Tag Archives: Salt

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 months 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, sheet rocker, 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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Eating Power Plant Pickles, Peppers and Ice Cream

Pickles and Ice Cream usually makes one think of things other than Coal-Fired Power Plants, but when I think of Pickles, peppers or Ice Cream, my first thoughts are of the Electric Power Plant where I used to work. The place where I spent 20 years of my life in North Central Oklahoma. I suppose I have Charles Foster to thank for that.

I wrote about Charles earlier this year in the post “Personal Power Plant Hero – Charles Foster“. In that post I explained about how Charles and I would sit in the electric shop office at lunch time talking about movies that we had seen. We would take turns telling each other about the movies in such great detail that when it came time for me to actually watch “Mrs. Doubtfire” for the first time, I felt as if I had seen it before as Charles had explained every scene to me in technicolor.

Robin Williams playing Mrs. Doubtfire

Robin Williams playing Mrs. Doubtfire

The other thing that we would do during lunch, of course, was eat lunch. Being that naturally boring person that I am, I would usually bring the same ham sandwich to work each day. Day-in and day-out, I would eat a ham sandwich, and an apple, or some other kind of fruit depending on the time of year.

If it hadn’t been for Charles I never would have experienced the finer side of Power Plant Lunch Time. Charles was an avid gardener. He had a very large garden between his house and the road where he lived out in the country.

People from Pawnee, Oklahoma would judge the world economic situation just by taking a ride out in the country to take a look at how Charles’ garden was coming along. Between Charles Foster and the Farmer’s Almanac, there was little guesswork left.

I was the beneficiary of this little piece of the Garden of Eden amid the arid Oklahoma prairie. Though I never came to take it for granted, every day when I opened my lunch box to retrieve my ham sandwich with American Cheese and a bit of Miracle Whip to keep the bread from sliding off, I would be given an extra treat from one of the kindest people I know. Charles would hand me something special from his garden.

Cherry Tomatoes were a common, but always special treat.

A perfect Cherry Tomato by Shelley Hourston at dogsbestfriend.wordpress.com

A perfect Cherry Tomato by Shelley Hourston at dogsbestfriend.wordpress.com

I include this perfect photo of a cherry tomato by Shelley Hourston because this is the kind of cuisine I was subjected to on a regular basis. I almost suspect that Shelley stopped by Charles’ garden to find this tomato. It makes the question about whether the cherry tomato is a fruit or a vegetable a moot point. The real answer is that it is a feast.

Growing up as a boy in Columbia, Missouri during the 1970’s I was spoiled when it came to Dill Pickles. The best Dill pickles that money could buy could be found in Central Missouri. I don’t remember the brand. They may not even exist today. I remember the ingredients on the jar very clearly. Cucumbers, Vinegar, Salt, Dill.

Today it is hard to find a jar of Dill Pickles that actually has dill in them. I think that you shouldn’t be able to label a jar of pickles as Dill Pickles unless they are pickled with dill.

Vlassic Pickles: Ingredients: Cucumber(s), Water, Vinegar Distilled, Salt, Calcium Chloride, Polysorbate 80, Flavor(s) Natural, Yellow 5

Vlassic Pickles: Ingredients: Cucumber(s), Water, Vinegar Distilled, Salt, Calcium Chloride, Polysorbate 80, Flavor(s) Natural, Yellow 5

Where’s the Dill?

Where's the beef commercial... but what is she really looking at? A pickle! She's really thinking... Where's the Dill

Wendy’s “Where’s the beef” commercial… but what is she really looking at? A pickle! She’s really thinking… Where’s the Dill

Why am I so picky? Well. Because besides this one company in Missouri that had only the 4 main ingredients, the only other place I found a true American Dill Pickle was in the Power Plant electric shop office in North Central Oklahoma during lunch. Not only did Charles make his pickles from the cucumbers he grew in his garden, but he pickled them with the fresh dill that he also grew in his garden.

Dill

Special Power Plant Pickle Dill

I realize I have digressed. I will climb down off of the pickle barrel now and continue with the important part of this story… um… ok… I mean.. I’ll continue talking about food. One summer Charles let me come over to his house and pick cucumbers and pickle them right there in his kitchen. We scrubbed them clean, put them in the jars with some dill sprigs. Brought the vinegar just to a boil and then poured it in the jars, and sealed them shut. — Best pickles ever. Four ingredients.

Besides being granted the best pickles and tomatoes around each day for lunch, when the right season came around Charles would bring peppers. I don’t mean the large bell peppers. I mean the thin hot peppers. Like this:

Hot pepper

A Serrano Pepper

At times Charles would bring in some very small peppers where I would take one little nibble of the pepper then a couple of bites of ham sandwich just to go with it. I became so used to eating hot peppers that at home I would buy a large jar of whole jalapeno peppers just to eat like pickles. Since I’m really going to town showing pictures tonight I tried to find a large jar of whole jalapenos, but I couldn’t find one. My mouth started watering while I was searching for jalapeno on Google Images.

While I am on the subject of peppers, I will mention that many years later, when I was “sequestered” with Ray Eberle for three years working on SAP (this is another story for a later time), he introduced me to the wonderful taste of Habanero sauce on my ham sandwich. Yeah…

habanero peppers

habanero peppers

Like Charles Foster, Ray would bring in a bottle of Habanero sauce every day and let me soak my ham sandwich with it. After that, I stopped buying jars of jalapenos and started using Habanero salsa for my chips at home.

On an even farther note…. one day when I was working on some homework for a course I was taking at the University in Stillwater, Oklahoma, my daughter, Elizabeth took one of the tortilla chips from my plate and dipped it in the Habanero salsa bowl I had sitting in front of me. Without looking up, I said, “I wouldn’t do that.” Not sure what I meant, she put the chip in her mouth.

Habanero Salsa

Habanero Salsa

After the brief moment of complete unbelief that her mouth from the jaw down had just disintegrated, she started making strange sounds as she ran to the kitchen to try to find some relief. I told her not to drink any water, that only makes it worse. I told her that the only way to fix this situation is to keep eating chips. You see…. drinking water just washes all that hot stuff into every crevice in your mouth and throat. Eating chips absorbs the heat and carries it to safety.

When I was young at one point in my life, an ice cream truck used to come through the neighborhood selling ice cream and candy. It seemed like one of those fun times when you are a child that just seems to go away when you are older. Today there is an ice cream truck that goes through our neighborhood and when I watch the children that live next door all run outside to catch it, it brings back those memories.

Today's Ice cream truck.... well... Ice cream Van...

Today’s Ice cream truck…. well… Ice cream Van…

So, imagine my surprise when an ice cream truck for adults showed up at the plant one day. I didn’t even know they existed. Charles had to explain it to me. We were walking by the break room in the office area and this man was handing boxes to the janitor, who was stashing them in a freezer. Charles asked me how much money I had on me, as we quickly headed for the office elevator.

On the way down Charles explained that we had just seen the Swan Man! The Swan man? I asked him what that meant. He explained that the Swan man traveled around the countryside delivering all kinds of food to people so that they didn’t have to go to the grocery store. Ok….. I thought. Sounds reasonable… When we reached the ground floor, we walked out of the building and there parked at the end of the sidewalk was this truck:

Schwan Truck

Schwan Truck

Wow! An Ice cream truck for adults!!! We stood around for a few minutes and when the man returned to his truck Charles and I gave him some money and we bought two boxes of Ice Cream sandwiches! Who would have thought that you could stand in the middle of the parking lot at a Power Plant in the middle of nowhere, 20 miles from the nearest city of any size, and buy ice cream from an Ice Cream Truck? I certainly never thought that would happen until it did.

Years later, when I was driving through the countryside on the way to my house outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma I spied a Schwan man driving his truck down the country road. I drove up behind him and started honking at him. My daughter, who was about 9 at the time, asked me what I was doing. I told her that she would see…. My son sitting in the back seat asked if we were going to get in trouble. I assured him that we weren’t.

After about a mile of me honking and blinking my lights at him, the Schwan man pulled over. I walked over to him. Looked at him rather seriously as he climbed out of the truck and said, “Do you have a box of Ice cream sandwiches for sale?” At that point, he put his brass knuckles back in his pocket, and re-holstered his pistol. Looked back at me with a straight face. Paused, Thought for a moment. Then said, “Sure!” He opened one of those side doors. Pulled out a box.

I handed him some money. Then returned to my car and drove home. On the way home I explained to Elizabeth about the Schwan man and about how he travels around the countryside bringing food to people. So, of course he wouldn’t mind selling me a box of Ice Cream sandwiches.

Power Plant Ice Cream Sandwich

Power Plant Ice Cream Sandwich

Anyway, back at the plant. After Charles and I figured out the Schwan Man’s schedule, we knew what day he was going to show up, so we made sure to have enough cash in our pockets to get a couple of boxes so that we could keep them in the freezer in the electric shop. It seemed like we had to eat them rather fast because our freezer wouldn’t keep them frozen hard and after a while they would get pretty soft. That was our story anyway. We didn’t want them to melt. Now. Would we?

So, thanks to Charles Foster we were able to eat like Kings in our Power Plant Palace. When Sonny Karcher, years ago used to say the phrase from a country song, “I’m just an old chunk of coal, but I’m going to be a diamond some day,” (a song by John Anderson) he was right in more ways than one. We would stagger back to the electric shop after working on a coal conveyor on the long belt, all covered with coal dust. Go in the bathroom and wash up… plop ourselves down on the chair in the office. Open our lunch boxes… and have a feast fit for a king!

I’ll leave you with the words from one of Sonny’s favorite songs the first summer I worked as a summer help back in 1979:

Hey I’m just an old chunk of coal but I’m gonna be a diamond some day
I’m gonna grow and glow till I’m so blue pure perfect
I’m gonna put a smile on everybody’s face
I’m gonna kneel and pray every day last I should become vain along the way
I’m just an old chunk of coal now Lord but I’m gonna be a diamond some day

I’m gonna learn the best way to walk gonna search and find a better way to talk
I’m gonna spit and polish my old rough edged self till I get rid of every single flaw
I’m gonna be the world’s best friend gonna go round shaking everybody’s hand
I’m gonna be the cotton pickin’ rage of the age I’m gonna be a diamond some day

Now I’m just an old chunk of coal…

Here’s John Anderson singing the song:

Comment from original post:

Tim Foster October 8, 2013:

Ah yes I remember that day when you came to the house to make pickles. It seemed cool that someone found Dad’s pickles so enjoyable that he wanted to come and learn how to make them. Unfortunately they have stopped making pickles but we have found some store bought ones that taste just like them. I will ask my mother every now and then if she sent Vlassic her recipe so that she would not have to smell the vinegar any longer. I wish I had inherited Dad’s green thumb but I have not as yet. My location just is not as good as his either. We are praying that this summer people will know that he is feeling better just by taking a drive out west of town to once again look upon the patch of land that has become a landmark.

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!”

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!”

Eating Power Plant Pickles, Peppers and Ice Cream

Pickles and Ice Cream usually makes one think of things other than Coal-Fired Power Plants, but when I think of Pickles, peppers or Ice Cream, my first thoughts are of the Electric Power Plant where I used to work. The place where I spent 20 years of my life in North Central Oklahoma. I suppose I have Charles Foster to thank for that.

I wrote about Charles earlier this year in the post “Personal Power Plant Hero – Charles Foster“. In that post I explained about how Charles and I would sit in the electric shop office at lunch time talking about movies that we had seen. We would take turns telling each other about the movies in such great detail that when it came time for me to actually watch “Mrs. Doubtfire” for the first time, I felt as if I had seen it before as Charles had explained every scene to me in technicolor.

Robin Williams playing Mrs. Doubtfire

Robin Williams playing Mrs. Doubtfire

The other thing that we would do during lunch, of course, was eat lunch. Being that naturally boring person that I am, I would usually bring the same ham sandwich to work each day. Day-in and day-out, I would eat a ham sandwich, and an apple, or some other kind of fruit depending on the time of year.

If it hadn’t been for Charles I never would have experienced the finer side of Power Plant Lunch Time. Charles was an avid gardener. He had a very large garden between his house and the road where he lived out in the country.

People from Pawnee, Oklahoma would judge the world economic situation just by taking a ride out in the country to take a look at how Charles’ garden was coming along. Between Charles Foster and the Farmer’s Almanac, there was little guesswork left.

I was the beneficiary of this little piece of the Garden of Eden amid the arid Oklahoma prairie. Though I never came to take it for granted, every day when I opened my lunch box to retrieve my ham sandwich with American Cheese and a bit of Miracle Whip to keep the bread from sliding off, I would be given an extra treat from one of the kindest people I know. Charles would hand me something special from his garden.

Cherry Tomatoes were a common, but always special treat.

A perfect Cherry Tomato by Shelley Hourston at dogsbestfriend.wordpress.com

A perfect Cherry Tomato by Shelley Hourston at dogsbestfriend.wordpress.com

I include this perfect photo of a cherry tomato by Shelley Hourston because this is the kind of cuisine I was subjected to on a regular basis. I almost suspect that Shelley stopped by Charles’ garden to find this tomato. It makes the question about whether the cherry tomato is a fruit or a vegetable a moot point. The real answer is that it is a feast.

Growing up as a boy in Columbia, Missouri during the 1970’s I was spoiled when it came to Dill Pickles. The best Dill pickles that money could buy could be found in Central Missouri. I don’t remember the brand. They may not even exist today. I remember the ingredients on the jar very clearly. Cucumbers, Vinegar, Salt, Dill.

Today it is hard to find a jar of Dill Pickles that actually has dill in them. I think that you shouldn’t be able to label a jar of pickles as Dill Pickles unless they are pickled with dill.

Vlassic Pickles: Ingredients: Cucumber(s), Water, Vinegar Distilled, Salt, Calcium Chloride, Polysorbate 80, Flavor(s) Natural, Yellow 5

Vlassic Pickles: Ingredients: Cucumber(s), Water, Vinegar Distilled, Salt, Calcium Chloride, Polysorbate 80, Flavor(s) Natural, Yellow 5

Where’s the Dill?

Where's the beef commercial... but what is she really looking at? A pickle! She's really thinking... Where's the Dill

Wendy’s “Where’s the beef” commercial… but what is she really looking at? A pickle! She’s really thinking… Where’s the Dill

Why am I so picky? Well. Because besides this one company in Missouri that had only the 4 main ingredients, the only other place I found a true American Dill Pickle was in the Power Plant electric shop office in North Central Oklahoma during lunch. Not only did Charles make his pickles from the cucumbers he grew in his garden, but he pickled them with the fresh dill that he also grew in his garden.

Dill

Special Power Plant Pickle Dill

I realize I have digressed. I will climb down off of the pickle barrel now and continue with the important part of this story… um… ok… I mean.. I’ll continue talking about food. One summer Charles let me come over to his house and pick cucumbers and pickle them right there in his kitchen. We scrubbed them clean, put them in the jars with some dill sprigs. Brought the vinegar just to a boil and then poured it in the jars, and sealed them shut. — Best pickles ever. Four ingredients.

Besides being granted the best pickles and tomatoes around each day for lunch, when the right season came around Charles would bring peppers. I don’t mean the large bell peppers. I mean the thin hot peppers. Like this:

Hot pepper

A Serrano Pepper

At times Charles would bring in some very small peppers where I would take one little nibble of the pepper then a couple of bites of ham sandwich just to go with it. I became so used to eating hot peppers that at home I would buy a large jar of whole jalapeno peppers just to eat like pickles. Since I’m really going to town showing pictures tonight I tried to find a large jar of whole jalapenos, but I couldn’t find one. My mouth started watering while I was searching for jalapeno on Google Images.

While I am on the subject of peppers, I will mention that many years later, when I was “sequestered” with Ray Eberle for three years working on SAP (this is another story for a later time), he introduced me to the wonderful taste of Habanero sauce on my ham sandwich. Yeah…

habanero peppers

habanero peppers

Like Charles Foster, Ray would bring in a bottle of Habanero sauce every day and let me soak my ham sandwich with it. After that, I stopped buying jars of jalapenos and started using Habanero salsa for my chips at home.

On an even farther note…. one day when I was working on some homework for a course I was taking at the University in Stillwater, Oklahoma, my daughter, Elizabeth took one of the tortilla chips from my plate and dipped it in the Habanero salsa bowl I had sitting in front of me. Without looking up, I said, “I wouldn’t do that.” Not sure what I meant, she put the chip in her mouth.

Habanero Salsa

Habanero Salsa

After the brief moment of complete unbelief that her mouth from the jaw down had just disintegrated, she started making strange sounds as she ran to the kitchen to try to find some relief. I told her not to drink any water, that only makes it worse. I told her that the only way to fix this situation is to keep eating chips. You see…. drinking water just washes all that hot stuff into every crevice in your mouth and throat. Eating chips absorbs the heat and carries it to safety.

When I was young at one point in my life, an ice cream truck used to come through the neighborhood selling ice cream and candy. It seemed like one of those fun times when you are a child that just seems to go away when you are older. Today there is an ice cream truck that goes through our neighborhood and when I watch the children that live next door all run outside to catch it, it brings back those memories.

Today's Ice cream truck.... well... Ice cream Van...

Today’s Ice cream truck…. well… Ice cream Van…

So, imagine my surprise when an ice cream truck for adults showed up at the plant one day. I didn’t even know they existed. Charles had to explain it to me. We were walking by the break room in the office area and this man was handing boxes to the janitor, who was stashing them in a freezer. Charles asked me how much money I had on me, as we quickly headed for the office elevator.

On the way down Charles explained that we had just seen the Swan Man! The Swan man? I asked him what that meant. He explained that the Swan man traveled around the countryside delivering all kinds of food to people so that they didn’t have to go to the grocery store. Ok….. I thought. Sounds reasonable… When we reached the ground floor, we walked out of the building and there parked at the end of the sidewalk was this truck:

Schwan Truck

Schwan Truck

Wow! An Ice cream truck for adults!!! We stood around for a few minutes and when the man returned to his truck Charles and I gave him some money and we bought two boxes of Ice Cream sandwiches! Who would have thought that you could stand in the middle of the parking lot at a Power Plant in the middle of nowhere, 20 miles from the nearest city of any size, and buy ice cream from an Ice Cream Truck? I certainly never thought that would happen until it did.

Years later, when I was driving through the countryside on the way to my house outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma I spied a Schwan man driving his truck down the country road. I drove up behind him and started honking at him. My daughter, who was about 9 at the time, asked me what I was doing. I told her that she would see…. My son sitting in the back seat asked if we were going to get in trouble. I assured him that we weren’t.

After about a mile of me honking and blinking my lights at him, the Schwan man pulled over. I walked over to him. Looked at him rather seriously as he climbed out of the truck and said, “Do you have a box of Ice cream sandwiches for sale?” At that point, he put his brass knuckles back in his pocket, and re-holstered his pistol. Looked back at me with a straight face. Paused, Thought for a moment. Then said, “Sure!” He opened one of those side doors. Pulled out a box.

I handed him some money. Then returned to my car and drove home. On the way home I explained to Elizabeth about the Schwan man and about how he travels around the countryside bringing food to people. So, of course he wouldn’t mind selling me a box of Ice Cream sandwiches.

Power Plant Ice Cream Sandwich

Power Plant Ice Cream Sandwich

Anyway, back at the plant. After Charles and I figured out the Schwan Man’s schedule, we knew what day he was going to show up, so we made sure to have enough cash in our pockets to get a couple of boxes so that we could keep them in the freezer in the electric shop. It seemed like we had to eat them rather fast because our freezer wouldn’t keep them frozen hard and after a while they would get pretty soft. That was our story anyway. We didn’t want them to melt. Now. Would we?

So, thanks to Charles Foster we were able to eat like Kings in our Power Plant Palace. When Sonny Karcher, years ago used to say the phrase from a country song, “I’m just an old chunk of coal, but I’m going to be a diamond some day,” (a song by John Anderson) he was right in more ways than one. We would stagger back to the electric shop after working on a coal conveyor on the long belt, all covered with coal dust. Go in the bathroom and wash up… plop ourselves down on the chair in the office. Open our lunch boxes… and have a feast fit for a king!

I’ll leave you with the words from one of Sonny’s favorite songs the first summer I worked as a summer help back in 1979:

Hey I’m just an old chunk of coal but I’m gonna be a diamond some day
I’m gonna grow and glow till I’m so blue pure perfect
I’m gonna put a smile on everybody’s face
I’m gonna kneel and pray every day last I should become vain along the way
I’m just an old chunk of coal now Lord but I’m gonna be a diamond some day

I’m gonna learn the best way to walk gonna search and find a better way to talk
I’m gonna spit and polish my old rough edged self till I get rid of every single flaw
I’m gonna be the world’s best friend gonna go round shaking everybody’s hand
I’m gonna be the cotton pickin’ rage of the age I’m gonna be a diamond some day

Now I’m just an old chunk of coal…

Here’s John Anderson singing the song:

Comment from original post:

Tim Foster October 8, 2013:

Ah yes I remember that day when you came to the house to make pickles. It seemed cool that someone found Dad’s pickles so enjoyable that he wanted to come and learn how to make them. Unfortunately they have stopped making pickles but we have found some store bought ones that taste just like them. I will ask my mother every now and then if she sent Vlassic her recipe so that she would not have to smell the vinegar any longer. I wish I had inherited Dad’s green thumb but I have not as yet. My location just is not as good as his either. We are praying that this summer people will know that he is feeling better just by taking a drive out west of town to once again look upon the patch of land that has become a landmark.

Eating Power Plant Pickles, Peppers and Ice Cream — Repost

Pickles and Ice Cream usually makes one think of things other than Coal-Fired Power Plants, but when I think of Pickles, peppers or Ice Cream, my first thoughts are of the Electric Power Plant where I used to work.  The place where I spent 20 years of my life in North Central Oklahoma.  I suppose I have Charles Foster to thank for that.

I wrote about Charles earlier this year in the post “Personal Power Plant Hero – Charles Foster“.  In that post I explained about how Charles and I would sit in the electric shop office at lunch time talking about movies that we had seen.  We would take turns telling each other about the movies in such great detail that when it came time for me to actually watch “Mrs. Doubtfire” for the first time, I felt as if I had seen it before as Charles had explained every scene to me in technicolor.

Robin Williams playing Mrs. Doubtfire

Robin Williams playing Mrs. Doubtfire

The other thing that we would do during lunch, of course, was eat lunch.  Being that naturally boring person that I am, I would usually bring the same ham sandwich to work each day.  Day-in and day-out, I would eat a ham sandwich, and an apple, or some other kind of fruit depending on the time of year.

If it hadn’t been for Charles I never would have experienced the finer side of Power Plant Lunch Time.  Charles was an avid gardener.  He had a very large garden between his house and the road where he lived out in the country.

People from Pawnee, Oklahoma would judge the world economic situation just by taking a ride out in the country to take a look at how Charles’ garden was coming along.  Between Charles Foster and the Farmer’s Almanac, there was little guesswork left.

I was the beneficiary of this little piece of the Garden of Eden amid the arid Oklahoma prairie.  Though I never came to take it for granted, every day when I opened my lunch box to retrieve my ham sandwich with American Cheese and a bit of Miracle Whip to keep the bread from sliding off, I would be given an extra treat from one of the kindest people I know.  Charles would hand me something special from his garden.

Cherry Tomatoes were a common, but always special treat.

A perfect Cherry Tomato by Shelley Hourston at dogsbestfriend.wordpress.com

A perfect Cherry Tomato by Shelley Hourston at dogsbestfriend.wordpress.com

I include this perfect photo of a cherry tomato by Shelley Hourston because this is the kind of cuisine I was subjected to on a regular basis.  I almost suspect that Shelley stopped by Charles’ garden to find this tomato.  It makes the question about whether the cherry tomato is a fruit or a vegetable a moot point.  The real answer is that it is a feast.

Growing up as a boy in Columbia, Missouri during the 1970’s I was spoiled when it came to Dill Pickles.  The best Dill pickles that money could buy could be found in Central Missouri.  I don’t remember the brand.  They may not even exist today.  I remember the ingredients on the jar very clearly.  Cucumbers, Vinegar, Salt, Dill.

Today it is hard to find a jar of Dill Pickles that actually has dill in them.  I think that you shouldn’t be able to label a jar of pickles as Dill Pickles unless they are pickled with dill.

Vlassic Pickles:  Ingredients:  Cucumber(s), Water, Vinegar Distilled, Salt, Calcium Chloride, Polysorbate 80, Flavor(s) Natural, Yellow 5

Vlassic Pickles: Ingredients: Cucumber(s), Water, Vinegar Distilled, Salt, Calcium Chloride, Polysorbate 80, Flavor(s) Natural, Yellow 5

Where’s the Dill?

Where's the beef commercial... but what is she really looking at?  A pickle!  She's really thinking... Where's the Dill

Wendy’s “Where’s the beef” commercial… but what is she really looking at? A pickle! She’s really thinking… Where’s the Dill

Why am I so picky?  Well.  Because besides this one company in Missouri that had only the 4 main ingredients, the only other place I found a true American Dill Pickle was in the Power Plant electric shop office in North Central Oklahoma during lunch.  Not only did Charles make his pickles from the cucumbers he grew in his garden, but he pickled them with the fresh dill that he also grew in his garden.

Dill

Special Power Plant Pickle Dill

I realize I have digressed.  I will climb down off of the pickle barrel now and continue with the important part of this story… um… ok… I mean.. I’ll continue talking about food.  One summer Charles let me come over to his house and pick cucumbers and pickle them right there in his kitchen.  We scrubbed them clean, put them in the jars with some dill sprigs.  Brought the vinegar just to a boil and then poured it in the jars, and sealed them shut.  — Best pickles ever.  Four ingredients.

Besides being granted the best pickles and tomatoes around each day for lunch, when the right season came around Charles would bring peppers.  I don’t mean the large bell peppers.  I mean the thin hot peppers.  Like this:

Hot pepper

A Serrano Pepper

At times Charles would bring in some very small peppers where I would take one little nibble of the pepper then a couple of bites of ham sandwich just to go with it.  I became so used to eating hot peppers that at home I would buy a large jar of whole jalapeno peppers just to eat like pickles.   Since I’m really going to town showing pictures tonight I tried to find a large jar of whole  jalapenos, but I couldn’t find one.  My mouth started watering while I was searching for  jalapeno on Google Images.

While I am on the subject of peppers, I will mention that many years later, when I was “sequestered” with Ray Eberle for three years working on SAP (this is another story for a later time), he introduced me to the wonderful taste of Habanero sauce on my ham sandwich.  Yeah…

habanero peppers

habanero peppers

Like Charles Foster, Ray would bring in a bottle of Habanero sauce every day and let me soak my ham sandwich with it.  After that, I stopped buying jars of  jalapenos and started using Habanero salsa for my chips at home.

On an even farther note…. one day when I was working on some homework for a course I was taking at the University in Stillwater, Oklahoma, my daughter, Elizabeth took one of the tortilla chips from my plate and dipped it in the Habanero salsa bowl I had sitting in front of me.  Without looking up, I said, “I wouldn’t do that.”  Not sure what I meant, she put the chip in her mouth.

Habanero Salsa

Habanero Salsa

After the brief moment of complete unbelief that her mouth from the jaw down had just disintegrated, she started making strange sounds as she ran to the kitchen to try to find some relief.  I told her not to drink any water, that only makes it worse.  I told her that the only way to fix this situation is to keep eating chips.  You see…. drinking water just washes all that hot stuff into every crevice in your mouth and throat.  Eating chips absorbs the heat and carries it to safety.

When I was young at one point in my life, an ice cream truck used to come through the neighborhood selling ice cream and candy.  It seemed like one of those fun times when you are a child that just seems to go away when you are older.  Today there is an ice cream truck that goes through our neighborhood and when I watch the children that live next door all run outside to catch it, it brings back those memories.

Today's Ice cream truck.... well... Ice cream Van...

Today’s Ice cream truck…. well… Ice cream Van…

So, imagine my surprise when an ice cream truck for adults showed up at the plant one day.  I didn’t even know they existed.  Charles had to explain it to me.  We were walking by the break room in the office area and this man was handing boxes to the janitor, who was stashing them in a freezer.  Charles asked me how much money I had on me, as we quickly headed for the office elevator.

On the way down Charles explained that we had just seen the Swan Man!  The Swan man?  I asked him what that meant.  He explained that the Swan man traveled around the countryside delivering all kinds of food to people so that they didn’t have to go to the grocery store.  Ok…..  I thought.  Sounds reasonable…  When we reached the ground floor, we walked out of the building and there parked at the end of the sidewalk was this truck:

Schwan Truck

Schwan Truck

Wow!  An Ice cream truck for adults!!!  We stood around for a few minutes and when the man returned to his truck Charles and I gave him some money and we bought two boxes of Ice Cream sandwiches!  Who would have thought that you could stand in the middle of the parking lot at a Power Plant in the middle of nowhere, 20 miles from the nearest city of any size, and buy ice cream from an Ice Cream Truck?  I certainly never thought that would happen until it did.

Years later, when I was driving through the countryside on the way to my house outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma I spied a Schwan man driving his truck down the country road.  I drove up behind him and started honking at him.  My daughter, who was about 9 at the time, asked me what I was doing.  I told her that she would see….  My son sitting in the back seat asked if we were going to get in trouble.  I assured him that we weren’t.

After about a mile of me honking and blinking my lights at him, the Schwan man pulled over.  I walked over to him.  Looked at him rather seriously as he climbed out of the truck and said, “Do you have a box of Ice cream sandwiches for sale?”  At that point, he put his brass knuckles back in his pocket, and re-holstered his pistol.  Looked back at me with a straight face.  Paused, Thought for a moment.  Then said, “Sure!”  He opened one of those side doors.  Pulled out a box.

I handed him some money.  Then returned to my car and drove home.  On the way home I explained to Elizabeth about the Schwan man and about how he travels around the countryside bringing food to people.  So, of course he wouldn’t mind selling me a box of Ice Cream sandwiches.

Power Plant Ice Cream Sandwich

Power Plant Ice Cream Sandwich

Anyway, back at the plant.  After Charles and I figured out the Schwan Man’s schedule, we knew what day he was going to show up, so we made sure to have enough cash in our pockets to get a couple of boxes so that we could keep them in the freezer in the electric shop.  It seemed like we had to eat them rather fast because our freezer wouldn’t keep them frozen hard and after a while they would get pretty soft.  That was our story anyway.  We didn’t want them to melt. Now. Would we?

So, thanks to Charles Foster we were able to eat like Kings in our Power Plant Palace.  When Sonny Karcher, years ago used to say the phrase from a country song, “I’m just an old chunk of coal, but I’m going to be a diamond some day,” (a song by John Anderson) he was right in more ways than one.  We would stagger back to the electric shop after working on a coal conveyor on the long belt, all covered with coal dust.  Go in the bathroom and wash up… plop ourselves down on the chair in the office.  Open our lunch boxes… and have a feast fit for a king!

I’ll leave you with the words from one of Sonny’s favorite songs the first summer I worked as a summer help back in 1979:

Hey I’m just an old chunk of coal but I’m gonna be a diamond some day
I’m gonna grow and glow till I’m so blue pure perfect
I’m gonna put a smile on everybody’s face
I’m gonna kneel and pray every day last I should become vain along the way
I’m just an old chunk of coal now Lord but I’m gonna be a diamond some day

I’m gonna learn the best way to walk gonna search and find a better way to talk
I’m gonna spit and polish my old rough edged self till I get rid of every single flaw
I’m gonna be the world’s best friend gonna go round shaking everybody’s hand
I’m gonna be the cotton pickin’ rage of the age I’m gonna be a diamond some day

Now I’m just an old chunk of coal…

Here’s Johnny Cash singing the song:

Comment from original post:

Tim Foster October 8, 2013:

Ah yes I remember that day when you came to the house to make pickles. It seemed cool that someone found Dad’s pickles so enjoyable that he wanted to come and learn how to make them. Unfortunately they have stopped making pickles but we have found some store bought ones that taste just like them. I will ask my mother every now and then if she sent Vlassic her recipe so that she would not have to smell the vinegar any longer. I wish I had inherited Dad’s green thumb but I have not as yet. My location just is not as good as his either. We are praying that this summer people will know that he is feeling better just by taking a drive out west of town to once again look upon the patch of land that has become a landmark.

Eating Power Plant Pickles, Peppers and Ice Cream

Pickles and Ice Cream usually makes one think of things other than Coal-Fired Power Plants, but when I think of Pickles, peppers or Ice Cream, my first thoughts are of the Electric Power Plant where I used to work.  The place where I spent 20 years of my life in North Central Oklahoma.  I suppose I have Charles Foster to thank for that.

I wrote about Charles earlier this year in the post “Personal Power Plant Hero – Charles Foster“.  In that post I explained about how Charles and I would sit in the electric shop office at lunch time talking about movies that we had seen.  We would take turns telling each other about the movies in such great detail that when it came time for me to actually watch “Mrs. Doubtfire” for the first time, I felt as if I had seen it before as Charles had explained every scene to me in technicolor.

Robin Williams playing Mrs. Doubtfire

Robin Williams playing Mrs. Doubtfire

The other thing that we would do during lunch, of course, was eat lunch.  Being that naturally boring person that I am, I would usually bring the same ham sandwich to work each day.  Day-in and day-out, I would eat a ham sandwich, and an apple, or some other kind of fruit depending on the time of year.

If it hadn’t been for Charles I never would have experienced the finer side of Power Plant Lunch Time.  Charles was an avid gardener.  He had a very large garden between his house and the road where he lived out in the country.

People from Pawnee, Oklahoma would judge the world economic situation just by taking a ride out in the country to take a look at how Charles’ garden was coming along.  Between Charles Foster and the Farmer’s Almanac, there was little guesswork left.

I was the beneficiary of this little piece of the Garden of Eden amid the arid Oklahoma prairie.  Though I never came to take it for granted, every day when I opened my lunch box to retrieve my ham sandwich with American Cheese and a bit of Miracle Whip to keep the bread from sliding off, I would be given an extra treat from one of the kindest people I know.  Charles would hand me something special from his garden.

Cherry Tomatoes were a common, but always special treat.

A perfect Cherry Tomato by Shelley Hourston at dogsbestfriend.wordpress.com

A perfect Cherry Tomato by Shelley Hourston at dogsbestfriend.wordpress.com

I include this perfect photo of a cherry tomato by Shelley Hourston because this is the kind of cuisine I was subjected to on a regular basis.  I almost suspect that Shelley stopped by Charles’ garden to find this tomato.  It makes the question about whether the cherry tomato is a fruit or a vegetable a moot point.  The real answer is that it is a feast.

Growing up as a boy in Columbia, Missouri during the 1970’s I was spoiled when it came to Dill Pickles.  The best Dill pickles that money could buy could be found in Central Missouri.  I don’t remember the brand.  They may not even exist today.  I remember the ingredients on the jar very clearly.  Cucumbers, Vinegar, Salt, Dill.

Today it is hard to find a jar of Dill Pickles that actually has dill in them.  I think that you shouldn’t be able to label a jar of pickles as Dill Pickles unless they are pickled with dill.

Vlassic Pickles:  Ingredients:  Cucumber(s), Water, Vinegar Distilled, Salt, Calcium Chloride, Polysorbate 80, Flavor(s) Natural, Yellow 5

Vlassic Pickles: Ingredients: Cucumber(s), Water, Vinegar Distilled, Salt, Calcium Chloride, Polysorbate 80, Flavor(s) Natural, Yellow 5

Where’s the Dill?

Where's the beef commercial... but what is she really looking at?  A pickle!  She's really thinking... Where's the Dill

Wendy’s “Where’s the beef” commercial… but what is she really looking at? A pickle! She’s really thinking… Where’s the Dill

Why am I so picky?  Well.  Because besides this one company in Missouri that had only the 4 main ingredients, the only other place I found a true American Dill Pickle was in the Power Plant electric shop office in North Central Oklahoma during lunch.  Not only did Charles make his pickles from the cucumbers he grew in his garden, but he pickled them with the fresh dill that he also grew in his garden.

Dill

Special Power Plant Pickle Dill

I realize I have digressed.  I will climb down off of the pickle barrel now and continue with the important part of this story… um… ok… I mean.. I’ll continue talking about food.  One summer Charles let me come over to his house and pick cucumbers and pickle them right there in his kitchen.  We scrubbed them clean, put them in the jars with some dill sprigs.  Brought the vinegar just to a boil and then poured it in the jars, and sealed them shut.  — Best pickles ever.  Four ingredients.

Besides being granted the best pickles and tomatoes around each day for lunch, when the right season came around Charles would bring peppers.  I don’t mean the large bell peppers.  I mean the thin hot peppers.  Like this:

Hot pepper

A Serrano Pepper

At times Charles would bring in some very small peppers where I would take one little nibble of the pepper then a couple of bites of ham sandwich just to go with it.  I became so used to eating hot peppers that at home I would buy a large jar of whole jalapeno peppers just to eat like pickles.   Since I’m really going to town showing pictures tonight I tried to find a large jar of whole  jalapenos, but I couldn’t find one.  My mouth started watering while I was searching for  jalapeno on Google Images.

While I am on the subject of peppers, I will mention that many years later, when I was “sequestered” with Ray Eberle for three years working on SAP (this is another story for a later time), he introduced me to the wonderful taste of Habanero sauce on my ham sandwich.  Yeah…

habanero peppers

habanero peppers

Like Charles Foster, Ray would bring in a bottle of Habanero sauce every day and let me soak my ham sandwich with it.  After that, I stopped buying jars of  jalapenos and started using Habanero salsa for my chips at home.

On an even farther note…. one day when I was working on some homework for a course I was taking at the University in Stillwater, Oklahoma, my daughter, Elizabeth took one of the tortilla chips from my plate and dipped it in the Habanero salsa bowl I had sitting in front of me.  Without looking up, I said, “I wouldn’t do that.”  Not sure what I meant, she put the chip in her mouth.

Habanero Salsa

Habanero Salsa

After the brief moment of complete unbelief that her mouth from the jaw down had just disintegrated, she started making strange sounds as she ran to the kitchen to try to find some relief.  I told her not to drink any water, that only makes it worse.  I told her that the only way to fix this situation is to keep eating chips.  You see…. drinking water just washes all that hot stuff into every crevice in your mouth and throat.  Eating chips absorbs the heat and carries it to safety.

When I was young at one point in my life, an ice cream truck used to come through the neighborhood selling ice cream and candy.  It seemed like one of those fun times when you are a child that just seems to go away when you are older.  Today there is an ice cream truck that goes through our neighborhood and when I watch the children that live next door all run outside to catch it, it brings back those memories.

Today's Ice cream truck.... well... Ice cream Van...

Today’s Ice cream truck…. well… Ice cream Van…

So, imagine my surprise when an ice cream truck for adults showed up at the plant one day.  I didn’t even know they existed.  Charles had to explain it to me.  We were walking by the break room in the office area and this man was handing boxes to the janitor, who was stashing them in a freezer.  Charles asked me how much money I had on me, as we quickly headed for the office elevator.

On the way down Charles explained that we had just seen the Swan Man!  The Swan man?  I asked him what that meant.  He explained that the Swan man traveled around the countryside delivering all kinds of food to people so that they didn’t have to go to the grocery store.  Ok…..  I thought.  Sounds reasonable…  When we reached the ground floor, we walked out of the building and there parked at the end of the sidewalk was this truck:

Schwan Truck

Schwan Truck

Wow!  An Ice cream truck for adults!!!  We stood around for a few minutes and when the man returned to his truck Charles and I gave him some money and we bought two boxes of Ice Cream sandwiches!  Who would have thought that you could stand in the middle of the parking lot at a Power Plant in the middle of nowhere, 20 miles from the nearest city of any size, and buy ice cream from an Ice Cream Truck?  I certainly never thought that would happen until it did.

Years later, when I was driving through the countryside on the way to my house outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma I spied a Schwan man driving his truck down the country road.  I drove up behind him and started honking at him.  My daughter, who was about 9 at the time, asked me what I was doing.  I told her that she would see….  My son sitting in the back seat asked if we were going to get in trouble.  I assured him that we weren’t.

After about a mile of me honking and blinking my lights at him, the Schwan man pulled over.  I walked over to him.  Looked at him rather seriously as he climbed out of the truck and said, “Do you have a box of Ice cream sandwiches for sale?”  At that point, he put his brass knuckles back in his pocket, and re-holstered his pistol.  Looked back at me with a straight face.  Paused, Thought for a moment.  Then said, “Sure!”  He opened one of those side doors.  Pulled out a box.

I handed him some money.  Then returned to my car and drove home.  On the way home I explained to Elizabeth about the Schwan man and about how he travels around the countryside bringing food to people.  So, of course he wouldn’t mind selling me a box of Ice Cream sandwiches.

Power Plant Ice Cream Sandwich

Power Plant Ice Cream Sandwich

Anyway, back at the plant.  After Charles and I figured out the Schwan Man’s schedule, we knew what day he was going to show up, so we made sure to have enough cash in our pockets to get a couple of boxes so that we could keep them in the freezer in the electric shop.  It seemed like we had to eat them rather fast because our freezer wouldn’t keep them frozen hard and after a while they would get pretty soft.  That was our story anyway.  We didn’t want them to melt. Now. Would we?

So, thanks to Charles Foster we were able to eat like Kings in our Power Plant Palace.  When Sonny Karcher, years ago used to say the phrase from a country song, “I’m just an old chunk of coal, but I’m going to be a diamond some day,” (a song by John Anderson) he was right in more ways than one.  We would stagger back to the electric shop after working on a coal conveyor on the long belt, all covered with coal dust.  Go in the bathroom and wash up… plop ourselves down on the chair in the office.  Open our lunch boxes… and have a feast fit for a king!

I’ll leave you with the words from one of Sonny’s favorite songs the first summer I worked as a summer help back in 1979:

Hey I’m just an old chunk of coal but I’m gonna be a diamond some day
I’m gonna grow and glow till I’m so blue pure perfect
I’m gonna put a smile on everybody’s face
I’m gonna kneel and pray every day last I should become vain along the way
I’m just an old chunk of coal now Lord but I’m gonna be a diamond some day

I’m gonna learn the best way to walk gonna search and find a better way to talk
I’m gonna spit and polish my old rough edged self till I get rid of every single flaw
I’m gonna be the world’s best friend gonna go round shaking everybody’s hand
I’m gonna be the cotton pickin’ rage of the age I’m gonna be a diamond some day

Now I’m just an old chunk of coal…

Here’s Johnny Cash singing the song: