Tag Archives: Jerry Mitchell

When Power Plant Ingenuity Doesn’t Translate

There are various reasons why “outsiders”  might look at Power Plant Men with a certain degree of uncertainly.  It could be because their worn jeans are permanently stained with coal dust.  It could be that they use a language that only seasoned mechanics, operators and welders understand.  I think that the main reason that Power Plant Men remain a mystery to many outsiders is because their Power Plant Ingenuity doesn’t always translate into viable solutions outside the plant grounds.

This is best illustrated by sharing another in a series of “Walt Oswalt Stories”.  I may be able to squeeze two Walt stories into one.  If you haven’t read the earlier Walt Oswalt Stories, then maybe you should take a break first and read these two posts: “Mr. Frog’s Wild Power Plant Ride” and “Power Plant Trip Leads to a Game of Frogger“.   Now let’s see how this story goes….

Before I share more of the life and times of Walt Oswalt, let me just preface the story with a few factors that influence the lives of Power Plant Men at the plant, that lead to occasional confusion when they move beyond the Power Plant Boundary.

I suppose that most Power Plant Ingenuity springs from the need to perform tasks that others would consider impossible.  In order to perform these feats of magic, Power Plant Men develop a 7th sense where they have a canny ability to think outside the box.

I can’t say for sure when I first came face-to-face with this type of thinking, but it was probably the first day I ever worked with a Power Plant Man side-by-side.  Various people with completely different backgrounds were hired to work on thousands of pieces of equipment that were each designed by people with incredible imaginations.  In order to fix, repair or operate some of this equipment, the most obvious solution was usually not the best solution to be found.

Let me give you a for-instance…

When I relayed the story about when there was a large explosion just below the Turbine Generator that was followed with an oil fire hot enough to melt the roof off of the building, (see the post:  “Destruction of a Power Plant God“), the shaft on the Main Power Generator was going to be warped because the turning gear was not able to run, mainly because all the cables feeding everything no longer existed…

Unit 1 Turbine-Generator

Unit 1 Turbine-Generator

If the generator warped, it would have cost the Electric Company (or their Insurance Company) a lot of money to replace as well as month of lost revenue.  In order to save the generator, Charles Patten thought of using cans of STP Oil Treatment to lubricate the bearings while manually rotating the turning gear.

STP Oil Treatment

STP Oil Treatment

As Operators and Charles and some other brave souls worked throughout the night to turn the generator by hand, the fire department fought the fire that was only a few feet away.

Charles Patton

Charles Patten

Such bravery and ingenuity can not be celebrated enough.  The life time salaries of Charles’ entire crew wouldn’t have amounted to as much cost as Charles Patten saved the company through that one act of bravery.  The only reason we came to know about this was because someone passed it up the line to someone who cared enough to share it with others.  Usually great feats of magic goes on every day, just not on such a grand scale.

The reason I’m sharing this with you is because after years of service at a Power Plant, the Men and Women become so accustomed to doing the impossible, that the word “impossible” is usually not in their vocabulary.  In other words…. “Everything has a Solution.  That seems to be the Power Plant Motto…. and management might add… “Everything has a Safe Solution”.

The problem is that “Power Plant Solutions” don’t always translate into the world beyond the Power Plant.  I don’t mean that Charles Patten went home and tried STP Oil Treatment when he washed his dog…. remember… this is a story about Walt Oswalt.

Walt Oswalt

Walt Oswalt

Walt Oswalt had worked many years at the Power Plant in Mustang, Oklahoma before being offered a job at the new Coal-fired Power Plant in North Central Oklahoma by Orville Ferguson.  Orville had asked Walt to move north to work at the new Power Plant because he knew that whatever task you gave to Walt, he would figure out how to “get-er-done”.

As with many Power Plant Men at the plant, when Walt went home in the evening, it wasn’t to go lay back in a chair and drink a beer.  Not right away anyway.  First he had to do some farming…. After all, even though a Power Plant Man’s salary paid the bills, making a little extra never hurt anyone… or so it was thought anyway.

It turned out that Walt had a new barn put on his land that was the admiration of his neighbors.  A nice shiny new metal barn… this is not a picture of the actual barn… This is just a metal barn I found on Google images to illustrate my point:

New Metal Barn

New Metal Barn – envy of the neighbors…

As you know from my previous posts (if you read them…) that one of Ray Eberle’s best friends was Walt Oswalt.  So, Ray would go over to visit him often since he lived just down the road.  On one particular day when Ray came by for a visit he found Walt loading square bales of hay in his shiny new barn.

Square Bale of hay often used by Power Plant Men to feed their cattle

Square Bale of hay often used by Power Plant Men to feed their cattle

Now, be careful… or you might learn something….  Ray noticed right away that Walt was laying the bottom layer of hay flat as shown in the picture above.  This might not seem like such a bad thing to an amateur like me or you, so let me explain…..  The floor of the barn was dirt.

So, as tactfully as Ray could muster the words, he asked Walt… “Don’t you want to set the bottom bales of hay on edge so the wires don’t rust from the moisture that comes up through the ground?”  — You see… the bale of hay is held together by two or three metal wires going around the bale.

Ray was concerned that the wires would rust and then the bottom bales would fall apart when it came time to move them later in the winter when they were needed.  If you just rotated the bale onto it’s side, then the wires would go around the bale instead of under and over the bale.  This was common practice in a world of which I am totally unfamiliar… – but learning.

Walt Oswalt replied with one of his most favorite phrases:  “I have that all figured out.”  He explained why he wasn’t worried about the wires rusting with this explanation….  Now put on your thinking cap and see if you can follow along with this logic…

This is Walt’s explanation:  “You see… I happen to know that salt absorbs moisture, so before I put the bales of hay in the barn, I covered the entire floor with salt.  That way the salt will absorb all the moisture and the wires won’t get wet.”

I know how Walt could come up with such a fantastic idea as this… after all, he had come up with some doozies at work in order to do the impossible, so why not think outside the box (or the barn in this case) to come up with a solution just so that you can lay your bottom bales of hay wire-side down…

Maybe he had an argument about this at a bar one day and decided to prove that you don’t “always” have to put the bottom layer on their side… because if you think about it, it’s just as easy to lay them on their side as it is flat.  I know that salt is cheap, but gee whiz… sprinkling salt all over the floor of your brand new shiny metal barn in order to lay the bottom row of hay flat…. I’m just not seeing it… but then… I’m not Walt.

Within two months, Ray went to visit Walt and his shiny new barn only to find that the walls of Walt’s new barn now looked like this:

uh...hmm...

uh…hmm…

The bottom of the barn had rusted completely away around the entire barn.  Walt’s neighbors were no longer envious of Walt’s new barn.  In fact, I think some non-power plant neighbors were probably even unsympathetic to Walt’s circumstance.

I guess Walt didn’t consider the other feature that salt displayed…. That salt corrodes metal… Especially when wet… The entire bottom layer of hay in the barn was useless.  The wires had all corroded away and it was a mess.  Ray really felt bad for his friend.  What could Ray do, but show his support for Walt.

Ray Eberle

Ray Eberle

Fast forward another couple of months….. Ray Eberle drops by Walt Oswalt’s house for a visit again only to find that the rusted out barn now looks completely new again….  “What Happened?”  Walt explained that Jerry Osborn came over and fixed the barn…..  I suppose it’s time to introduce another one of the “True Power Plant Men” of his day… Jerry Osborn.

Jerry Osborn

Jerry Osborn

As with many true power plant men, Jerry Osborn could fix just about anything he ever laid his hands on.  Sometimes that was all he had to do… Lay his hands on it and nod a little and the pump would start running again…. sometimes it was so eerie it even startled Jerry.  Jerry Osborn had a way of nodding his head much like Jerry Mitchell, only a somewhat younger version.

Whenever Walt backed himself into a corner, all he had to do was call up Jerry and he would show up and patch things up.  Jerry was sort of like Walt’s Guardian Angel.  Jerry was a master carpenter, sheetrocker, mechanic, and observer of mankind.

Though some people thought Jerry was lazy on the job, because he kept himself clean like Jerry Mitchell used to do (see the post:  “A Power Plant Man Becomes an Unlikely Saint“), the truth was that when it came to helping your neighbor, Jerry would always come through.

Ray was standing there admiring the shiny new barn when he noticed that Walt was pacing off some squares in the barn, so he asked him what he was doing…

Walt said, “Oh.  I’m going to turn the barn into a stable.  I’m just pacing off how I am going to place the stalls.  Ray watched for a few minutes as Walt walked back and forth in the barn…. Ray noticed that Walt wasn’t writing anything down so he asked, “Aren’t you going to write this down so you can remember it?”

Walt replied, “Nope.  I have it all right here,” pointing to his head.  “I’ll remember it.”  Ray was becoming a little concerned, because he knew that Walt wasn’t the best with figures, and he also wasn’t the best with using a saw, or a hammer and he especially wasn’t the best at building a barn full of stalls…. Ray began to wonder when Walt would find time to build stalls between his weekly heart-attacks.

Ray thought he was going to find a total mess when Walt called him to come by and look at the new stalls in his barn.  When Ray walked in the barn, he was totally amazed.  The stalls looked like they were done by a professional stall installing service (if there is such a thing).  Ray told Walt that he was really impressed that Walt had built such terrific stalls.

Walt explained that all he had to do was tell Jerry Osborn what he wanted and Jerry built the stalls!  How is that for service?

I know this is a small picture, but let me show it to you again….

Jerry Osborn

Jerry Osborn

This story began as just another Walt Oswalt Story, but as usual with Walt, there is always something else that pops up when talking about Walt.  The first Walt Oswalt story I wrote shortly after Walt had died.  When I went to write the second Walt Oswalt Story, I found out that Vance Shiever (the husband of Linda Shiever the Plant timekeeper) had died that very week (only a year earlier).

I didn’t have a picture of Jerry Osborn, so, I Googled Jerry and found that he had died on February 27, 2014.  This is the picture on the memorial site for Jerry.  It seems that the Power Plant Party is growing in heaven faster than I imagined.

Let me tell you a little more about Jerry, since I have not mentioned him in many posts so far…

As you can tell by the way Jerry was taking care of Walt, he was a considerate man.  I never had much to say about Jerry because Jerry never spent much time talking about himself… as a matter of fact, Jerry didn’t spend much time talking at all.

When Jerry was a foreman, he would stand guard over his crew in a silent vigil watching them work.  This bothered some of those that worked for him, because they thought that he was either “bird-dogging” them while others thought that he should be pitching in and giving them a hand.

I had another take on Jerry.  When I watched Jerry watching his crew, I had the feeling that he was looking out for them some way.  Sort of “praying” for their safety in some way.  I mentioned above that I looked at Jerry as Walt’s Guardian Angel.  I think he was doing the same thing with his crew.

As I said, Jerry wasn’t much for words.  When he spoke, it was because he had something to say.  He was the type of Power Plant Man that I knew so well…  The type that leaves a first “Bad Impression” (see the post: “Power Plant Art of Making a Bad First Impression“).  I could see right through that facade.  Jerry wasn’t the grumpy old fart he wanted you to think he was.  He was the one looking out for your back.

Rest In Peace Jerry, and now that Walt has joined you, take care of him up there, and try to keep him out of trouble…. you know that Walt is “worth his salt!”

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Power Plant Final Presentation

August 16, 2001 was my final day at the coal-fired Power Plant in North Central Oklahoma.  I had stepped onto the plant grounds May 4, 1979, 22 years earlier.  Now I was leaving to change careers and moving to Round Rock, Texas to work for Dell Computers.  During my final day, a going away party was held in my honor by the Power Plant Men and Women that I had the privilege to work alongside during the past 22 years.

A few minutes before the party began, I slipped into the office bathroom/locker room and changed into a navy blue suit and tie.  Combed my hair.  Put on black socks with my shiny black shoe.  Grabbed my briefcase and headed for the break room.  When I walked in the room, it was packed full of Power Plant Men and Women all waiting to say goodbye to one of their family.

Many wondered who it was that had joined their party of one of their own.  Who was this person in the suit and tie?  Ed Shiever told me later that he didn’t even recognize me.  It wasn’t until I reached out and shook his hand that he realized that his was Kevin Breazile.  The same person he had known since he was a temp employee working in the tool room.

When the Power Plant Men finally realized that I was the person they had been waiting for, they broke out in applause as I walked around shaking their hands.  I would have broke out in tears if I hadn’t been thinking about what a great person each of them had been over the many years we had known each other.

I made my way to the front of the room where I had set up a computer and hooked it to the big screen TV.  I had a special surprise waiting for them.  One that would temporarily change the plant policy on going away parties after I was gone.  I had prepared a special PowerPoint presentation for them.

I set my briefcase next to the computer on the end of the table acting as if the computer had nothing to do with the party.  Then I stood there as the “going away” part of the party began.

It was typical for people to stand up and tell a story or two about the person leaving, so Jim Arnold (the Supervisor of Maintenance and part time nemesis) was first.  He explained how I had been working on SAP for the past three years creating tasks lists that are used to describe each possible job in the plant.

He turned to me and asked me how many task lists I had created in the last 3 years.   I replied, “About 17,800”.  Jim said that this boggled his mind.  It was three times more than the entire rest of the company put together.

Jim made a comment about how he wasn’t sure he would want a job where you have to dress up in a suit and tie.

Andy Tubbs stood up and presented me with my 20 year safety sticker and a leather backpack for working 20 years without an accident, which was completed on August 11, just 5 days before.  I had worked four summers as a summer help, which counted as one year of service, then I had completed 19 years as a full time employee that very same week.

I worked 20 years without an accident

I worked 20 years without an accident

I like being roasted, but that didn’t really happen.  A few other people told some stories about me, that I can’t recall because I was busy thinking about the PowerPoint presentation.  I had memorized my entire script, and the presentation was pretty much automatic and timed, and I had to keep to my script or pause the presentation.

Then Jim Arnold asked me (Bill Green, the Plant Manager was gone that day visiting the Muskogee Plant) if I had anything I would like to say before I left…. That was the cue I had been waiting for.  I replied, “Actually, I have a PowerPoint presentation right here, and I hit a key, and the TV lit up….

I will present each of the 26 slides below with the comments I made during each one.  Since many of the slides are animated, I will try to describe how that worked as I made my presentation… so, hang on… this is going to be a lot of slides….  I broke it down into about 45 pictures.  The Script is what I said for each slide:

Slide 1

Slide 1

Script:

Remember when Mark Draper came here for a year and when he was getting ready to leave he gave a presentation about where he thought we were doing well, and how we could improve ourselves?

I thought that since I have spent 20 years with you guys I might be able to come up with a few comments.  Especially as opinionated as I am.

 

Slide 2 part 1

Slide 2 part 1

Script:

In 1979, I came to work here as a summer help.  The plant was still being built and I was really impressed with the special quality of people I met and looked up to.

Slide 2, Part 2

Slide 2, Part 2

Script continues as these three pictures slide in:

Like for instance there was Sonny Karcher and another was Jerry Mitchell.  It has been a while since I have seen these two guys, and I know that Jerry has passed on, but this is the way I remember them.

And of course Larry Riley was there.

Larry was the one I worked with back then that seemed to know what was going on.  I will always consider him a good friend.

When I was on Labor Crew I would call him “Dad”.  He would never own up to it.  He said I was never the same after I fell on my head when I was a kid.

I used to get real dirty when I worked in the coal yard right alongside Jerry Mitchell.  He would stay perfectly clean.  He told me that I knew I was good when I could keep myself clean.  —

Well.  I have found a better way to do that.  And once again I would like to thank OG&E for paying for my education.

I encourage all the new guys to seriously consider taking advantage of the free education benefit.

Slide 3

Slide 3

Script:

Then of course there was our Plant Manager and Assistant Manager back then.

This is how I remember them.

 

Slide 4 part 1

Slide 4 part 1

Script:

After hiring on permanently as a janitor in ’82, and getting on Labor crew in the spring of ’83.  I was able to get into the electric shop in November 1983.

I vividly remember my first day as an electrician.  The first thing I worked on, I shorted it to ground.

Slide 4 part 2

Slide 4 part 2

Script continues as Charles Foster’s picture slides in:

With no prior experience as an electrician I was allowed to join the electric shop.  Charles Foster was instrumental in getting me into the shop, and I am grateful.  As everyone knows, Charles is a long time friend of mine.

For years and years Charles would tell the story about how he fought tooth and nail for me against the evil Plant Manager and His diabolic Assistant who wanted me to be banished to the Labor Crew for eternity.

Not too long ago I told Charles that if he hadn’t pushed so hard to get me into the electric shop, I probably would have left OG&E and went back to school years ago ( like my mom wanted me to do), and made something of myself long before now.

Slide 5

Slide 5

Script:

These are the electricians that were there when I first joined the electric shop.  These are the only ones left.  I think we started out with 16.

The electricians were always a tight knit group.  It amazed me to see a electricians who couldn’t stand each other sit down and play dominos three times a day, every day, year after year.

Jimmie Moore joined the shop some time later.

And of course.  Bill Bennett was around back then.

When I arrived in the electric shop I was 23 years old and I replaced Diana Brien as the youngest electrician in the shop.  As I leave, I am almost 41 years old, and I am still the youngest electrician.  As I leave, I relinquish the title back to Diana Brien who once again will be the youngest electrician.

As a side note…. I don’t know why I forgot about Ben Davis.  He reminded me after the presentation… I don’t know how… Here is a picture of Ben:

Ben Davis

Ben Davis

Slide 6 part 1

Slide 6 part 1

Script:

I suppose you all remember what happened on February 15th, 1985.  The day we refer to as “Black Friday”.  The day that the “Drug and Theft” ring was busted at Sooner Station.  That was the day that a very dear friend of mine, Pat Braden, whom everyone knew as a kind easy going person turned out to be some evil leader of a theft ring.

Slide 6 part 2

Slide 6 part 2

Note:  As I was saying the above statement, This mummy walked across the slide…

Slide 6 part 3

Slide 6 part 3

Note:  Then Barney slide across in the other direction…

Script continued:

Well.  I know better than that. I will always remember Pat Braden with a smile on his face.  Mickey Postman, I know you would agree with me about Pat and just about everyone else who knew him well.

It has been 16 years since this took place and the company has gone through a lot of changes, but don’t ever think something like this couldn’t happen again.

Slide 3

Slide 3

Note… The hammers come in and stomp the images off the slide….

Slide 7 part 2

Slide 7 part 2

Script:

Then there was the first Reorganization.  The old people retired on October 1st.  That was the end of the Moler and Waugh regime.

Slide 7 part 3

Slide 7 part 3

Script:

At first we thought we were all on vacation. Our new plant manager came in the first meeting with us and told a joke.

We all looked at each other and wondered, “Can plant managers even do that?”

I’m sure you guys remember Ron Kilman.  Bless his heart.

Slide 8 part 1

Slide 8 part 1

Script:

The second part of the first reorganization allowed people without jobs to find a position in the company over a 8 month period.

Slide 8 part 2

Slide 8 part 2

Note:  Pictures of Scott Hubbard fly in along with the words:  “Hubbard Here!”  then each one disappears leaving this:

Slide 8 part 3

Slide 8 part 3

Script:

That is when Scott Hubbard joined the electric shop.

Scott and I drove to work together for a long time and we became good friends.

I’ll miss Scott when I leave.  I’ll remember that “Hubbard is Here”, while I’ll be down there – in Texas.

 

Slide 9 part 1

Slide 9 part 1

Script:

Do you remember the Quality Process?  They said it was a process and not a program because when a program is over it goes away, and a process is something that will always be here.  — Yeah right.

Note:  While I was saying this, the screen all of the sudden went dark as I kept talking… I could tell that people wondered if I realized that the presentation had suddenly disappeared….

Slide 9 part 2

Slide 9 part 2

Script:

This is all we have left of the Quality Process.

Note:

When I said the line “This is all we have left of the Quality Process”  pointing my thumb over my shoulder with a look of disappointment on my face, the room suddenly burst out into cheers and applause as they realized that the blank screen represented the current state of the Quality process at the plant.

Slide 10 part 1

Slide 10 part 1

Script:

The first reorganization was done in a somewhat orderly manner.

They retired the old guys out first and brought in the new management, then they informed those that didn’t have positions and gave them time to find a job before they let them go.

Note:  The sounds of gun shots were barely heard from the computer speaker, as splats occurred on the slide until it looked like this:

Slide 10 part 2

Slide 10 part 2

Script continued:

The second reorganization.  Well.  It was a massacre.

It was a very lousy way to do this, and very humiliating.

Note:

Jim Arnold at this point was about to jump out of his chair and stop the show, so I was quick to go to the next slide…

Slide 11

Slide 11

Script:

With the redesign came another Plant Manager.  One of the first things I remember about Bill Green was that one morning I was stopped at the front gate and given a 9 volt battery for my smoke detector.

I took the battery home and put it in my smoke detector, and – guess what? – The battery was dead.  And I thought, “Oh well.  These things happen.”

Well a couple of years later, there was Bill Green handing out smoke detector batteries again.

I checked it out and sure enough, it was dead also.

 

Slide 12

Slide 12

Note:  As I was talking during this slide, the marbles dropped in and bounced around then at the end the hat and moustache landed on Bill Green.

Script:

 

I am just wondering. I want to test out a theory I have.   How many of you was given a dead battery?

—  OK, I see.  Just the trouble makers.  I understand.  It all makes sense to me now.

Second Note:  Bill Green had a jar full of marbles and each color represented a type of injury someone has when they do something unsafe.  Most of the marbles were blue and meant that nothing happened, the other colors represented increasingly worse injuries.  Two marbles in the jar signified fatalities.

The numbers went like this:

Out of 575 incidents where someone does something unsafe, here are the consequences:

390 Blue Marbles:   Nothing happens

113 Green Marbles:  A First Aid injury

57 White Marbles:  A Recordable Accident

8 Pink Marbles:  Up to 30 days lost work day injury occurs

5 Red Marbles:  60 or  more lost workdays injury occurs

2 Yellow Marbles:  A Fatality occurs

Slide 13 part 1

Slide 13 part 1

Script:

The Maintenance workers are the best people I know.  Everyone one of them has treated me with respect, and I consider each of you a friend.

You are the people I will miss.  Not the coal dust, not the fly ash. —  Just the people.

Note:  Over the next set of slides, I showed the Power Plant Men I worked with… I will show you a couple of pictures of some slides to show you the animation that I had slide in and I’ll explain them.. I didn’t say much during the following slides.  They flashed by fairly quickly:

Slide 13 part 2

Slide 13 part 2

Note:  The circle with the slash over Bob Blubaugh represented him being recently fired… The story around this is on some of the last slides… and was a tragedy.  The military cap landed on Randy Daily (in the lower right) because he was an Army Medic and was always in charge when it came to safety.

Slide 14 part 1

Slide 14 part 1

slide 14 part 2

slide 14 part 2

The donut flew up to Danny Cain because if there was ever free food somewhere, Danny would find it… Especially if they were donuts.

 

Slide 15 part 1

Slide 15 part 1

Slide 15 part 2

Slide 15 part 2

The words “Huh, Huh?” flew to Jody Morse, because he had the habit of saying something and ending his sentence with “Huh, Huh?”

Slide 16

Slide 16

Slide 17

Slide 17

Note:  That was the end of the pictures of the Maintenance Power Plant Men….  I didn’t have pictures of the Operators, and they weren’t at the party…

Slide 18

Slide 18

Script:

Without these two, you wouldn’t get paid, and you wouldn’t get parts.

I agree with what Jerry Osborn said about Linda Shiever.  There isn’t anyone out here that can do the job Linda does every day.

Slide 19 part 1

Slide 19 part 1

Script:

The maintenance foremen have treated me with respect and I would like to thank all of you for that.

Note:  Then Jim Arnold flew in:

Slide 19 part 2

Slide 19 part 2

Script:

I realize that you have to do certain things some times because there is someone looking over your shoulders directing every move you make.

Note:  At this point, Jim leaned forward in his chair to get a better look… wondering if that was his face on this picture of God…

Slide 20

Slide 20

Script:

Yes, Jim Arnold does take care of us, and we know that he doesn’t want to retire and leave us to fend for ourselves.

Note:  There was a policy where you could retire once your age and years of service added up to 80 years.  Jim Arnold’s added up to 100, but wouldn’t retire.

Slide 21

Slide 21

Note:  Still talking about Jim Arnold:

Script:

Therefore he has devised a plan in case of an untimely death.

So don’t be smilin’ too big!!

Slide 22

Slide 22

Note: Still talking about Jim Arnold….

Script:

He will be able to direct the plant operations from his heavenly throne.

So don’t worry.  He is NOT going away.

Second Note:  At this point the PowerPoint presentation locked up on the computer… I had to shut down the presentation and restart it, and quickly go back to the next slide… I remembered the Alt-F4 closes the active application, so I was able to do this within about 15 seconds.

Slide 23 part 1

Slide 23 part 1

Script:

Do you remember when Bill Moler decided that you had to wear a hardhat to go fishin’ in the discharge?

He said it was because he wanted everyone to be safe.

As you can see, this made Johnny Keys rather upset.

Note:  As I was speaking, Hardhats dropped onto the people:

Slide 23 part 2

Slide 23 part 2

Script:

Some bird might fly overhead and  drop something on you.

Everyone knew the real reason.  He didn’t want anyone fishing out there so he was making it more difficult to do that.

He used “Safety” as an excuse.  Because of this, he lost credibility when it came to safety issues.

Slide 24

Slide 24

Note:  The Hard hats disappeared and Cell phones and pagers dropped down as I said the following:

Script:

When you start making policies that use safety as an excuse, but it isn’t the real reason, you lose your credibility.

Second Note:  At this point, Jim Arnold was jumping up from his seat… You see, Jim Arnold had fired Bob Blubaugh a few months earlier because Bob carried a cell phone with him when while he was working.  Jim told him he couldn’t use his cell phone during the day.  When Bob refused to stop carrying a cell phone Jim Arnold fired him for insubordination.

Today that seems crazy as everyone carries cell phones.  Jim’s excuse was that carrying a cell phone was not safe, though he couldn’t exactly explain why.

That’s why Jim jumped out of his chair… I thought it was over, and I had two more slides to go….  So, I quickly clicked to the next slide… and Jim sat back down…. whew….

Slide 25 part 1

Slide 25 part 1

Script:

I would like to say goodbye to Doug Black.  I have been blessed to have been able to spend time with you the past three years.

Note:

Then Doug slid off the slide leaving a picture of Toby:

Slide 25 part 2

Slide 25 part 2

Script:

I would like to say goodbye to Toby, you have been a good friend, and I’ll stay in touch.

Note:  Then Toby slid off and Ray Eberle’s picture was left:

Slide 25 part 3

Slide 25 part 3

Script:

Ray, I had to hide this picture from you, because you sat next to me as I created this presentation.  I just want to say that the last three years we have spent working on SAP have meant a lot to me and you will always be one of my best friends.  Thank you.

Slide 26

Slide 26

Script:

With that I will say “Good bye” to all of you.  Thank you!

Note:  This is a picture of Jim Arnold and Louise Kalicki stepping off of Air Force One.  I super-imposed their faces over Bill and Hillary Clinton.

This is the end of the presentation….  With that I was ready to leave the plant and begin the next stage of my life.  I will explain more in the post next week.

After I had left, I heard that when the next person had a going away party, Bill Green announced that PowerPoint Presentations are no longer allowed during going away parties!

Power Plant Final Presentation

August 16, 2001 was my final day at the coal-fired Power Plant in North Central Oklahoma.  I had stepped onto the plant grounds May 4, 1979, 22 years earlier.  Now I was leaving to change careers and moving to Round Rock, Texas to work for Dell Computers.  During my final day, a going away party was held in my honor by the Power Plant Men and Women that I had the privilege to work alongside during the past 22 years.

A few minutes before the party began, I slipped into the office bathroom/locker room and changed into a navy blue suit and tie.  Combed my hair.  Put on black socks with my shiny black shoe.  Grabbed my briefcase and headed for the break room.  When I walked in the room, it was packed full of Power Plant Men and Women all waiting to say goodbye to one of their family.

Many wondered who it was that had joined their party of one of their own.  Who was this person in the suit and tie?  Ed Shiever told me later that he didn’t even recognize me.  It wasn’t until I reached out and shook his hand that he realized that his was Kevin Breazile.  The same person he had known since he was a temp employee working in the tool room.

When the Power Plant Men finally realized that I was the person they had been waiting for, they broke out in applause as I walked around shaking their hands.  I would have broke out in tears if I hadn’t been thinking about what a great person each of them had been over the many years we had known each other.

I made my way to the front of the room where I had set up a computer and hooked it to the big screen TV.  I had a special surprise waiting for them.  One that would temporarily change the plant policy on going away parties after I was gone.  I had prepared a special PowerPoint presentation for them.

I set my briefcase next to the computer on the end of the table acting as if the computer had nothing to do with the party.  Then I stood there as the “going away” part of the party began.

It was typical for people to stand up and tell a story or two about the person leaving, so Jim Arnold (the Supervisor of Maintenance and part time nemesis) was first.  He explained how I had been working on SAP for the past three years creating tasks lists that are used to describe each possible job in the plant.

He turned to me and asked me how many task lists I had created in the last 3 years.   I replied, “About 17,800”.  Jim said that this boggled his mind.  It was three times more than the entire rest of the company put together.

Jim made a comment about how he wasn’t sure he would want a job where you have to dress up in a suit and tie.

Andy Tubbs stood up and presented me with my 20 year safety sticker and a leather backpack for working 20 years without an accident, which was completed on August 11, just 5 days before.  I had worked four summers as a summer help, which counted as one year of service, then I had completed 19 years as a full time employee that very same week.

I worked 20 years without an accident

I worked 20 years without an accident

I like being roasted, but that didn’t really happen.  A few other people told some stories about me, that I can’t recall because I was busy thinking about the PowerPoint presentation.  I had memorized my entire script, and the presentation was pretty much automatic and timed, and I had to keep to my script or pause the presentation.

Then Jim Arnold asked me (Bill Green, the Plant Manager was gone that day visiting the Muskogee Plant) if I had anything I would like to say before I left…. That was the cue I had been waiting for.  I replied, “Actually, I have a PowerPoint presentation right here, and I hit a key, and the TV lit up….

I will present each of the 26 slides below with the comments I made during each one.  Since many of the slides are animated, I will try to describe how that worked as I made my presentation… so, hang on… this is going to be a lot of slides….  I broke it down into about 45 pictures.  The Script is what I said for each slide:

Slide 1

Slide 1

Script:

Remember when Mark Draper came here for a year and when he was getting ready to leave he gave a presentation about where he thought we were doing well, and how we could improve ourselves?

I thought that since I have spent 20 years with you guys I might be able to come up with a few comments.  Especially as opinionated as I am.

 

Slide 2 part 1

Slide 2 part 1

Script:

In 1979, I came to work here as a summer help.  The plant was still being built and I was really impressed with the special quality of people I met and looked up to.

Slide 2, Part 2

Slide 2, Part 2

Script continues as these three pictures slide in:

Like for instance there was Sonny Karcher and another was Jerry Mitchell.  It has been a while since I have seen these two guys, and I know that Jerry has passed on, but this is the way I remember them.

And of course Larry Riley was there.

Larry was the one I worked with back then that seemed to know what was going on.  I will always consider him a good friend.

When I was on Labor Crew I would call him “Dad”.  He would never own up to it.  He said I was never the same after I fell on my head when I was a kid.

I used to get real dirty when I worked in the coal yard right alongside Jerry Mitchell.  He would stay perfectly clean.  He told me that I knew I was good when I could keep myself clean.  —

Well.  I have found a better way to do that.  And once again I would like to thank OG&E for paying for my education.

I encourage all the new guys to seriously consider taking advantage of the free education benefit.

Slide 3

Slide 3

Script:

Then of course there was our Plant Manager and Assistant Manager back then.

This is how I remember them.

 

Slide 4 part 1

Slide 4 part 1

Script:

After hiring on permanently as a janitor in ’82, and getting on Labor crew in the spring of ’83.  I was able to get into the electric shop in November 1983.

I vividly remember my first day as an electrician.  The first thing I worked on, I shorted it to ground.

Slide 4 part 2

Slide 4 part 2

Script continues as Charles Foster’s picture slides in:

With no prior experience as an electrician I was allowed to join the electric shop.  Charles Foster was instrumental in getting me into the shop, and I am grateful.  As everyone knows, Charles is a long time friend of mine.

For years and years Charles would tell the story about how he fought tooth and nail for me against the evil Plant Manager and His diabolic Assistant who wanted me to be banished to the Labor Crew for eternity.

Not too long ago I told Charles that if he hadn’t pushed so hard to get me into the electric shop, I probably would have left OG&E and went back to school years ago ( like my mom wanted me to do), and made something of myself long before now.

Slide 5

Slide 5

Script:

These are the electricians that were there when I first joined the electric shop.  These are the only ones left.  I think we started out with 16.

The electricians were always a tight knit group.  It amazed me to see a electricians who couldn’t stand each other sit down and play dominos three times a day, every day, year after year.

Jimmie Moore joined the shop some time later.

And of course.  Bill Bennett was around back then.

When I arrived in the electric shop I was 23 years old and I replaced Diana Brien as the youngest electrician in the shop.  As I leave, I am almost 41 years old, and I am still the youngest electrician.  As I leave, I relinquish the title back to Diana Brien who once again will be the youngest electrician.

As a side note…. I don’t know why I forgot about Ben Davis.  He reminded me after the presentation… I don’t know how… Here is a picture of Ben:

Ben Davis

Ben Davis

Slide 6 part 1

Slide 6 part 1

Script:

I suppose you all remember what happened on February 15th, 1985.  The day we refer to as “Black Friday”.  The day that the “Drug and Theft” ring was busted at Sooner Station.  That was the day that a very dear friend of mine, Pat Braden, whom everyone knew as a kind easy going person turned out to be some evil leader of a theft ring.

Slide 6 part 2

Slide 6 part 2

Note:  As I was saying the above statement, This mummy walked across the slide…

Slide 6 part 3

Slide 6 part 3

Note:  Then Barney slide across in the other direction…

Script continued:

Well.  I know better than that. I will always remember Pat Braden with a smile on his face.  Mickey Postman, I know you would agree with me about Pat and just about everyone else who knew him well.

It has been 16 years since this took place and the company has gone through a lot of changes, but don’t ever think something like this couldn’t happen again.

Slide 3

Slide 3

Note… The hammers come in and stomp the images off the slide….

Slide 7 part 2

Slide 7 part 2

Script:

Then there was the first Reorganization.  The old people retired on October 1st.  That was the end of the Moler and Waugh regime.

Slide 7 part 3

Slide 7 part 3

Script:

At first we thought we were all on vacation. Our new plant manager came in the first meeting with us and told a joke.

We all looked at each other and wondered, “Can plant managers even do that?”

I’m sure you guys remember Ron Kilman.  Bless his heart.

Slide 8 part 1

Slide 8 part 1

Script:

The second part of the first reorganization allowed people without jobs to find a position in the company over a 8 month period.

Slide 8 part 2

Slide 8 part 2

Note:  Pictures of Scott Hubbard fly in along with the words:  “Hubbard Here!”  then each one disappears leaving this:

Slide 8 part 3

Slide 8 part 3

Script:

That is when Scott Hubbard joined the electric shop.

Scott and I drove to work together for a long time and we became good friends.

I’ll miss Scott when I leave.  I’ll remember that “Hubbard is Here”, while I’ll be down there – in Texas.

 

Slide 9 part 1

Slide 9 part 1

Script:

Do you remember the Quality Process?  They said it was a process and not a program because when a program is over it goes away, and a process is something that will always be here.  — Yeah right.

Note:  While I was saying this, the screen all of the sudden went dark as I kept talking… I could tell that people wondered if I realized that the presentation had suddenly disappeared….

Slide 9 part 2

Slide 9 part 2

Script:

This is all we have left of the Quality Process.

Note:

When I said the line “This is all we have left of the Quality Process”  pointing my thumb over my shoulder with a look of disappointment on my face, the room suddenly burst out into cheers and applause as they realized that the blank screen represented the current state of the Quality process at the plant.

Slide 10 part 1

Slide 10 part 1

Script:

The first reorganization was done in a somewhat orderly manner.

They retired the old guys out first and brought in the new management, then they informed those that didn’t have positions and gave them time to find a job before they let them go.

Note:  The sounds of gun shots were barely heard from the computer speaker, as splats occurred on the slide until it looked like this:

Slide 10 part 2

Slide 10 part 2

Script continued:

The second reorganization.  Well.  It was a massacre.

It was a very lousy way to do this, and very humiliating.

Note:

Jim Arnold at this point was about to jump out of his chair and stop the show, so I was quick to go to the next slide…

Slide 11

Slide 11

Script:

With the redesign came another Plant Manager.  One of the first things I remember about Bill Green was that one morning I was stopped at the front gate and given a 9 volt battery for my smoke detector.

I took the battery home and put it in my smoke detector, and – guess what? – The battery was dead.  And I thought, “Oh well.  These things happen.”

Well a couple of years later, there was Bill Green handing out smoke detector batteries again.

I checked it out and sure enough, it was dead also.

 

Slide 12

Slide 12

Note:  As I was talking during this slide, the marbles dropped in and bounced around then at the end the hat and moustache landed on Bill Green.

Script:

 

I am just wondering. I want to test out a theory I have.   How many of you was given a dead battery?

—  OK, I see.  Just the trouble makers.  I understand.  It all makes sense to me now.

Second Note:  Bill Green had a jar full of marbles and each color represented a type of injury someone has when they do something unsafe.  Most of the marbles were blue and meant that nothing happened, the other colors represented increasingly worse injuries.  Two marbles in the jar signified fatalities.

The numbers went like this:

Out of 575 incidents where someone does something unsafe, here are the consequences:

390 Blue Marbles:   Nothing happens

113 Green Marbles:  A First Aid injury

57 White Marbles:  A Recordable Accident

8 Pink Marbles:  Up to 30 days lost work day injury occurs

5 Red Marbles:  60 or  more lost workdays injury occurs

2 Yellow Marbles:  A Fatality occurs

Slide 13 part 1

Slide 13 part 1

Script:

The Maintenance workers are the best people I know.  Everyone one of them has treated me with respect, and I consider each of you a friend.

You are the people I will miss.  Not the coal dust, not the fly ash. —  Just the people.

Note:  Over the next set of slides, I showed the Power Plant Men I worked with… I will show you a couple of pictures of some slides to show you the animation that I had slide in and I’ll explain them.. I didn’t say much during the following slides.  They flashed by fairly quickly:

Slide 13 part 2

Slide 13 part 2

Note:  The circle with the slash over Bob Blubaugh represented him being recently fired… The story around this is on some of the last slides… and was a tragedy.  The military cap landed on Randy Daily (in the lower right) because he was an Army Medic and was always in charge when it came to safety.

Slide 14 part 1

Slide 14 part 1

slide 14 part 2

slide 14 part 2

The donut flew up to Danny Cain because if there was ever free food somewhere, Danny would find it… Especially if they were donuts.

 

Slide 15 part 1

Slide 15 part 1

Slide 15 part 2

Slide 15 part 2

The words “Huh, Huh?” flew to Jody Morse, because he had the habit of saying something and ending his sentence with “Huh, Huh?”

Slide 16

Slide 16

Slide 17

Slide 17

Note:  That was the end of the pictures of the Maintenance Power Plant Men….  I didn’t have pictures of the Operators, and they weren’t at the party…

Slide 18

Slide 18

Script:

Without these two, you wouldn’t get paid, and you wouldn’t get parts.

I agree with what Jerry Osborn said about Linda Shiever.  There isn’t anyone out here that can do the job Linda does every day.

Slide 19 part 1

Slide 19 part 1

Script:

The maintenance foremen have treated me with respect and I would like to thank all of you for that.

Note:  Then Jim Arnold flew in:

Slide 19 part 2

Slide 19 part 2

Script:

I realize that you have to do certain things some times because there is someone looking over your shoulders directing every move you make.

Note:  At this point, Jim leaned forward in his chair to get a better look… wondering if that was his face on this picture of God…

Slide 20

Slide 20

Script:

Yes, Jim Arnold does take care of us, and we know that he doesn’t want to retire and leave us to fend for ourselves.

Note:  There was a policy where you could retire once your age and years of service added up to 80 years.  Jim Arnold’s added up to 100, but wouldn’t retire.

Slide 21

Slide 21

Note:  Still talking about Jim Arnold:

Script:

Therefore he has devised a plan in case of an untimely death.

So don’t be smilin’ too big!!

Slide 22

Slide 22

Note: Still talking about Jim Arnold….

Script:

He will be able to direct the plant operations from his heavenly throne.

So don’t worry.  He is NOT going away.

Second Note:  At this point the PowerPoint presentation locked up on the computer… I had to shut down the presentation and restart it, and quickly go back to the next slide… I remembered the Alt-F4 closes the active application, so I was able to do this within about 15 seconds.

Slide 23 part 1

Slide 23 part 1

Script:

Do you remember when Bill Moler decided that you had to wear a hardhat to go fishin’ in the discharge?

He said it was because he wanted everyone to be safe.

As you can see, this made Johnny Keys rather upset.

Note:  As I was speaking, Hardhats dropped onto the people:

Slide 23 part 2

Slide 23 part 2

Script:

Some bird might fly overhead and  drop something on you.

Everyone knew the real reason.  He didn’t want anyone fishing out there so he was making it more difficult to do that.

He used “Safety” as an excuse.  Because of this, he lost credibility when it came to safety issues.

Slide 24

Slide 24

Note:  The Hard hats disappeared and Cell phones and pagers dropped down as I said the following:

Script:

When you start making policies that use safety as an excuse, but it isn’t the real reason, you lose your credibility.

Second Note:  At this point, Jim Arnold was jumping up from his seat… You see, Jim Arnold had fired Bob Blubaugh a few months earlier because Bob carried a cell phone with him when while he was working.  Jim told him he couldn’t use his cell phone during the day.  When Bob refused to stop carrying a cell phone Jim Arnold fired him for insubordination.

Today that seems crazy as everyone carries cell phones.  Jim’s excuse was that carrying a cell phone was not safe, though he couldn’t exactly explain why.

That’s why Jim jumped out of his chair… I thought it was over, and I had two more slides to go….  So, I quickly clicked to the next slide… and Jim sat back down…. whew….

Slide 25 part 1

Slide 25 part 1

Script:

I would like to say goodbye to Doug Black.  I have been blessed to have been able to spend time with you the past three years.

Note:

Then Doug slid off the slide leaving a picture of Toby:

Slide 25 part 2

Slide 25 part 2

Script:

I would like to say goodbye to Toby, you have been a good friend, and I’ll stay in touch.

Note:  Then Toby slid off and Ray Eberle’s picture was left:

Slide 25 part 3

Slide 25 part 3

Script:

Ray, I had to hide this picture from you, because you sat next to me as I created this presentation.  I just want to say that the last three years we have spent working on SAP have meant a lot to me and you will always be one of my best friends.  Thank you.

Slide 26

Slide 26

Script:

With that I will say “Good bye” to all of you.  Thank you!

Note:  This is a picture of Jim Arnold and Louise Kalicki stepping off of Air Force One.  I super-imposed their faces over Bill and Hillary Clinton.

This is the end of the presentation….  With that I was ready to leave the plant and begin the next stage of my life.  I will explain more in the post next week.

After I had left, I heard that when the next person had a going away party, Bill Green announced that PowerPoint Presentations are no longer allowed during going away parties!

When Power Plant Ingenuity Doesn’t Translate

There are various reasons why “outsiders”  might look at Power Plant Men with a certain degree of uncertainly.  It could be because their worn jeans are permanently stained with coal dust.  It could be that they use a language that only seasoned mechanics, operators and welders understand.  I think that the main reason that Power Plant Men remain a mystery to many outsiders is because their Power Plant Ingenuity doesn’t always translate into viable solutions outside the plant grounds.

This is best illustrated by sharing another in a series of “Walt Oswalt Stories”.  I may be able to squeeze two Walt stories into one.  If you haven’t read the earlier Walt Oswalt Stories, then maybe you should take a break first and read these two posts: “Mr. Frog’s Wild Power Plant Ride” and “Power Plant Trip Leads to a Game of Frogger“.   Now let’s see how this story goes….

Before I share more of the life and times of Walt Oswalt, let me just preface the story with a few factors that influence the lives of Power Plant Men at the plant, that lead to occasional confusion when they move beyond the Power Plant Boundary.

I suppose that most Power Plant Ingenuity springs from the need to perform tasks that others would consider impossible.  In order to perform these feats of magic, Power Plant Men develop a 7th sense where they have a canny ability to think outside the box.

I can’t say for sure when I first came face-to-face with this type of thinking, but it was probably the first day I ever worked with a Power Plant Man side-by-side.  Various people with completely different backgrounds were hired to work on thousands of pieces of equipment that were each designed by people with incredible imaginations.  In order to fix, repair or operate some of this equipment, the most obvious solution was usually not the best solution to be found.

Let me give you a for-instance…

When I relayed the story about when there was a large explosion just below the Turbine Generator that was followed with an oil fire hot enough to melt the roof off of the building, (see the post:  “Destruction of a Power Plant God“), the shaft on the Main Power Generator was going to be warped because the turning gear was not able to run, mainly because all the cables feeding everything no longer existed…

Unit 1 Turbine-Generator

Unit 1 Turbine-Generator

If the generator warped, it would have cost the Electric Company (or their Insurance Company) a lot of money to replace as well as month of lost revenue.  In order to save the generator, Charles Patten thought of using cans of STP Oil Treatment to lubricate the bearings while manually rotating the turning gear.

STP Oil Treatment

STP Oil Treatment

As Operators and Charles and some other brave souls worked throughout the night to turn the generator by hand, the fire department fought the fire that was only a few feet away.

Charles Patton

Charles Patten

Such bravery and ingenuity can not be celebrated enough.  The life time salaries of Charles’ entire crew wouldn’t have amounted to as much cost as Charles Patten saved the company through that one act of bravery.  The only reason we came to know about this was because someone passed it up the line to someone who cared enough to share it with others.  Usually great feats of magic goes on every day, just not on such a grand scale.

The reason I’m sharing this with you is because after years of service at a Power Plant, the Men and Women become so accustomed to doing the impossible, that the word “impossible” is usually not in their vocabulary.  In other words…. “Everything has a Solution.  That seems to be the Power Plant Motto…. and management might add… “Everything has a Safe Solution”.

The problem is that “Power Plant Solutions” don’t always translate into the world beyond the Power Plant.  I don’t mean that Charles Patten went home and tried STP Oil Treatment when he washed his dog…. remember… this is a story about Walt Oswalt.

Walt Oswalt

Walt Oswalt

Walt Oswalt had worked many years at the Power Plant in Mustang, Oklahoma before being offered a job at the new Coal-fired Power Plant in North Central Oklahoma by Orville Ferguson.  Orville had asked Walt to move north to work at the new Power Plant because he knew that whatever task you gave to Walt, he would figure out how to “get-er-done”.

As with many Power Plant Men at the plant, when Walt went home in the evening, it wasn’t to go lay back in a chair and drink a beer.  Not right away anyway.  First he had to do some farming…. After all, even though a Power Plant Man’s salary paid the bills, making a little extra never hurt anyone… or so it was thought anyway.

It turned out that Walt had a new barn put on his land that was the admiration of his neighbors.  A nice shiny new metal barn… this is not a picture of the actual barn… This is just a metal barn I found on Google images to illustrate my point:

New Metal Barn

New Metal Barn – envy of the neighbors…

As you know from my previous posts (if you read them…) that one of Ray Eberle’s best friends was Walt Oswalt.  So, Ray would go over to visit him often since he lived just down the road.  On one particular day when Ray came by for a visit he found Walt loading square bales of hay in his shiny new barn.

Square Bale of hay often used by Power Plant Men to feed their cattle

Square Bale of hay often used by Power Plant Men to feed their cattle

Now, be careful… or you might learn something….  Ray noticed right away that Walt was laying the bottom layer of hay flat as shown in the picture above.  This might not seem like such a bad thing to an amateur like me or you, so let me explain…..  The floor of the barn was dirt.

So, as tactfully as Ray could muster the words, he asked Walt… “Don’t you want to set the bottom bales of hay on edge so the wires don’t rust from the moisture that comes up through the ground?”  — You see… the bale of hay is held together by two or three metal wires going around the bale.

Ray was concerned that the wires would rust and then the bottom bales would fall apart when it came time to move them later in the winter when they were needed.  If you just rotated the bale onto it’s side, then the wires would go around the bale instead of under and over the bale.  This was common practice in a world of which I am totally unfamiliar… – but learning.

Walt Oswalt replied with one of his most favorite phrases:  “I have that all figured out.”  He explained why he wasn’t worried about the wires rusting with this explanation….  Now put on your thinking cap and see if you can follow along with this logic…

This is Walt’s explanation:  “You see… I happen to know that salt absorbs moisture, so before I put the bales of hay in the barn, I covered the entire floor with salt.  That way the salt will absorb all the moisture and the wires won’t get wet.”

I know how Walt could come up with such a fantastic idea as this… after all, he had come up with some doozies at work in order to do the impossible, so why not think outside the box (or the barn in this case) to come up with a solution just so that you can lay your bottom bales of hay wire-side down…

Maybe he had an argument about this at a bar one day and decided to prove that you don’t “always” have to put the bottom layer on their side… because if you think about it, it’s just as easy to lay them on their side as it is flat.  I know that salt is cheap, but gee whiz… sprinkling salt all over the floor of your brand new shiny metal barn in order to lay the bottom row of hay flat…. I’m just not seeing it… but then… I’m not Walt.

Within two months, Ray went to visit Walt and his shiny new barn only to find that the walls of Walt’s new barn now looked like this:

uh...hmm...

uh…hmm…

The bottom of the barn had rusted completely away around the entire barn.  Walt’s neighbors were no longer envious of Walt’s new barn.  In fact, I think some non-power plant neighbors were probably even unsympathetic to Walt’s circumstance.

I guess Walt didn’t consider the other feature that salt displayed…. That salt corrodes metal… Especially when wet… The entire bottom layer of hay in the barn was useless.  The wires had all corroded away and it was a mess.  Ray really felt bad for his friend.  What could Ray do, but show his support for Walt.

Ray Eberle

Ray Eberle

Fast forward another couple of months….. Ray Eberle drops by Walt Oswalt’s house for a visit again only to find that the rusted out barn now looks completely new again….  “What Happened?”  Walt explained that Jerry Osborn came over and fixed the barn…..  I suppose it’s time to introduce another one of the “True Power Plant Men” of his day… Jerry Osborn.

Jerry Osborn

Jerry Osborn

As with many true power plant men, Jerry Osborn could fix just about anything he ever laid his hands on.  Sometimes that was all he had to do… Lay his hands on it and nod a little and the pump would start running again…. sometimes it was so eerie it even startled Jerry.  Jerry Osborn had a way of nodding his head much like Jerry Mitchell, only a somewhat younger version.

Whenever Walt backed himself into a corner, all he had to do was call up Jerry and he would show up and patch things up.  Jerry was sort of like Walt’s Guardian Angel.  Jerry was a master carpenter, sheetrocker, mechanic, and observer of mankind.

Though some people thought Jerry was lazy on the job, because he kept himself clean like Jerry Mitchell used to do (see the post:  “A Power Plant Man Becomes an Unlikely Saint“), the truth was that when it came to helping your neighbor, Jerry would always come through.

Ray was standing there admiring the shiny new barn when he noticed that Walt was pacing off some squares in the barn, so he asked him what he was doing…

Walt said, “Oh.  I’m going to turn the barn into a stable.  I’m just pacing off how I am going to place the stalls.  Ray watched for a few minutes as Walt walked back and forth in the barn…. Ray noticed that Walt wasn’t writing anything down so he asked, “Aren’t you going to write this down so you can remember it?”

Walt replied, “Nope.  I have it all right here,” pointing to his head.  “I’ll remember it.”  Ray was becoming a little concerned, because he knew that Walt wasn’t the best with figures, and he also wasn’t the best with using a saw, or a hammer and he especially wasn’t the best at building a barn full of stalls…. Ray began to wonder when Walt would find time to build stalls between his weekly heart-attacks.

Ray thought he was going to find a total mess when Walt called him to come by and look at the new stalls in his barn.  When Ray walked in the barn, he was totally amazed.  The stalls looked like they were done by a professional stall installing service (if there is such a thing).  Ray told Walt that he was really impressed that Walt had built such terrific stalls.

Walt explained that all he had to do was tell Jerry Osborn what he wanted and Jerry built the stalls!  How is that for service?

I know this is a small picture, but let me show it to you again….

Jerry Osborn

Jerry Osborn

This story began as just another Walt Oswalt Story, but as usual with Walt, there is always something else that pops up when talking about Walt.  The first Walt Oswalt story I wrote shortly after Walt had died.  When I went to write the second Walt Oswalt Story, I found out that Vance Shiever (the husband of Linda Shiever the Plant timekeeper) had died that very week (only a year earlier).

I didn’t have a picture of Jerry Osborn, so, I Googled Jerry and found that he had died on February 27, 2014.  This is the picture on the memorial site for Jerry.  It seems that the Power Plant Party is growing in heaven faster than I imagined.

Let me tell you a little more about Jerry, since I have not mentioned him in many posts so far…

As you can tell by the way Jerry was taking care of Walt, he was a considerate man.  I never had much to say about Jerry because Jerry never spent much time talking about himself… as a matter of fact, Jerry didn’t spend much time talking at all.

When Jerry was a foreman, he would stand guard over his crew in a silent vigil watching them work.  This bothered some of those that worked for him, because they thought that he was either “bird-dogging” them while others thought that he should be pitching in and giving them a hand.

I had another take on Jerry.  When I watched Jerry watching his crew, I had the feeling that he was looking out for them some way.  Sort of “praying” for their safety in some way.  I mentioned above that I looked at Jerry as Walt’s Guardian Angel.  I think he was doing the same thing with his crew.

As I said, Jerry wasn’t much for words.  When he spoke, it was because he had something to say.  He was the type of Power Plant Man that I knew so well…  The type that leaves a first “Bad Impression” (see the post: “Power Plant Art of Making a Bad First Impression“).  I could see right through that facade.  Jerry wasn’t the grumpy old fart he wanted you to think he was.  He was the one looking out for your back.

Rest In Peace Jerry, and now that Walt has joined you, take care of him up there, and try to keep him out of trouble…. you know that Walt is “worth his salt!”

Power Plant Art of Making a Bad First Impression

Originally posted September 20, 2013.

I had to stop and think why when I was a senior in college and I went to work in The Bakery in Columbia, Missouri that I instantly considered the grumpy old baker named Larry a close friend. His eyebrows were knit in a permanent scowl. He purposely ignored you when you said “hello”. He grumbled under his breath when you walked by. I immediately thought he was a great guy.

Why? I had to stop and think about it. Why would I trust this guy that acted as if he held me in disdain? Why? Because he acted like so many Power Plant Men I had worked with during my previous three summers working as a summer help at the coal-fired power plant in North Central Oklahoma.

It took me longer to realize that there was a particular art to making a bad first impression. It happened a lot at the power plant during my summer help years. One of my favorite mentors of all time Jerry Mitchell was really good at making a perfectly bad first impression. I wrote about Jerry in the post “A Power Plant becomes an Unlikely Saint“.

I guess some people would read it as acting macho. The person not only acts like they don’t care what you think, but that you are an annoyance and they wish you weren’t there. That’s what Jerry would do. I watched him when he first met Jimm Harrison who was a foreman that had just arrived from another plant.

We were standing just outside what would later become the A-Foreman’s office. Jimm came up to us and introduced himself and asked if we could show him around the plant. Jimm was being extra polite in order to make a “good” first impression. He kept complimenting us even though he didn’t know anything about us. Not that it bothered me. I always liked Jimm. I was glad to do anything he ever asked me.

Anyway. While Jimm was introducing himself to us, Jerry just stood there staring at him with a cigarette sticking out of his mouth. Jerry nodded his head slightly like only Jerry could do with an expression that looked like it said, “I don’t care who you are. You are bothering me.”

I wondered at the time why Jerry would want someone to think that Jerry was a mean old man. I knew better by that time. I had seen Jerry’s heart that first summer and I knew that he really did care about things. I just let it go at the time.

The second summer as a summer help Don Pierce the crane operator from construction that was loaned to the plant would do basically the same thing. He was a tall countryish guy with a moustache and beard that reminded you a little of Paul Bunyan (well. he reminded me of him anyway). I talked about Don in the Post “Why Stanley Elmore and Other Power Plant Question“.

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

When you were first introduced to Don Pierce, he would stand there acting like he was 10 feet tall looking down at you. He would kind of give you a sneer like you weren’t worth his time. He might even spit Skoal between your feet if you caught him at the right moment. Yep. That was Don.

Turned out that even though Don didn’t want you to know it, he was really a nice guy. He liked a joke just as much as any other guy, but when it came down to it, he really cared about you. I would trust Don with my life. Actually, I probably did a few times. However, if he didn’t like you, he might point his Smith and Wesson .44 Magnum right in your face and just grin as you sped off. — That’s right Don. I remember that story.

Smith and Wesson .44 Magnum

Smith and Wesson .44 Magnum

I’m not saying that everyone at the plant gave you a bad first impression. There were those obviously nice people that acted kind at first glance. There were those that acted like they genuinely wanted to help right away. Of course, there were those that you immediately wanted play jokes on like Gene Day (See the post “Power Plant Humor and Joking with Gene Day” for one example of the many jokes I was compelled to play on Gene only because he was such a perfect target).

I’m also not saying that everyone that gave you a bad first impression was the kindest soul on the face of the earth. Obviously some people who gave a bad first impression did it because, well… because they really were bad and they didn’t care if you knew it. I won’t name names because well… Eldon Waugh might not like it if I did.

Eldon Waugh was the plant manager from the time I first arrived at the plant in 1979 until the first of the year 1988. If you were under his “control” (which meant, his chain of command), then he treated you like minion from day one. Sure, he could act nice at certain moments, but that wasn’t the norm. Throughout my posts I refer to Eldon as the “evil plant manager.”

That never kept me from praying for him. I figured that even a guy that seemed to admire “all things treacherous” still had a soul in there somewhere. The last time I saw Eldon at the plant I had a little “discussion” with him in the elevator.

It was a day when there was going to be a Men’s Club dinner. Eldon had come a little early so that he could visit people that he used to rule. I met him at the bottom floor of the office elevator. The elevator actually rose 6 floors to the next floor which was called the 2nd floor unless you took the Control Room elevator where it was called the 3rd floor.

As the door of the elevator closed on the two of us, I turned to Eldon and said, “Hey Eldon. You’re not Plant Manager here anymore. Are you?” He replied, “No.” Then as I pushed him around the elevator, I said, “So, I can push you around all I want and there’s nothing you can do about it right?” Surprised, he replied only by saying, “Ahh!!” Caught like a rat.

Oh. I didn’t hurt him. I just humiliated him a little, just between the two of us. When the elevator doors opened we both exited without saying a word. I went my way. He went his. Never a word spoken about it until now.

On a side note… I found throughout the years that all things become equal in an elevator when occupied by just two people. I will not mention encounters in the elevator again in any posts in case there are others of you curious if your names are going to be mentioned in the future. The rest of you are True Power Plant Men, of which I have the greatest respect. Eldon deserved a little payback.

If you met Eldon off of the plant site. Say in Stillwater, Oklahoma selling Honey. He would be a nice old man. So it was with his assistant plant manager. The difference was that Bill Moler would make a good first impression.

Jar of honey Eldon might be selling

Jar of honey Eldon might be selling

Which brings me to those that make a good first impression, only to find out later that they aren’t quite the good person they appeared to be. I won’t go into them because I want to focus on Power Plant Men, and those guys are definitely not in that category. I quickly learned to tell the difference thanks to my mentor Jerry Mitchell.

So, by the time I met Larry the Bakery Man in Columbia, Missouri, I could see through his scowl immediately. I could look right through the facade of orneriness to see that he was no more harmful than I was. We eventually became good friends. He said he could tell me things that he couldn’t tell another living soul. Well at least no other living soul that wasn’t all “country”.

When I arrived in the electric shop as a new electrician November, 1983, I came face to face with Ben Davis. Yep. Bad first impression. Small jabs of insults. Acting like he didn’t want me around. Like I was a nuisance. I was in his way. Needless to say…. I had to like him right off the bat. I knew his kind. He was really a great guy and I could tell.

Ben Davis

Ben Davis

Ben Davis somehow reminds me of Tony Dow. The guy that played Wally Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver. Ben has always been clean-cut and good to the core.

Wally Cleaver. See the resemblance?

Wally Cleaver. See the resemblance?

I thought about writing this post because lately I have realized that I have taken on the habit of making a bad first impression. For many years when I am meeting a new person or a group of people, I seem to purposely look or act “unfriendly” or aloof. It comes in different forms depending on the situation. But it has become my philosophy. I think unconsciously until now.

I have even been saying that now. It is my philosophy to make a bad first impression. Just as people in the dorm when I was in college never knew what to make of me, so it is 35 years later at Dell where I work today.

I have found that by making a bad first impression, then I am starting at the bottom of the barrel. The only way from there is up. Sure there is a time when someone will not know what to think of me. After a while when they know me better they come to realize that I’m not that bad of a person. In all the time I have been at Dell (12 years), I have found only a couple of instances where someone couldn’t get past that first bad impression.

For some reason when someone has a low opinion of me and then find out that I’m not so bad, it seems that they like me more than if they understood who I was right off the bat. Maybe it’s because they have set lower expectations and I surpassed them. I’m not sure.

When I think back about Larry the Bakery Man now, I realize the reason that I could nail him so quickly has having a good soul. He was just like a certain Power Plant man that I had encountered the summer before. He was a welder. He would give you the same scowl when he looked at you… or well… when he looked at me.

This welder looked at me as if he didn’t like me. Like I was a nuisance and he didn’t want me around (have I said that before?). Anyway. The more I knew of Dave Goosman, the more I admired him.

Dave had his idiosyncrasies like everyone else, but he had a good heart. He would help you without hesitation if you needed help. You learn a lot about people when you are shoveling coal side-by-side.

I learned that Dave had a kind soul. He was quiet and in some sense, he was shy. He mumbled under his breath like Larry the Bakery Man. He knit his eyebrows when he looked at me just like Larry.

A few weeks ago Fred Turner (a True Power Plant Man) left a comment on the post “Sky climbing in the Dark With Power Plant Boiler Rats“. He told me that “Goose went to his maker a couple of weeks ago. I always liked him.” That pretty well sums up what everyone thought about Dave Goosman.

Dave Goosman

Dave Goosman

Notice the scowl? Yep. I replied back to Fred. I said, “Dave Goosman always had a smile on his face like he knew what you were thinking….. even when you weren’t thinking it.” Yeah. It was a smile to me… I knew a smile when I saw it. I could always see the humor behind the scowl. The humor that said…. “I’m really a mean guy. Don’t mess with me.” Yeah. Right Dave. He never fooled anyone. All the Power Plant Men loved Dave.

Dave was born 19 years and 2 days before I was born. When he was old enough he joined the Armed forces for a couple of years before settling on a career as a welder. I know that Dave loved his country as he did his fellow Power Plant Men. I think it is fitting that he died July 4, 2013.

Dave shares the day of his death with two of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who incidentally both died on July 4, 1826. Exactly 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams died in Quincy, Massachusetts. Thomas Jefferson died in Charlottesville, Virginia. Within hours of each other, these two great Americans died 560 miles apart.

Thomas Jefferson -- good first impression

Thomas Jefferson — good first impression

John Adams -- bad first impression

John Adams — bad first impression

All three patriots.

When the True Power Plant Men like Dave die, I like to think of them meeting St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. I can see Dave walking up there by himself. Handing his ticket to Peter and scowling at him as if to say, “You don’t want me in here. I’m not good enough for a joint like this.” St. Peter smiles and says, “Who do you think you’re foolin’ Dave? This place was made for people just like you.”

Comment from original Post:

  1. Fred September 23, 2013:

    Don Pierce story: Don was in the P&H crane and had a job to do at the ash silo’s. There was a truck sitting there in the way. Don waited a good while and then “bumped” the truck with the crane slightly. A short, stocky and agrivated truck driver got out of the truck to confront Don. The driver had grabbed a short piece of log chain for a weapon. Don got down out of the crane and looked down at the driver and his chain. Then said while looking at the chain in the drivers hand “that ain’t enough”. The driver immediately got back in the truck and moved.

 

Indian Curse or Brown and Root Blunder

Originally posted on February 18, 2012.

I worked at Sooner Coal-fired power plant about a month during the summer of 1979 before I heard about the Indian curse that had been placed on the plant before they started construction.  It came up by chance in a conversation with Sonny Karcher and Jerry Mitchell when we were on our way to the coalyard to do something.  I was curious why Unit 1 was almost complete but Unit 2 still had over a year left before it was finished even though they both looked pretty much identical.  When I asked them that question I didn’t expect the answer that I received, and I definitely wasn’t expecting to hear about an Indian Curse.  It did explain, however, that when we drove around by Unit 2. Sonny would tense up a little looking up at the boiler structure as if he expected to see something.

The edge of the plant property is adjacent to the Otoe-Missouria Indian Tribe.  It was said that for some reason the tribe didn’t take too kindly to having a huge power plant larger than the nearby town of Red Rock taking up their view of the sunrise (at least until the tax revenue started rolling in from the plant building the best school in the state at the time).  So it was believed that someone in the Indian tribe decided to place a curse on the plant that would cause major destruction.  I heard others say that the plant was built on Holy Indian Burial ground.  At the time it seemed to me that this was a rumor that could easily be started and very hard to prove false.  Sort of like a “Poltergeist” situation.  Though, if it was true, then it would seem like the burial site would most likely be located around the bottom of Unit 2 boiler (right at the spot where I imagined the boiler ghost creeping out to grab Bob Lillibridge 4 years later.  See the post Bob Lillibridge Meets the Boiler Ghost).

I am including an aerial picture of the immediate plant grounds below to help visualize what Jerry and Sonny showed me next.

This is a Google Earth Image taken from their website of the power plant.  In this picture you can see the two tall structures; Unit 1 on the right with Unit 2 sitting right next to it just like the two boilers that you see in the picture of the plant to the right of this post.  They are each 250 feet tall.  About the same height as a 25 story building.  Notice that next to Unit 2 there is a wide space of fields with nothing there.  The coalyard at the top is extended the same distance but the coal is only on the side where the two units are.  This is because in the future 4 more units were planned to be built in this space.  Sooner Lake was sized to handle all 6 units when it was built.  But that is another story.

At the time of this story the area next to Unit 2 between those two roads you see going across the field was not a field full of flowers and rabbits and birds as it is today.  It was packed full of huge metal I-Beams and all sorts of metal structures that had been twisted and bent as if some giant had visited the plant during the night and was trying to tie them all into pretzels.

Sonny explained while Jerry drove the truck around the piles of iron debris that one day in 1976 (I think it was) when it was very windy as it naturally is in this part of Oklahoma, in the middle of the day the construction company Brown and Root called off work because it was too windy.  Everyone had made their way to the construction parking lot when all of the sudden Unit 2 boiler collapsed just like one of the twin towers.  It came smashing down to the ground.  Leaving huge thick metal beams twisted and bent like they were nothing more than licorice sticks.  Amazingly no one was killed because everyone had just left the boilers and were a safe distance from the disaster.

Needless to say this shook people up and those that had heard of an Indian Curse started to think twice about it.  Brown and Root of course had to pay for the disaster, which cost them dearly.  They hauled the pile of mess off to one side and began to rebuild Unit 2 from the ground up.  This time with their inspectors double checking the torque (or tightness) of every major bolt.

This brings to mind the question…  If a 250 foot tall boiler falls in the prairie and no one is injured… Does it make a sound?

In the years that followed, Sooner Plant took steps to maintain a good relationship with the Otoe Missouria tribe.  Raymond Lee Butler a Native American from the Otoe Missouria tribe and a machinist at the plant was elected chief of their tribe (or chairman as they call it now).  But that (as I have said before) is another story.

Comment from Earlier Post:

eddie hickman March 20, 2013

I was there the day unit 2 fell, I was walking to the brass shack, just came down from unit 2 when we noticed the operator of the Maniwoc 5100 crane did not secure the crane ball to the boiler or the crane to keep it from swaying in the wind. I kept watching the crane ball slamming into the steel causing the boiler to sway and within a minute I watched it fall from 50 yards away and took off running,the whole unit was going up quick because B&R were behind schedule,and the most of the steel hadn’t been torqued yet by the bolt up crew.

Power Plant Art of Making a Bad First Impression — Repost

I had to stop and think why when I was a senior in college and I went to work in The Bakery in Columbia, Missouri that I instantly considered the grumpy old baker named Larry a close friend.  His eyebrows were knit in a permanent scowl.  He purposely ignored you when you said “hello”.  He grumbled under his breath when you walked by.  I immediately thought he was a great guy.

Why?  I had to stop and think about it.  Why would I trust this guy that acted as if he held me in disdain?  Why? Because he acted like so many Power Plant Men I had worked with during my previous three summers working as a summer help at the coal-fired power plant in North Central Oklahoma.

It took me longer to realize that there was a particular art to making a bad first impression.  It happened a lot at the power plant during my summer help years.  One of my favorite mentors of all time Jerry Mitchell was really good at making a perfectly bad first impression.  I wrote about Jerry in the post “A Power Plant becomes an Unlikely Saint“.

I guess some people would read it as acting macho.  The person not only acts like they don’t care what you think, but that you are an annoyance and they wish you weren’t there.  That’s what Jerry would do.  I watched him when he first met Jimm Harrison who was a foreman that had just arrived from another plant.

We were standing just outside what would later become the A-Foreman’s office.  Jimm came up to us and introduced himself and asked if we could show him around the plant.  Jimm was being extra polite in order to make a “good” first impression.  He kept complimenting us even though he didn’t know anything about us.  Not that it bothered me.  I always liked Jimm.  I was glad to do anything he ever asked me.

Anyway.  While Jimm was introducing himself to us, Jerry just stood there staring at him with a cigarette sticking out of his mouth.  Jerry nodded his head slightly like only Jerry could do with an expression that looked like it said, “I don’t care who you are.  You are bothering me.”

I wondered at the time why Jerry would want someone to think that Jerry was a mean old man.  I knew better by that time.  I had seen Jerry’s heart that first summer and I knew that he really did care about things.  I just let it go at the time.

The second summer as a summer help Don Pierce the crane operator from construction that was loaned to the plant would do basically the same thing.  He was a tall countryish guy with a moustache and beard that reminded you a little of Paul Bunyan (well.  he reminded me of him anyway).  I talked about Don in the Post “Why Stanley Elmore and Other Power Plant Question“.

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

When you were first introduced to Don Pierce, he would stand there acting like he was 10 feet tall looking down at you.  He would kind of give you a sneer like you weren’t worth his time.  He might even spit Skoal between your feet if you caught him at the right moment.  Yep.  That was Don.

Turned out that even though Don didn’t want you to know it, he was really a nice guy.  He liked a joke just as much as any other guy, but when it came down to it, he really cared about you.  I would trust Don with my life.  Actually, I probably did a few times.  However, if he didn’t like you, he might point his Smith and Wesson .44 Magnum right in your face and just grin as you sped off.  — That’s right Don.  I remember that story.

Smith and Wesson .44 Magnum

Smith and Wesson .44 Magnum

I’m not saying that everyone at the plant gave you a bad first impression.  There were those obviously nice people that acted kind at first glance.  There were those that acted like they genuinely wanted to help right away.  Of course, there were those that you immediately wanted play jokes on like Gene Day (See the post “Power Plant Humor and Joking with Gene Day” for one example of the many jokes I was compelled to play on Gene only because he was such a perfect target).

I’m also not saying that everyone that gave you a bad first impression was the kindest soul on the face of the earth.  Obviously some people who gave a bad first impression did it because, well… because they really were bad and they didn’t care if you knew it.  I won’t name names because well… Eldon Waugh might not like it if I did.

Eldon Waugh was the plant manager from the time I first arrived at the plant in 1979 until the first of the year 1988.  If you were under his “control” (which meant, his chain of command), then he treated you like minion from day one.  Sure, he could act nice at certain moments, but that wasn’t the norm.  Throughout my posts I refer to Eldon as the “evil plant manager.”

That never kept me from praying for him.  I figured that even a guy that seemed to admire “all things treacherous” still had a soul in there somewhere.  The last time I saw Eldon at the plant I had a little “discussion” with him in the elevator.

It was a day when there was going to be a Men’s Club dinner.  Eldon had come a little early so that he could visit people that he used to rule.  I met him at the bottom floor of the office elevator.  The elevator actually rose 6 floors to the next floor which was called the 2nd floor unless you took the Control Room elevator where it was called the 3rd floor.

As the door of the elevator closed on the two of us, I turned to Eldon and said, “Hey Eldon.  You’re not Plant Manager here anymore.  Are you?”  He replied, “No.”  Then as I pushed him around the elevator, I said, “So, I can push you around all I want and there’s nothing you can do about it right?”  Surprised, he replied only by saying, “Ahh!!”  Caught like a rat.

Oh.  I didn’t hurt him.  I just humiliated him a little, just between the two of us.  When the elevator doors opened we both exited without saying a word.  I went my way.  He went his.  Never a word spoken about it until now.

On a side note… I found throughout the years that all things become equal in an elevator when occupied by just two people.  I will not mention encounters in the elevator again in any posts in case there are others of you curious if your names are going to be mentioned in the future.  The rest of you are True Power Plant Men, of which I have the greatest respect.  Eldon deserved a little payback.

If you met Eldon off of the plant site.  Say in Stillwater, Oklahoma selling Honey.  He would be a nice old man.  So it was with his assistant plant manager.  The difference was that Bill Moler would make a good first impression.

Jar of honey Eldon might be selling

Jar of honey Eldon might be selling

Which brings me to those that make a good first impression, only to find out later that they aren’t quite the good person they appeared to be.  I won’t go into them because I want to focus on Power Plant Men, and those guys are definitely not in that category.  I quickly learned to tell the difference thanks to my mentor Jerry Mitchell.

So, by the time I met Larry the Bakery Man in Columbia, Missouri, I could see through his scowl immediately.  I could look right through the facade of orneriness to see that he was no more harmful than I was.  We eventually became good friends.  He said he could tell me things that he couldn’t tell another living soul.  Well at least no other living soul that wasn’t all “country”.

When I arrived in the electric shop as a new electrician November, 1983, I came face to face with Ben Davis.  Yep.  Bad first impression.  Small jabs of insults.  Acting like he didn’t want me around.  Like I was a nuisance.  I was in his way.  Needless to say…. I had to like him right off the bat.  I knew his kind.  He was really a great guy and I could tell.

Ben Davis somehow reminds me of Tony Dow.  The guy that played Wally Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver.  Ben has always been clean-cut and good to the core.

Wally Cleaver.  See the resemblance?

Wally Cleaver. See the resemblance?

I thought about writing this post because lately I have realized that I have taken on the habit of making a bad first impression.  For many years when I am meeting a new person or a group of people, I seem to purposely look or act “unfriendly” or aloof.  It comes in different forms depending on the situation.  But it has become my philosophy.  I think unconsciously until now.

I have even been saying that now.  It is my philosophy to make a bad first impression.  Just as people in the dorm when I was in college never knew what to make of me, so it is 35 years later at Dell where I work today.

I have found that by making a bad first impression, then I am starting at the bottom of the barrel.  The only way from there is up.  Sure there is a time when someone will not know what to think of me.  After a while when they know me better they come to realize that I’m not that bad of a person.  In all the time I have been at Dell (12 years), I have found only a couple of instances where someone couldn’t get past that first bad impression.

For some reason when someone has a low opinion of me and then find out that I’m not so bad, it seems that they like me more than if they understood who I was right off the bat.  Maybe it’s because they have set lower expectations and I surpassed them.  I’m not sure.

When I think back about Larry the Bakery Man now, I realize the reason that I could nail him so quickly has having a good soul.  He was just like a certain Power Plant man that I had encountered the summer before.  He was a welder.  He would give you the same scowl when he looked at you… or well… when he looked at me.

This welder looked at me as if he didn’t like me.  Like I was a nuisance and he didn’t want me around (have I said that before?).  Anyway.  The more I knew of Dave Goosman, the more I admired him.

Dave had his idiosyncrasies like everyone else, but he had a good heart.  He would help you without hesitation if you needed help.  You learn a lot about people when you are shoveling coal side-by-side.

I learned that Dave had a kind soul.  He was quiet and in some sense, he was shy.  He mumbled under his breath like Larry the Bakery Man.  He knit his eyebrows when he looked at me just like Larry.

A few weeks ago Fred Turner (a True Power Plant Man) left a comment on the post “Sky climbing in the Dark With Power Plant Boiler Rats“.  He told me that “Goose went to his maker a couple of weeks ago. I always liked him.”  That pretty well sums up what everyone thought about Dave Goosman.

Dave Goosman

Dave Goosman

Notice the scowl?  Yep.  I replied back to Fred.  I said, “Dave Goosman always had a smile on his face like he knew what you were thinking….. even when you weren’t thinking it.”  Yeah.  It was a smile to me…  I knew a smile when I saw it.  I could always see the humor behind the scowl.  The humor that said…. “I’m really a mean guy.  Don’t mess with me.”  Yeah.  Right Dave.  He never fooled anyone.   All the Power Plant Men loved Dave.

Dave was born 19 years and 2 days before I was born.  When he was old enough he joined the Armed forces for a couple of years before settling on a career as a welder.  I know that Dave loved his country as he did his fellow Power Plant Men.  I think it is fitting that he died July 4, 2013.

Dave shares the day of his death with two of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who incidentally both died on July 4, 1826.  Exactly 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams died in Quincy, Massachusetts.  Thomas Jefferson died in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Within hours of each other, these two great Americans died 560 miles apart.

Thomas Jefferson  -- good first impression

Thomas Jefferson — good first impression

John Adams -- bad first impression

John Adams — bad first impression

All three patriots.

When the True Power Plant Men like Dave die, I like to think of them meeting St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.  I can see Dave walking up there by himself.  Handing his ticket to Peter and scowling at him as if to say, “You don’t want me in here.  I’m not good enough for a joint like this.”  St. Peter smiles and says, “Who do you think you’re foolin’ Dave?  This place was made for people just like you.”

Comment from original Post:

  1. Fred  September 23, 2013:

    Don Pierce story: Don was in the P&H crane and had a job to do at the ash silo’s. There was a truck sitting there in the way. Don waited a good while and then “bumped” the truck with the crane slightly. A short, stocky and agrivated truck driver got out of the truck to confront Don. The driver had grabbed a short piece of log chain for a weapon. Don got down out of the crane and looked down at the driver and his chain. Then said while looking at the chain in the drivers hand “that ain’t enough”. The driver immediately got back in the truck and moved.

 

Indian Curse or Brown and Root Blunder — Repost

Originally posted on February 18, 2012.

I worked at Sooner Coal-fired power plant about a month during the summer of 1979 before I heard about the Indian curse that had been placed on the plant before they started construction.  It came up by chance in a conversation with Sonny Karcher and Jerry Mitchell when we were on our way to the coalyard to do something.  I was curious why Unit 1 was almost complete but Unit 2 still had over a year left before it was finished even though they both looked pretty much identical.  When I asked them that question I didn’t expect the answer that I received, and I definitely wasn’t expecting to hear about an Indian Curse.  It did explain, however, that when we drove around by Unit 2. Sonny would tense up a little looking up at the boiler structure as if he expected to see something.

The edge of the plant property is adjacent to the Otoe-Missouria Indian Tribe.  It was said that for some reason the tribe didn’t take too kindly to having a huge power plant larger than the nearby town of Red Rock taking up their view of the sunrise (at least until the tax revenue started rolling in from the plant building the best school in the state at the time).  So it was believed that someone in the Indian tribe decided to place a curse on the plant that would cause major destruction.  I heard others say that the plant was built on Holy Indian Burial ground.  At the time it seemed to me that this was a rumor that could easily be started and very hard to prove false.  Sort of like a “Poltergeist” situation.  Though, if it was true, then it would seem like the burial site would most likely be located around the bottom of Unit 2 boiler (right at the spot where I imagined the boiler ghost creeping out to grab Bob Lillibridge 4 years later.  See the post Bob Liliibridge Meets the Boiler Ghost).

I am including an aerial picture of the immediate plant grounds below to help visualize what Jerry and Sonny showed me next.

This is a Google Earth Image taken from their website of the power plant.  In this picture you can see the two tall structures; Unit 1 on the right with Unit 2 sitting right next to it just like the two boilers that you see in the picture of the plant to the right of this post.  They are each 250 feet tall.  About the same height as a 25 story building.  Notice that next to Unit 2 there is a wide space of fields with nothing there.  The coalyard at the top is extended the same distance but the coal is only on the side where the two units are.  This is because in the future 4 more units were planned to be built in this space.  Sooner Lake was sized to handle all 6 units when it was built.  But that is another story.

At the time of this story the area next to Unit 2 between those two roads you see going across the field was not a field full of flowers and rabbits and birds as it is today.  It was packed full of huge metal I-Beams and all sorts of metal structures that had been twisted and bent as if some giant had visited the plant during the night and was trying to tie them all into pretzels.

Sonny explained while Jerry drove the truck around the piles of iron debris that one day in 1976 (I think it was) when it was very windy as it naturally is in this part of Oklahoma, in the middle of the day the construction company Brown and Root called off work because it was too windy.  Everyone had made their way to the construction parking lot when all of the sudden Unit 2 boiler collapsed just like one of the twin towers.  It came smashing down to the ground.  Leaving huge thick metal beams twisted and bent like they were nothing more than licorice sticks.  Amazingly no one was killed because everyone had just left the boilers and were a safe distance from the disaster.

Needless to say this shook people up and those that had heard of an Indian Curse started to think twice about it.  Brown and Root of course had to pay for the disaster, which cost them dearly.  They hauled the pile of mess off to one side and began to rebuild Unit 2 from the ground up.  This time with their inspectors double checking the torque (or tightness) of every major bolt.

This brings to mind the question…  If a 250 foot tall boiler falls in the prairie and no one is injured… Does it make a sound?

In the years that followed, Sooner Plant took steps to maintain a good relationship with the Otoe Missouria tribe.  Raymond Lee Butler a Native American from the Otoe Missouria tribe and a machinist at the plant was elected chief of their tribe (or chairman as they call it now).  But that (as I have said before) is another story.

Comment from Earlier Post:

eddie hickman March 20, 2013

iI was there the day unit 2 fell, I was walking to the brass shack, just came down from unit 2 when we noticed the operator of the Maniwoc 5100 crane did not secure the crane ball to the boiler or the crane to keep it from swaying in the wind. I kept watching the crane ball slamming into the steel causing the boiler to sway and within a minute I watched it fall from 50 yards away and took off running,the whole unit was going up quick because B&R were behind schedule,and the most of the steel hadn’t been torqued yet by the bolt up crew.