.  The phone was in the garage, and we were in a control room that was like a long trailer parked out back.  A bell had been placed outside of the garage so that people working on the generators or in the control room could hear the phone ringing.  Ben went to answer it while I finished insulating the connector and connecting the circuit back up.

After a few minutes, Ben came back into the control room and told me that we needed to go back to the plant.  He explained that on June 25, 1985 at 9:30 his father had a heart attack in Shidler, Oklahoma.  They weren’t sure of his condition, but it didn’t look good.  They were going to life-flight him to Tulsa.  I immediately knew how he felt.

Life Flight from Tulsa

Life Flight from Tulsa

I remember the morning in my dorm room in college when my mother called me to tell me that my own father had a heart attack and that he was in the hospital in Stillwater, Oklahoma and was being life-flighted to Tulsa.  I called up one of my professors at the College of Psychology and told him that I wouldn’t be attending class that morning.  He told me he would pass it on to the other professors.  Later, when I was in Tulsa, many professors from the University of Missouri in Columbia sent flowers to him in the hospital in Tulsa.

I remember grabbing a small suitcase, throwing some clothes in it and going straight to my car and driving the 345 miles to Tulsa.  It is a long drive.  It becomes an even longer drive under these circumstances.  That is why as we were driving back to the plant, and Ben was going faster and faster down the highway, I understood him completely.  I was praying for the safety of his father and the safety of the two of us.

Ben had expected that by the time we made it back to the plant that his father would be on his way to Tulsa.  I suppose he figured that he would go to Shidler and pick up his mother and any other family members and would head to Tulsa.  Unfortunately, when we walked into the electric shop, he found out that his father was still in Shidler.  No Life Flight would be coming for him.  Not for a while at least.

You see, another event had taken place at 9:30 on June 25, 1985.  Let me explain it to you like this….. When Ben and I walked out of the Braum’s in Enid, Oklahoma that morning, directly down the road from this Braum’s 100 miles east, just outside of a town named Hallett, an electrical supplies salesman was driving from Tulsa to our power plant in North Central Oklahoma.  He was on the Cimarron Turnpike going west.

The salesman looked to the south and he saw something that was so bizarre that it didn’t register.  It made no sense.  There was a herd of cattle grazing out in a pasture, and while he was watching them, they began tumbling over and flying toward him.  He said it was so unreal his mind couldn’t make any sense out of it.  Suddenly his car went skidding sideways off the road as a deafening roar blasted his car.  He came safely to a stop and just sat there stunned by what had just happened.

Looking to the south, the salesman could see a large mushroom cloud rising in the distance.  Something that looked like a nuclear explosion.  After composing himself for a few minutes, he drove back onto the road and continued on his way to the plant, not sure what had happened.  Upon arriving at the plant, he learned (as did the rest of the employees at the plant) that a fireworks plant had exploded in Hallett, Oklahoma.  Here is an article about the explosion:  “Fireworks Plant Explosion Kills 21 in Oklahoma“.  This was a tragedy much like the West Texas Fertilizer explosion on April 17, 2013 at 8 pm.

What this tragedy meant for Ben was that there wasn’t going to be a Life Flight from Tulsa for his father.  They had all been called to Hallett for the tragedy that had occurred there.  I believe that Ben’s father survived the heart attack from that day.  It seemed like he was taken by ambulance instead.

The timing of these events made me think about Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars.

Obi Wan Kenobi

Obi Wan Kenobi

When Darth Vader was trying to persuade Princess Leia to tell him where the rebel base was hidden he blew up her home planet.  When this happened Obi Wan Kenobi was on the Millenium Falcon with Luke Skywalker and Han Solo.  Obi Wan felt the sudden loss of life in the universe when the planet exploded.

This made me wonder….. what about Ben’s father?  Had Ben’s father experienced some hidden distress from the sudden tragedy of what happened 60 miles almost directly south of Shidler?  The timing and location is interesting.  Ben and I were almost due west, and Ben’s Father was almost due North of Hallett that morning when the explosion took place.

Even if it was all coincidental, I have made it into something that is important to me.  Don’t most of us do that?  Where were you when the Murrah Building was bombed on April 19, 1995 at 9:02 am?  What were you doing that morning?  I will write about that morning much later.  Where were you on the morning of September 11, 2001 at 8:46 am?  I remember where I was sitting and what I was doing at that moment.  On June 25, 1985 at 9:30 am.  I know what I was doing at that moment.  Our break was over.  Ben and I walked out of Braum’s, climbed into the Pickup truck and made our way to the Auxiliary Generators.

That one day, I had the opportunity to spend some time with a True Power Plant Man, Ben Davis.  I spent some time sharing his grief for his father and his mother.  I met an elderly hero that had been wounded while serving his country.  We all grieved for the loss of young lives from the explosion at the fireworks plant in Hallett.   June 25, 1985.