Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Sound And The Flurry

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’d never driven a dump-truck before hiring on with my current employer. Like most companies, they just sort of pointed me in the general direction and said “here’s what we need done.” No-one told me for three months to NEVER back up with your tag-axles (cheaters) down, though I usually didn’t, but for my own reasons. No-one told me until LAST WEEK that the “regen” wouldn’t work on my old truck unless the coolant was kept almost full to overflowing (meaning that I might have been partially responsible for the loss of my truck). There were other things, though, that had nothing to do with vehicle needs for which I was somewhat unprepared when I took on the job.

The first was the noise. I hired on in July, during the hot months. Since “my” truck had been purchased used, like most of their fleet, the air-conditioner was more than a little inconsistent. It tended to go off and on according to a mystical sequence of potholes in the highway. As a result, I sometimes ran with the windows partly down when the AC was partly working, and clear down when it was on the fritz. Incidentally, I noticed a psychological effect of additional perceived speed with the window noise, about 10 MPH at highway speed, it seemed to me.

I often kept my windows down about an inch anyway, to stay in better touch with my surroundings. Of course, in letting in the sound of sirens, horns, shouts, squealing tires, engine noise of other vehicles, etc, it also let in more of the noise of my exhaust (on the passenger side) and the noise of my own truck’s engine. It was particularly noisy when the turbo kicked in. The windows were generally at least part-way down on job-sites, too, so I could hear back-up warnings, other machinery moving and the horn of various machines used to load the truck, many of which had diminutive horns in comparison to the size of the machines.
The independent radiator fans are nearly a loud as the engine, when they kick in, making it especially difficult to shift by ear, now that I’m driving a standard. Plus, in the old Mack, the speed sensor for the automatic transmission made a lot of noise, at certain speeds. I guess everything comes at a price. Besides the noise in the cab from the engine, transmission, hydraulic lift controls and speed sensor, all those items also add heat to the cab, good in winter, not so much in summer.

The flurry of activity with a dump-truck was also something I hadn’t thought about. My previous driving experience had been with long delivery routes with few stops. There ARE some days like that on this job, but not many. While the salt runs of winter may involve one or two trips a day to some far-flung end of the state, the local “dirt jobs” can involve multiple short runs. I believe 24 loads is my record so far for a day. I don’t usually mind the dirt jobs, though two weeks on that one was a bit much. The senior man, who was there with me, fussed about it after the first day and got moved to another job.

Often, the only breaks that we get are when the loader operators are adjusting their positions or their machine requires some sort of minor maintenance. On dirt jobs, it’s hard to answer nature’s call, or even eat your lunch (those things are difficult EVERY day, for that matter). We’re told when hired to always take a 30 minute lunch break (so they’ll be in compliance with the law) but, with the next load always waiting, few guys do, nor do they really expect us to, though they don’t complain if we do. Most guys do like me and eat on the fly, or when they’re being loaded. Lunch then, is not a meal, but a series of snacks. What you pack in your lunchbox soon begins to reflect that.

Keeping us busy, of course, is what keeps the company profitable and the drivers working, so I won’t complain. I must confess, though, I DO prefer the days when the things are a bit more relaxed. © 2015

Sick Day

Thursday, I called in sick for the first time since I began working with my current employer, nearly a year ago (lacking four days). My wife insisted that I go to the doctor, and I did. He gave me prescriptions for four kinds of dope and I now feel better than I have in a month. Amazing what dope can do. (The RIGHT kind, at least.) One was an inhaler to open my lungs (no refill). That alone gave me the first decent night's sleep I'd had in weeks. I didn't feel like I was going to suffocate if I fell asleep! I worked Friday and did okay, so maybe I'm on the mend.

I used to shake my head at folks who had a pile of pill bottles, now it seems that I'm one of those people.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Old Truck Is GONE!

The old automatic transmission Mack that I drove at work broke down once too often. It was stripped of its company identification that evening and my personal items removed, and it disappeared the following day. I'm now trying to relearn driving a standard (it's been eight years), and I have to say, the Volvo that I'm in isn't half the truck my old one was. For one thing, it has no power! But, the boss is happy. Maybe I'll take early retirement in two years, yet!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Thoughts From The Highway

It's been enjoyable seeing the wildlife along the road this spring. Obviously, I'm not referring to the road-kill. The young groundhogs have been venturing out of the den for over a month now. This year's squirrels and chipmunks have been seen even longer. I get tickled at the latter scurrying across the two-lane roads ahead of me. They raise their little tails straight in the air as they go.That's a trait found in many animals as they run. I assume that's where the expression "high-tailing it out of there" and its various tenses came from.

Squirrels seem rather plentiful, anymore, including the big fox squirrels, which took many years to come back after the winter kills of the late 70's. The prolonged deep snows of '77-'79 caused many to be unable to forage, thus they starved in their dens. The tiny bunnies are cute and remind me that the species isn't yet extinct. though it seems so the other seasons of the year.

I watched a young crow the other day, obviously just out of the nest. He was following his parents around, getting in their faces and demanding to be fed. They were doing surprisingly well at the task. I assume that seeing them scoop up a bug and put it in his mouth will eventually make him realize that he could eat better if he'd learn to do it himself.

To the unaware, it would seem that a lot of trees are dying this year. The seed pods on the locusts are brown and look like dead leaves from a distance, and the locust leaf miners seems to be at work already, making the real leaves turn brown. Also, due to the excessive rain in my area, the tulip poplars have brown tips on their leaves from a type of fungus that attacks them during wet springs. They'll recover, but it surely weakens them to some degree.

I've noticed in the past year on the road that people have gotten noticeably ruder and less considerate, even the truck drivers. I think it's not just on the highway, but in society at large. I remember that when I worked at my last telemarketing job that they had no button for "you're welcome," but had one for "no problem." I suppose they thought the two terms were of equal value. They AREN'T!

Our little dog has grown increasingly attentive to the calls I place to my wife, as I check with her through the day. She gets really upset if my wife doesn't let me say something to her. After I do, she lays down and rolls for minutes at a stretch in apparent celebration of hearing from me. Wouldn't it be great if we still found the joy in simple things that dogs and children do?

A Whine (Or Ten)


I've felt like crap all week. I mentioned in my recent prayer request that my weight has caused breathing problems for me. What I DIDN'T mention, was that I already have a 13% diminished lung capacity, due to scarring from several bouts of pneumonia as a child. As if that wasn't a bad enough combination, I got a really bad cold this week that tried filling my lungs with mucous. If it wasn't for a pharmacy chain's copy of Dayquil and Niquil, I'm not sure I'd be here to post this, literally. I THINK I'm finally getting slightly better, but Thursday was the worst I'd ever felt and still gone to work anywhere. Doctors could have done nothing but give me oxygen, since they can't treat colds (being viruses), so I elected to work sick and get the money. Now my wife has the cold and it's hitting her hard. The summer heat makes it rough when we have to venture outside and can barely breathe.

As if that wasn't bad enough, we recently had to replace our house air-conditioner. Our toilet quit working this week, but I was too sick to fix it, though I got the parts. (My brother-in-law was able to do it for me Friday.) The house roof and porch roof both need patched, and my laptop, on which I do 99% of my work, just crashed. This is turning into the summer of my greatest discontent!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Songs In The Night


The tree frogs have been singing in the hundred-foot strip of woods between our house and the neighbor’s, since early spring. Their raucous, repetitive songs remind me of the long summer nights of my youth. Last week, they were joined by a single cicada singing from the woods on the opposite side of the house. A week later, it remains the only one. Its higher pitch voice adds an odd harmony to the song of the tree frogs. Its presence tells me that it will soon be joined by many relatives who will, at times, make the night almost deafening. That, in turn, will be a reminder that summer doesn’t last forever and autumn will soon be on its way. I find myself humming the tune “Sunrise, Sunset,” from “Fiddler on the Roof.” Indeed, “swiftly go the years.”© 2015

Saturday, July 11, 2015

07-11-201 - Riding Shotgun - Rainy-Day Hauling, Part 2

Two Friday’s before last wasn’t rainy in the beginning, but rain was predicted. Two of us went over into enemy territory to haul “topsoil” from a local sand pit to where a new home was being built about a mile-and-a-half away. We went down into the pit, and then wound around for a little while, before coming to the highwall at the back of the pit. There, the pit owner had constructed a crude road up the side of the dig to about 4/5 of the way to the top. There, he made a small turn around, so we could load and then drive back down the same road.

The road had an adequate berm on the lower side, but it was steep, with a decided hump in it. I had to try the third time to get up, and only then when I locked in the positive traction and all-wheel drive on the rear end. Once at the top, I saw there was barely enough room to turn and it required a bit of zigzagging, forward and backward, to get in position to load and then complete the turn and go back down. There was very little berm at the top, so it gave the impression of being on a narrow ledge of a sand cliff, probably because that was exactly what it was. I’d arrived first, but the second truck was waiting at the bottom of the grade when I came down. I laughed and told him that I reckoned that dump-truck drivers might be the only folks stupid enough to do such things. He had better tires and had less trouble with the grade than I did. Once he was up, I left to make the first delivery.

It started raining lightly about that time, and the next two trips up the sandy path became harder. The fourth time around, my truck wouldn’t make it, but kept spinning out just before the rear wheels cleared the hump, onto the flatter ground above. On the fourth try, I swear the front end left the ground, I was hitting the slope with such speed. If I’d had a confederate flag painted on the top of my cab, I’d have felt like I was on TV. (I think that was a day or two before all THAT stuff hit the fan.) I finally told the old fellow who owned the place that if we were going to keep hauling, we were going to have to go through the edge of his hay meadow, like his son running the loader had suggested. If looks could have killed, I’d have been dead on the spot.

Having been raised on a farm, I understood the fellow’s dislike of tracking up his meadow, but hey, he was selling the field a yard at a time; so what was the difference in the long run? A third truck showed up about then, so the loader man stayed a little busier which, of course, made the old gentleman money even faster. We drove as close to the edge of the dig as we dared, sometimes only five feet from the cliff-like sand slope to the bottom of the pit. We were as cautious as we knew how to be about chewing up the sod with our tires, and there was far less damage than I expected. Perhaps the sandy soil let the water drain so quickly that it just wouldn’t get gaumy.

As I looked at the meadow, I assumed it to be virgin soil, but the loader soon brought up terra-cotta pipes from an earlier era. Whether they had been part of a field drainage system or part of a drain from some long-gone house or barn, I had no idea. I wondered, also, how many arrowheads, flints tools and pot shards that I might be driving over from the days before the white man.

At 2:30, the builder called it a day, due to it getting too muddy for us to maneuver the trucks at his place. By that time, though, we had in eight hours and the pit owner had sold about 40 loads of dirt, so he didn’t seem worried about his meadow anymore. We each got a load of sand to haul back to the shop and agreed that it had been a pretty productive day to be so rainy. © 2015

Friday, July 10, 2015

Three Photos From This Week

Click photos to enlarge.
The photo above was taken in the yard at work. For now, I can park my pickup beside my work truck, so I can transfer my lunch and such a lot easier; plus, I don't have far to walk to go to work! "Old '53" isn't a large truck; it has a 16 foot long bed with five foot sides. The bottom, outside corners of the bed are rounded, to make it dump cleaner, so I don't know the exact yardage of the bed. I hope they have trouble finding a buyer, because I'd love to keep driving it, insread of another.

I've posted a picture of this building on here before, but I find it interesting, so I put it here again. It;s ugly, but it has a sort of historic, "ghost town" look. Still, I hope it gets torn down before long. I hauled debris from the plant a couple days last week, from sections that were being demolished. This week, I spent part of my time hauling some contaminated soil from the area to the rear of where I snapped this photo.

Since it was rainy, the dump was muddy, so they opened the "tire wash" on the way out and blocked other exits, so you HAD to go through it. It's NOT to wash off germs, but to get the mud knocked off, before it makes it to the highway, where the state could issue them a ticket. With all the "flora and fauna" in that mud, I'd think they should be able to grow some monster carp in that holding tank to the right of the wash! LOL © 2015

Sunday, July 5, 2015

07-05-2015 – Riding Shotgun - Rainy-Day Hauling - Part 1

After a couple near-60-hour weeks spoiled me pay-wise, two rainy weeks set in where I didn’t even get 40 hours. I have to work 50 hours at this job to get the same pay as I did for 40 hours at my factory job, 10 years ago, so I prefer to have a little overtime. The money doesn’t go nearly as far as it did back then, though. Since most of our work is tied to the construction business, rain in summer is almost as bad for us as snow in winter. The bosses are good about having a little “busy work” on hand to keep us working as near 40 hours as possible, however.

Thursday before last, the three of us with the least seniority sat around for the first hour, hoping for a load on that on-and-off rainy day. Finally, the dispatcher found us a job hauling for the mine. They had an overabundance of one size of stone, while their yard in town was a little low on the same size. Our job was to load up at the mine, 20 miles away, and haul the stone back to that company’s city yard, almost directly across the river from our employer’s shop. It was stone-yard to stone-yard, instead of stone-yard to mud lot, so it was a good rainy-day job.

Now you might think that, since their mine is only 20 miles away, the city lot would get ALL their stone there, but I’d never seen any evidence of that. Since the city yard sits between the river bank and a spur of the railroad, I figured their stone came by one method or the other. Not being bashful, I asked the lady running the scale about their stone source. She said that it came by barge from a source downriver—Kentucky, she thought.

I guess it says something about the cost of trucking that it’s cheaper to do the extra handling and ship it from another state than to haul it 20 miles by truck. Still, the stone spends a few minutes on a truck, even then, since the dock is about 200 yards downstream from their yard. So, the crane uses a clam bucket to load the trucks, and the trucks shuttle it the 200 yards to the stone-yard and dump it in a big pile. There, the end-loader pushes it up into a taller pile, so it soaks up less rain and takes up less space in the yard.

Incidentally, the company is very diversified and owns not only mines and stone-yards, but also manufacturing plants. In fact, it’s known primarily for its work in the aerospace industry. I’ve never been fully convinced that the whole moonwalk thing wasn’t just a slow-motion tape of goings-on in Area 51; I wonder if those “moon rocks” have been tested for lime content?

After hauling three loads apiece for that company, the dispatcher had us haul a couple loads each from the mine to the shop. That was just busy-work, but they’ll probably sell it there in a few days, since that’s where they do their retail business. Between those five loads and the hour’s wait that morning, we got eight hours on the clock, so that wasn’t bad for a rainy day. © 2015

Friday, July 3, 2015


Those who’ve followed me for a while know that I’ve done several articles on prepping in the past, some with the help of the friend that I call “the guru.” I know that some of you have an interest in such things, too. On Facebook, I daily repost things from other folks that have to do with prepping, homesteading and DIY projects. Some folks prepare for societal collapse, financial collapse or the collapse of the power grid. Other folks prepare for things like floods, tornados, wind storms, drought, and food shortages due to various scenarios.

While many of my readers are exceptions to the rule, people at large don’t seem to want to prepare for the one event from which none of us escape—death. No, I don’t mean just buying life insurance to protect your family if you croak. Nor do I mean pre-arranging your funeral, making a will, or doing estate planning to lessen the taxes paid by your heirs. I’m thinking of something bigger, the biggest in fact—dealing with eternity.

Science tells us that energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be made to change forms. Science also tells us that we have an aura that is photographable with the right equipment. When we die, that aura doesn’t fade; it leaves the body and heads elsewhere. Religious folks will tell you that aura is the soul moving to the next realm.

There are people, of course, who choose not to believe in any god or in life beyond the grave. Surprisingly, this attitude is more common in the lower classes and less educated. People would be shocked to learn how many scientists are religious. For those folks who simply think they’re being pragmatic not to believe in spiritual things, I’ll quote my late uncle. He was neither the first nor the last to say such a thing, but he was the first to articulate it to me. He said, “If I spend my life believing in God, only to die and become nothing; I’m not out a thing. A lot of folks go through life mistaken about some things. However, if some guy goes through life NOT believing in God and finds himself at the judgment seat after leaving this life, he’ll have literal hell to pay.” And that will be for all eternity, folks. Have you ever considered the idea of something with no end?

Concerning Jesus, Acts 4:12 tells us “…God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” (NLT) That means Buddha, Mohammed, Vishnu nor any other person, living or dead, can get you into Heaven. You have to accept Jesus as your savior, or you’re headed somewhere else entirely.  We can’t make it in on our own either, for Romans 3:23 tells us, “ For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (NLT) However, once you make that decision to accept Jesus as your savior, He won’t turn his back on you. Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (NLT)

Sadly, I believe that Satan may have more fake Christians out there than God has real ones, so don’t be swayed by “Christians” who set bad examples. If you know one who has impressed you with his (her?) behavior, go to him and ask about “getting saved.” If he’s sincere, he’ll find the answers you need, even if he doesn’t have them on the tip of his tongue. Feel free to ask me to converse privately, also. Otherwise, get a red letter edition Bible and just read the words in red a few times, so you get familiar with what Jesus says, instead of what people say about Him. Then, you might want to read all of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John plus, perhaps, Proverbs.

Please get prepared for eternity, because your world could end at any moment, and eternity is a long time to suffer needlessly. Heaven sounds like a much nicer place. © 2015