The strong bonds of Lineman friendships have no end. This strong bond is not always a 50 – 50 give and take. The Lineman bond is not about each Lineman giving the exact same amount to the friendship. The bond is having the comfort in knowing that if you ever need something, that your brother lineman will be there for you no matter when or what and that you would do the same for them.
There are very few careers left where the bond of friendship is so tight. Linemen that work together develop a tight bond. These bonds can last a lifetime.
How many friends do you have that you know would come out and help you? Say you had car trouble at 2:00AM. Do you have friends you could call and they would come to help you? I know I do. There is a comfort that comes in life knowing that you have close friends. Other Linemen have always been my closest friends. I’ve been fortunate to have many other Lineman that I know would bail me out on anything, anytime I needed them.
The lineman’s bond and trust go hand in hand. When you work together for many years, you begin to build trust in some of your co-workers. Trust is very important, many times in your career, you will have the life of one of your friends literally in the palm of your hand. For instance, when you work hot primary, any slip or mess up could cause you or your friend to get hurt or die. The trust that is needed and knowing you have some control of your linemen friend’s life makes the bond between linemen so high.
This Lineman bond of watching each other’s backs has a completely opposite emotion. The tight Bond we share also comes along with the right to tease your friends unmercifully. In working with people day-in and day-out, you get to be very familiar with the little quirks that each one of us has. This allows you to stick the knife a little deeper than someone who doesn’t know your friends very well. Between true friends, it’s all fair game.
Two of my lifelong friends are Rusty and Benji. I worked with both of these guys for about 20 years. Both of them were good linemen. Rusty came through the ranks starting off at the bottom and slowly working his way up to linemen. Rusty was a stocky guy, played linebacker in high school and was a pretty good football player before he came over to work with us. Rusty had a good upbringing with a strict father who put good ethics in his son. Rusty had a nickname of Honest Abe because he would never tell any sort of lie. He would always tell the truth about everything, which was an admirable trait not a lot of people could copy.
Benji came into the company from being a contractor. Benji was the son of a lineman, so he’d been raised up on what it takes to be a lineman. Benji was also heavy set and didn’t play around when it was time to go to work. Benji was also a talker. You probably have a friend like Benji. He is a guy who can always one-up you on anything you did. If you have a story about the night you changed out nine transformers, Benji would always come back with a story about how he changed out 10. If you set 15 poles in one day, he had set 16. That’s just how he was. Benji was a good guy. He would literally give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.
So, I could never have asked for two better linemen friends. So, myself, Benji, and Rusty were working on a job. The job was to set a single-phase dead-end pole. It was the middle of August in coastal South Carolina near Edisto Beach. Like I’ve said many times before, summers on the coast in South Carolina are very humid and hot. To make things worse,this job also happened to be in the wooded area, which meant there would be no comforting breezes to help give us some relief. I was operating the line truck and we had just set the pole when I noticed Benji and Rusty, who had just gotten finished tamping the pole, they were having a conversation. I then saw Benji take off running, bend over and puke on the ground. Benji didn’t look very good either, but after he threw up, he came back over and started getting the guy wires ready to be pulled.
Five minutes later, he bends over and starts puking again. I thought Benji was getting too hot and was about to monkey. Now, if you don’t know what the term monkey means, it comes from the term, “getting the monkey on your back.” And what that means is that your body has overheated and you either are getting heat exhaustion, or even worse than that, you’re getting heat stroke. So, it’s a common term in the south, if you say you’re getting the monkey on your back, everybody knows what it means.
So, that’s what I thought was happening to Benji. Benji had always been one tough SOB, and it wasn’t like him to be heat sick, it was August so we had months to get used to this heat. I told Benji, “Hey, man. Go ahead and sit down over by that tree, and Rusty and I will finish up the job.” I threw in one of those “I guess you can’t hang” comments just to rub it in. Benji reluctantly went over to the tree and sat down, but every five minutes he was throwing up. He started dry heaving when he ran out of fluids. I walked over to Benji and said, “Hey, I can call the boss, get him to come out here and pick you up in the pickup truck and Rusty and I will finish up.” Benji would not have any part of that. “I’m staying here with you guys. I’ll be all right in a minute.”
We made lunchtime and Benji was still dry heaving every now and then and had made it over to the bucket truck. He was running the air conditioner to see if it would make him feel any better. Rusty walked over to the truck and I heard him say to Benji, “Hey, I think you got some throw up on your shirt.” I then heard him say to Benji, “Man, you stink. Gross. I can’t sit in this truck with you.” Benji really couldn’t put up a fight anymore, and the AC didn’t really seem to help. He was still dry heaving with nothing coming out but just a little bit of stomach bile.
After lunch, I asked Benji again, “Do you want to go back to the barn?” “No way, I’m staying here,” he replied. He tried to help Rusty and myself, but we were ragging on him pretty bad. “Get your stinky self over there before you make us vomit.” Benji went to sitting back under the tree while Rusty and I finished up the job. I then took Benji with me in the bucket truck, and Rusty drove the line truck back to the office.
On the ride back in, Benji was as sick as ever. When we got the truck squared away, it was time to go home. Benji had made it the whole day. When we walked out of the gate, Rusty jokingly said, “Get some rest, man. We can’t carry you every day like we did today.” We were laughing and giving him hell like only true brothers can.
About 11 o’clock that same night I was lying in bed. My phone started ringing, I thought it was a callout, but when I answered I heard Rusty’s voice, he sounded excited. What’s up Rusty? “Boy Spooner, you’re not going to believe this. Benji’s wife just called me. Benji had to have emergency appendectomy surgery.” She said he went home and was just lying around dry heaving. He didn’t want to go to the doctor, but she made him go. The doctor said it could have been a lot worse had he waited any longer. They already did the operation and he is OK. “Are you serious, Rusty? I’m glad he is OK. I can’t believe we laughed to him all day. He was seriously sick. I feel bad about it, Rusty.” Rusty replied, “Me too.”
The next day, Benji was home and I went by to visit. I began to apologize to him for the things we said to him the day before. He would not have any part of an apology. He told me, “I would have treated you the exact same way.” Isn’t that what brothers are for?, I said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he replied. “Now, where’s that Rusty? I want to talk to him about that ‘I stink’ comment.”
Like I said, “The strong bonds of Lineman that work together have no end.”
And there you have it, another story in this crazy linemen life where brotherly bonds are strong and run deep.
“Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not express the views or opinions of my employer.”
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