TLL029 A Nickname You Will Never Forget

The story you are about to hear is true. The reason I am saying that is once you hear it your first reaction will be “no Way.” This is one of those “you can’t make this shit up stories.” Every person I even told this story to remembers it very clearly, It has to do with a nickname someone got while out on the crew. I have had people come up to me 5 years after I told them the story and they still remember this guys nickname.

If you have ever done line work and been around a bunch of lineman you know people pick up nicknames. Usually if you get a nickname it comes from something stupid you did or it has to do with a character trait you have.

The best nicknames are given to you, it is never something you choose for yourself. Some people embrace their nickname and some can’t stand their nicknames. I have had a few and almost all of them have something to do with my last name. “Spoons, Spoonsize, Forker” which in my book is not that bad. We had some people that only go by their nickname and sometimes it is hard to remember their real name.

We had guys named “Honest Abe” “the governor”, “Smokey” and another guy named “Lucky”. Most guys just go with it and don’t worry about it too much. None of theses nicknames compares to the craziest nickname I ever heard, in 40 years being involved with line work I’ve heard nothing that tops this.

The story begins out on the crew building a line back when I was an apprentice. So back in the day we didn’t have such modern equipment, our pole trailer was a small single axle trailer with tandem wheels. There was no long trailer tongue and the way you hauled poles was to use the first pole you loaded on the trailer as the tongue.

We had a piece of equipment called a pole tongue and how it worked was it was a long piece of thick steel about 6 inches wide, it had a ring on the end that went in the pintle hook of the truck. There were two chains on the steel piece that went around the pole itself and could be tightened down to clamp the steel with the ring to a pole. This allowed the pole to be hooked to the pintle hook of the truck. The rest of the poles were just loaded onto the trailer like normal.

We had a large job building a line so what we did was load the trailer down with poles and headed out to the job. All of the poles had been staked by an engineer so we were going to stop at each pole location and roll off a pole, then come back later and set them.

 On this particular day there was one journeyman driving the truck and two apprentices who would be rolling the poles off the trailer. Mike and Bill were two of my fellow apprentices and had just started their apprenticeships. Mike was a skinny guy who was a little nerdy looking, not your typical looking apprentice and Bill was a short stocky guy who looked like he would be slow and lazy but was a hustler who could climb a pole like a squirrel. You probably have one where you work, the fat guy who you think wont make it but he can really climb a pole.

They got to the first pole stake, the journeyman stopped the truck and Mike and Bill rolled off the first pole. The lineman would then drive the truck, wait for someone to yell when they got to the next stake and the apprentices would roll off another pole. They continued on down the line to the next pole stake.

The location where the poles were being set had a lot of high grass, Because of the grass the apprentices missed one of the stakes and the truck passed it. Bill saw the stake at the last minute and yelled out stop, Bill told the Journeyman “you are going to have to back up for us to roll the pole off.”

Well the Journeyman was pissed because he had to back up and he threw it in reverse and began to back up kind of quickly. Well Mike, the other apprentice wasn’t paying attention to the truck coming back and it knocked him down and the trailer backed over him.

Remember what I said about the trailer being a single axle trailer with tandem wheels? Well when he got run over Mikes’s face was forced between the 2 tandem wheels of the pole trailer. The trailer still had several poles on it so it broke several bones in Mikes face. Unfortunately, Mike spent some time in the hospital and it was several months before he came back on the crew.

The first day he came back after the accident you could tell Mike had a little bit of a deformity on his face, it wasn’t obvious but you could tell something wasn’t quite right with it.

All the apprentices were standing around shooting the shit, Mike was taking a lot of crap from the guys, “hey man, how could you not be paying attention and get backed over by a trailer?

That’s when it happened, another one of the apprentices Joey walked up on the group and said, “hey wheel-chock, glad to have you back.” The rest of the guys went crazy with laughter, “wheel chock”, what a perfect nickname. The only one not laughing seemed to be Mike, wheelchock himself.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks the wheel chock nickname spread like wildfire. No body ever used his real name again. It was wheelchock this and wheelchock that.

You could tell Mike didn’t like his new nickname but you know how things go, the more lineman see you don’t like something the more they pile on.

Well one Monday morning the manager called a meeting for everyone. I knew the shit had gone down when the manager was accompanied by the head HR lady. She proceeded to quote this policy and that policy and what it came down to was “Wheel chock had complained to HR and did not like his nickname and wanted us to stop calling him that. “If anyone calls Mike that name again you will be subject to disciplinary action,” she said. So that was the end of calling Mike wheelchock, … to his face. Behind the scenes everyone still used the name. I think if he had just embraced the name it would have gone away but he couldn’t do it.

Several weeks later we noticed that ole wheelchock was not out on the crew anymore. We found out later, he ended up transferring over to the meter reading department. The rest of us apprentices, we made lineman and went on with our careers, every now and then we would cross paths with Mike and even 20 years later we always referred to him as wheel-chock.

When I look back at my behavior and making fun of someone who’s face was deformed in an accident it does make me feel a little bad. But at the time I wasn’t the only one laughing. To be honest it really wasn’t to be viscous, it was just part of working with a bunch of crazy ass lineman. Everybody gets screwed with now and then, in my book no harm no foul. It’s just part of the pack mentality that Lineman have sometime.

That is the craziest nickname I ever heard, I know the story sounds crazy but it happened. Another chapter in this crazy Lineman Life.

By the way, Mike, wheelchock had a full career as a meter reader and last thing I heard he had retired.

You really can’t make this shit up. That’s it for this week. Leave me some comments, what is the craziest nickname you have ever seen where you work?

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