Tag Archives: flat bed trailer

Mr. Frog’s Wild Power Plant Ride

I woke up from a dream this past Wednesday where I had just insulted a young lady who had cancer treatment by calling her “baldy”. In the dream I was attempting to be funny, but as soon as I said it, I knew I had crossed the line of common courtesy. I acknowledged right away that “I shouldn’t have said that”, and rose from my chair to go find whoever it was so that I could apologize. In my dream I was never able to find the person, though I thoroughly searched whatever restaurant-factory-office building we were in. You know how thing are in dreams.

I preface this post with that thought because someone may take offense to the title I have chosen today. So, let me just say that this is a story about someone that has been the source of constant conversation in my family for the past 30 years. Though I never refer to him as “Frog”, that is a title reserved for one of this man’s best friends. It is an expression of friendship bestowed upon Walt Oswalt by Ray Eberle.

Walt Oswalt

Walt Oswalt

Ray Eberle is the most amazing storyteller of our time.  He captivated Power Plant audiences for the past 40 years up until the day he recently retired.  I have heard hundreds of stories by Ray, but none of them were ever said with more compassion and humor than the stories that Ray Eberle would tell me about our fellow Power Plant Man, Walt Oswalt.

Ray Eberle

Ray Eberle

I used to think that Walt’s parents name him Walt so that it would be easy for him to spell his entire name.  Once he learned his first name, he just had to add an OS to it, and he could spell his last name.  Well, actually, his full name was Walter Lee Oswalt.  But whose counting?  I also thought that OD McGaha (prounounced Muh Gay Hay) was in a similar situation, because OD simply stood for OD  (prounounced O-D or Oh Dee).   Not to forget Dee Ball.  I’ll bet all of these guys could spell their names by the time they graduated the third grade.

Look closely at Ray Eberle’s picture above, because if you look closely into his eyes you can see that back behind those orbs, thousands of wonderful stories are packed in there waiting to be told.  I don’t know if I have mentioned this in a post before, but Ray looks just like my grandfather when he was younger.  I think I mentioned that to Ray one day.  Since those days when we used to sit side-by-side working on the computers in the Coal-fired Power Plant in North Central Oklahoma, I have loved Ray with all my heart as if he is a member of my family (see the post:  “Tales of Power Plant Prowess by Ray Eberle“).

Even though this post is about Walt Oswalt, I am spending an unusual amount of time talking about Ray, because the stories I am about to relay are told through the eyes of Ray.  I have already passed on some stories about Walt in other posts, so I will focus on those stories about Walt experienced by Ray.  I will only scratch the surface today, as it takes some time to absorb the universal significance of each story.  If I flood you with too many  Walt Oswalt stories at once it may cause confusion.  I appreciated the fact that Ray didn’t lay all his Walt Oswalt stories on me in one sitting for this very reason.

Ray Eberle began his stories about Walt by telling me about going over to Jimmy Moore’s new house.  Jimmy had just moved into a new house outside Morrison Oklahoma not too far from Ray.  Ray described how nice the property was at the time.  It was a picture perfect piece of property.  The surrounding fields were pristine giving the feeling of peace when you looked around.

Jimmie Moore

Jimmie Moore expression after moving into his nice house

Note the Sparco notepad in Jimmy’s pocket.   A Power Plant Electrician Necessity, just like the notepads I always used:

My Power Plant Sparco Wirebound Memo Book

One of My Power Plant Sparco Wirebound Memo Books

Just when Ray was soaking in the perfection of Jimmy’s new property, dreaming that he could have found such a great spot, Jimmy mentioned that Walt Oswalt bought the property across the road.  Ray’s response was “Frog bought the land across the road?  Oh no!”  Not wanting to upset Jimmy, he didn’t say anything else, but he was thinking it….  You see, Walt is sort of a “junk collector”.

I have always been a junk collector myself, as you may have figured out by the fact that I still have a notepad left over from Christmas 1995.  Actually, I could take a picture of the Sparco notepads I have kept from my time at the power plant and it would look like this:

My personal collection of used Power Plant Sparco Notepads

My personal collection of used Power Plant Sparco Notepads

So, I was a note taker…  Each page of these notepads are filled with work order numbers, part numbers, phrases I heard, Things Gone Right, Things Gone Wrong meeting notes, Meeting schedules, tools needed, and sometimes just thoughts that came to my mind.  I am mentioning this because I have this common bond with Walt.  We both like to collect things that others see as “junk”.

Ray was worried that after Walt moved in across the road that the Beatrice Potter Meadow was going to change into Fallout 3  terrain (well, my phrases, not his, but I think you can picture what I am saying).  From what I understand, this is what happened.  — This by the way is not a Walt Oswalt Story.  This has been more of a Jimmy Moore story.

I have been waiting so long to actually write down a Walt Oswalt Story that I actually find it hard to bring myself to put it down on virtual paper, but here goes….

Here begins the first Walt Oswalt Story:

In the mid-90s the Internet was something of a new phenomenon.  I had taught most of the Power Plant Men how to use the Internet (excluding upper management)  as you can read in the post:  “Power Plant Quest for the Internet“.  One person who immediately saw the benefit of using the Internet beyond looking up indecent pictures or connecting with clandestine online “Match.com” experiences was Walt Oswalt.  Walt saw “business opportunity”!

So, follow me on this story, because Walt stories can become complicated on paper because I can’t talk using my hands.  I may need some help from Walt’s son Edward, since he played a major role in this one…

One day, Walt and Ray were talking and Walt told Ray that he was looking at buying a dump truck.  Let me just show a picture of a dump truck, even though I don’t know the specific truck Walt had in mind.  I just know the approximate size:

A Ford Dump Truck

A Ford Dump Truck

Let’s just suppose that it is a truck like this….  anyway, Walt explained to Ray that he could buy the truck he wanted up in Wichita one hundred miles away.  However, Walt wasn’t going to do that.  He had found the same truck on the Internet for sale for $500 cheaper near Virginia Beach, Virginia, 1,400 miles away.

Ray asked, “But isn’t it going to cost you more than that to have the truck shipped to Oklahoma?”  “Oh, I have that all figured out.  I’m going to go pick it up myself.”  He went on to explain that he and his son (this is where Edward enters the story) were going to drive non-stop to Virginia Beach and pick it up.  They won’t have to stop because they can trade off driving while the other rests.

A Flat Bed Trailer

A Flat Bed Trailer

So, a marathon trip for 2,800 miles was planned.  Walt had a trailer attached to his truck to bring the new truck back… Though I’m not sure why the thought that they could just drive the new truck home wasn’t considered (or flying out there and driving the truck back, but then, that would cost more than the $500 they were saving by buying the truck)….  The plan was that they would load the truck on the trailer and haul it home.  Maybe it was so that they didn’t have to stop because they could swap off driving if they were only driving one of the two trucks.

Two members of the Oswalt family took off for the East Coast one Friday evening.  They arrived early Sunday morning at the place of business where they were going to purchase the truck.  From what I understand, the business was closed, (being Sunday, and all), so they called the owner and told him they were there to pick up the truck.  After waiting a few hours, the truck was purchased, and Walt and Edward were on their way back home.

A couple of days later, Ray noticed that Walt had made it back home, so he went over to his house to see how he managed.  Obviously, after travelling 2,800 miles in four days, the two were bushed, but the new truck was finally home.  While Ray was talking to Walt about his trip, he happened to notice that the back of the dump truck was loaded with blown out tires.

“Hey Walt, what’s up with all the tires?” Ray asked.  “Oh.  Those.” Walt replied….  “Well, the trailer wasn’t really big enough to carry this much weight, so we kept blowing out tires on the trailer when we were coming home.”  They must have blown out more than 20 tires driving home.  So, it seems to me that this turned out to be a pretty costly savings of $500.

I would leave this story at that, but after a couple of trips to Los Angeles and back from Round Rock, TX, I have to say that spending countless hours with your family in the car where there is nothing to do but to talk to each other is an incredibly priceless experience.  Once, my son Anthony and I drove the same distance, 1400 miles non-stop from Los Angeles to Round Rock without stopping and we talked the entire time.  I would say it is an experience worth a million bucks.

The night before last, I received a message on Facebook from a Power Plant Technician, Doug Black.  He wrote:  Sooner retiree, Walter Oswalt passed away on September 30, 2015.  Walter will be laid to rest at Yukon Cemetery with a grave service on October 23, at 2 p.m.

Doug Black

Doug Black

I looked up Walt’s Obituary, and it seemed to me that there was one phrase missing from the description.  It said that “Walt had went to work for OG&E in Mustang Oklahoma and later retired from the OG&E plant in Redrock…”  I didn’t see the words, “Power Plant Legend” mentioned anywhere in the Obituary.  It should be mentioned, because that’s exactly who Walt Oswalt is.

I may not have had the benefit of sitting in a truck with Walt for 20 hours at a time, but I was able to work one-on-one with Walt one day for 19 hours straight on a Saturday when we were on “Coal Cleanup” that had turned into a job repairing conveyor belt rollers.  During that day, while I was a young man of 20, I went through the motions directed by Walt to remove and install rollers on the number 10 belt up toward the top.

Coal conveyor carrying coal to the coal silos from the coalyard

Coal conveyor carrying coal to the coal silos from the coalyard

I didn’t have much of a clue about what I was doing, but I had placed all my confidence in Walt.  I felt the entire time as if Walt was keeping me safe in a potentially unsafe situation even after being awake for 19 hours.  So, I have a little knowledge of what the road trip was like that Walt and his son Edward took “There and Back Again.”

It may seem that Walt had made a bad decision to make the Internet Purchase of a truck 1,400 miles away in order to save $500, but I think that God helps us along some times by sending us down a path that seems a little foolish, only to force us into a benefit we would not otherwise encounter.  I keep Walt in mind whenever things like that happen to me today and I thank him for keeping me from being disappointed with those times in my life.

Now that Walt has met his maker, I’m sure that Walt is sitting there with Jesus Christ reviewing not only Walt’s life, but also Ray Eberle’s retelling of Walt’s story.  Walt may now be surprised to find that moments that he thought were rather insignificant to anyone but himself have actually been spread to others across the world.  As I mentioned in the post about Ray Eberle, a few years ago, CEOs of large companies across the U.S. were all learning about the “Wisdom of Walt”.  Some day I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the Walt Oswalt Stories have become required reading in Oklahoma Schools.

Rest in Peace Walt Oswalt.  We all love you.

Walt Oswalt

Walt Oswalt

Advertisements

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.

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.

Mr. Frog’s Wild Power Plant Ride

I woke up from a dream this past Wednesday where I had just insulted a young lady who had cancer treatment by calling her “baldy”. In the dream I was attempting to be funny, but as soon as I said it, I knew I had crossed the line of common courtesy. I acknowledged right away that “I shouldn’t have said that”, and rose from my chair to go find whoever it was so that I could apologize. In my dream I was never able to find the person, though I thoroughly searched whatever restaurant-factory-office building we were in. You know how thing are in dreams.

I preface this post with that thought because someone may take offense to the title I have chosen today. So, let me just say that this is a story about someone that has been the source of constant conversation in my family for the past 30 years. Though I never refer to him as “Frog”, that is a title reserved for one of this man’s best friends. It is an expression of friendship bestowed upon Walt Oswalt by Ray Eberle.

Walt Oswalt

Walt Oswalt

Ray Eberle is the most amazing storyteller of our time.  He captivated Power Plant audiences for the past 40 years up until the day he recently retired.  I have heard hundreds of stories by Ray, but none of them were ever said with more compassion and humor than the stories that Ray Eberle would tell me about our fellow Power Plant Man, Walt Oswalt.

Ray Eberle

Ray Eberle

I used to think that Walt’s parents name him Walt so that it would be easy for him to spell his entire name.  Once he learned his first name, he just had to add an OS to it, and he could spell his last name.  Well, actually, his full name was Walter Lee Oswalt.  But whose counting?  I also thought that OD McGaha (prounounced Muh Gay Hay) was in a similar situation, because OD simply stood for OD  (prounounced O-D or Oh Dee).   Not to forget Dee Ball.  I’ll bet all of these guys could spell their names by the time they graduated the third grade.

Look closely at Ray Eberle’s picture above, because if you look closely into his eyes you can see that back behind those orbs, thousands of wonderful stories are packed in there waiting to be told.  I don’t know if I have mentioned this in a post before, but Ray looks just like my grandfather when he was younger.  I think I mentioned that to Ray one day.  Since those days when we used to sit side-by-side working on the computers in the Coal-fired Power Plant in North Central Oklahoma, I have loved Ray with all my heart as if he is a member of my family (see the post:  “Tales of Power Plant Prowess by Ray Eberle“).

Even though this post is about Walt Oswalt, I am spending an unusual amount of time talking about Ray, because the stories I am about to relay are told through the eyes of Ray.  I have already passed on some stories about Walt in other posts, so I will focus on those stories about Walt experienced by Ray.  I will only scratch the surface today, as it takes some time to absorb the universal significance of each story.  If I flood you with too many  Walt Oswalt stories at once it may cause confusion.  I appreciated the fact that Ray didn’t lay all his Walt Oswalt stories on me in one sitting for this very reason.

Ray Eberle began his stories about Walt by telling me about going over to Jimmy Moore’s new house.  Jimmy had just moved into a new house outside Morrison Oklahoma not too far from Ray.  Ray described how nice the property was at the time.  It was a picture perfect piece of property.  The surrounding fields were pristine giving the feeling of peace when you looked around.

Jimmie Moore

Jimmie Moore expression after moving into his nice house

Note the Sparco notepad in Jimmy’s pocket.   A Power Plant Electrician Necessity, just like the notepads I always used:

My Power Plant Sparco Wirebound Memo Book

One of My Power Plant Sparco Wirebound Memo Books

Just when Ray was soaking in the perfection of Jimmy’s new property, dreaming that he could have found such a great spot, Jimmy mentioned that Walt Oswalt bought the property across the road.  Ray’s response was “Frog bought the land across the road?  Oh no!”  Not wanting to upset Jimmy, he didn’t say anything else, but he was thinking it….  You see, Walt is sort of a “junk collector”.

I have always been a junk collector myself, as you may have figured out by the fact that I still have a notepad left over from Christmas 1995.  Actually, I could take a picture of the Sparco notepads I have kept from my time at the power plant and it would look like this:

My personal collection of used Power Plant Sparco Notepads

My personal collection of used Power Plant Sparco Notepads

So, I was a note taker…  Each page of these notepads are filled with work order numbers, part numbers, phrases I heard, Things Gone Right, Things Gone Wrong meeting notes, Meeting schedules, tools needed, and sometimes just thoughts that came to my mind.  I am mentioning this because I have this common bond with Walt.  We both like to collect things that others see as “junk”.

Ray was worried that after Walt moved in across the road that the Beatrice Potter Meadow was going to change into Fallout 3  terrain (well, my phrases, not his, but I think you can picture what I am saying).  From what I understand, this is what happened.  — This by the way is not a Walt Oswalt Story.  This has been more of a Jimmy Moore story.

I have been waiting so long to actually write down a Walt Oswalt Story that I actually find it hard to bring myself to put it down on virtual paper, but here goes….

Here begins the first Walt Oswalt Story:

In the mid-90s the Internet was something of a new phenomenon.  I had taught most of the Power Plant Men how to use the Internet (excluding upper management)  as you can read in the post:  “Power Plant Quest for the Internet“.  One person who immediately saw the benefit of using the Internet beyond looking up indecent pictures or connecting with clandestine online “Match.com” experiences was Walt Oswalt.  Walt saw “business opportunity”!

So, follow me on this story, because Walt stories can become complicated on paper because I can’t talk using my hands.  I may need some help from Walt’s son Edward, since he played a major role in this one…

One day, Walt and Ray were talking and Walt told Ray that he was looking at buying a dump truck.  Let me just show a picture of a dump truck, even though I don’t know the specific truck Walt had in mind.  I just know the approximate size:

A Ford Dump Truck

A Ford Dump Truck

Let’s just suppose that it is a truck like this….  anyway, Walt explained to Ray that he could buy the truck he wanted up in Wichita one hundred miles away.  However, Walt wasn’t going to do that.  He had found the same truck on the Internet for sale for $500 cheaper near Virginia Beach, Virginia, 1,400 miles away.

Ray asked, “But isn’t it going to cost you more than that to have the truck shipped to Oklahoma?”  “Oh, I have that all figured out.  I’m going to go pick it up myself.”  He went on to explain that he and his son (this is where Edward enters the story) were going to drive non-stop to Virginia Beach and pick it up.  They won’t have to stop because they can trade off driving while the other rests.

A Flat Bed Trailer

A Flat Bed Trailer

So, a marathon trip for 2,800 miles was planned.  Walt had a trailer attached to his truck to bring the new truck back… Though I’m not sure why the thought that they could just drive the new truck home wasn’t considered (or flying out there and driving the truck back, but then, that would cost more than the $500 they were saving by buying the truck)….  The plan was that they would load the truck on the trailer and haul it home.  Maybe it was so that they didn’t have to stop because they could swap off driving if they were only driving one of the two trucks.

Two members of the Oswalt family took off for the East Coast one Friday evening.  They arrived early Sunday morning at the place of business where they were going to purchase the truck.  From what I understand, the business was closed, (being Sunday, and all), so they called the owner and told him they were there to pick up the truck.  After waiting a few hours, the truck was purchased, and Walt and Edward were on their way back home.

A couple of days later, Ray noticed that Walt had made it back home, so he went over to his house to see how he managed.  Obviously, after travelling 2,800 miles in four days, the two were bushed, but the new truck was finally home.  While Ray was talking to Walt about his trip, he happened to notice that the back of the dump truck was loaded with blown out tires.

“Hey Walt, what’s up with all the tires?” Ray asked.  “Oh.  Those.” Walt replied….  “Well, the trailer wasn’t really big enough to carry this much weight, so we kept blowing out tires on the trailer when we were coming home.”  They must have blown out more than 20 tires driving home.  So, it seems to me that this turned out to be a pretty costly savings of $500.

I would leave this story at that, but after a couple of trips to Los Angeles and back from Round Rock, TX, I have to say that spending countless hours with your family in the car where there is nothing to do but to talk to each other is an incredibly priceless experience.  Once, my son Anthony and I drove the same distance, 1400 miles non-stop from Los Angeles to Round Rock without stopping and we talked the entire time.  I would say it is an experience worth a million bucks.

The night before last, I received a message on Facebook from a Power Plant Technician, Doug Black.  He wrote:  Sooner retiree, Walter Oswalt passed away on September 30, 2015.  Walter will be laid to rest at Yukon Cemetery with a grave service on October 23, at 2 p.m.

Doug Black

Doug Black

I looked up Walt’s Obituary, and it seemed to me that there was one phrase missing from the description.  It said that “Walt had went to work for OG&E in Mustang Oklahoma and later retired from the OG&E plant in Redrock…”  I didn’t see the words, “Power Plant Legend” mentioned anywhere in the Obituary.  It should be mentioned, because that’s exactly who Walt Oswalt is.

I may not have had the benefit of sitting in a truck with Walt for 20 hours at a time, but I was able to work one-on-one with Walt one day for 19 hours straight on a Saturday when we were on “Coal Cleanup” that had turned into a job repairing conveyor belt rollers.  During that day, while I was a young man of 20, I went through the motions directed by Walt to remove and install rollers on the number 10 belt up toward the top.

Coal conveyor carrying coal to the coal silos from the coalyard

Coal conveyor carrying coal to the coal silos from the coalyard

I didn’t have much of a clue about what I was doing, but I had placed all my confidence in Walt.  I felt the entire time as if Walt was keeping me safe in a potentially unsafe situation even after being awake for 19 hours.  So, I have a little knowledge of what the road trip was like that Walt and his son Edward took “There and Back Again.”

It may seem that Walt had made a bad decision to make the Internet Purchase of a truck 1,400 miles away in order to save $500, but I think that God helps us along some times by sending us down a path that seems a little foolish, only to force us into a benefit we would not otherwise encounter.  I keep Walt in mind whenever things like that happen to me today and I thank him for keeping me from being disappointed with those times in my life.

Now that Walt has met his maker, I’m sure that Walt is sitting there with Jesus Christ reviewing not only Walt’s life, but also Ray Eberle’s retelling of Walt’s story.  Walt may now be surprised to find that moments that he thought were rather insignificant to anyone but himself have actually been spread to others across the world.  As I mentioned in the post about Ray Eberle, a few years ago, CEOs of large companies across the U.S. were all learning about the “Wisdom of Walt”.  Some day I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the Walt Oswalt Stories have become required reading in Oklahoma Schools.

Rest in Peace Walt Oswalt.  We all love you.

Walt Oswalt

Walt Oswalt