Electric. Absolutely electrifying. We had three booms up, speaking of cranes. Three girders in the air, I was signalling all three, as my partner patrolled the work, making sure I was close. Close. Just: close. We had a football field of Iron in the air, over 300 feet long, three pieces combined & total. Enough to wreck a small village. Every bit of it depended on what I said through my fingers to the Crane Operators. If I fucked up, millions of dollars would have been spent, lost within a second, or less. If I fucked up….
I didn’t fuck up.
I didn’t. Nature did.
While we were so involved, distracted even, in our bliss as High Steel Bridge Connectors, the pinnacle of my trade: a wild storm blew in, way unannounced, from the Everglades. It was an I-95 bridge: I could not fuck up, The Company, could not fuck up. But: I was between Death and a Hard place. A very, very fucking hard place. Ya follow? You can’t even imagine. But: Listen to me, your Poet.
Bobby, my partner, was stoned, as usual. That is mostly why I was signalling the rigs, well, not really, nobody signals a rig with my life at stake. Nobody. The few people I tried to teach to do such things, almost killed me. My name is John Rickard, and if I tell you to do something with a crane. Do it. Fucking do it.
The storm blew in, totally unannounced. Like a real bad hit on a babe in a bar, totally: Unannounced. I had two pieces ‘married’ (put together with only pins) a third to go, hanging, revolving in front of my eyes, out of reach.
What to do? I was so fucking scared, every hair on my body was standing on end, electric, every one of them. Every one of them, like a porcupine on acid: Fucked. What the fuck would you do? Jump? Quit? How? I was standing on a twelve inch wide girder, sixty feet over dry land. I was, well, what my Connector friends say, I was ‘fucked’: no place to go, and no way to get there. I was fucked. With 300 ft of Steel behind me, and well over 600 feet of crane boom behind me, and a very, very weird task in front of me. And a very wild electrical storm banging all around me.
What would you do?
You, who can’t even imagine my options, which were few?
What. Would you do?
I signalled the hanging girder into me, I needed it to ‘bridge’ the gap to the next pier, or else, all would fall. All. All. Every bit of it, including me & Bobby, was history, in that storm. The Crane Operator didn’t want to listen to me. I screamed: ‘Hey look you mutherfucker, if you don’t do what I tell you right the fuck now, I will come down there and kill you.” He knew my reputation, the only tool worth a fuck for a real man.
He swung it in, he was scared-er than me: told me so later. I don’t know how you gauge such things, but I let him have his say. He swung the load into me, let me pin it, walk out and set the madness down on the anchor bolts. I was soaking wet, my money, my underwear, my blood was wet from the storm. I climbed on top of that girder, and cut the rigging lose, unassisted. I had to walk back from where which I came. Bobby saw, knew what was happening, and joined me to cut the number #2 & #1 rigs loose. We got the rigs safe, turned away from the Iron, boomed down and safe. We were soaked.
So: You think you are a ‘Man’. OK. There are different types.
For Bobby Butler. He died, Connecting. But not with me. I carry him in my Soul.