Monday, October 29, 2007

Big Things I Build Now Or I've Been Working On The Railroad

This is sort of a continuation of a post I did several weeks ago where I talked about how I got started in art and all and where I came from. This is where I am now. After I graduated from college I needed a job and jobs in art are hard to find unless you just bite the bullet and try to be a full time studio artist. I enjoy eating and paying my bills enough that I wanted a little bit more secure job and thought that I could just pursue my art on the side. Also, a family tragedy that dumped a load of debt in my lap sort of forced me to find a job that paid pretty good on a regular basis. I learned to weld in college taking sculpture classes so when I met some fellows ( on a small job I had) that worked construction, they offered to help me get a job with them and the rest, as they say, is history. No one thought that I would last a week. I'm only 5'-6" and then weighed about 130 lbs. Necessity is the mother of invention and determination so I hung on and am now one of the senior carpenters for this company.
These photos go in reverse order so if the progress of the building seems odd that is why. This is one of the concrete pours we made not too long ago. That big arm thing stretched out there is the concrete pump truck. Most of the time we can just pour straight out of the truck but sometimes you have to pump it if the trucks can't get near the forms. We pour about 150-250 yards at a time on this job. That is nothing compared to some really big jobs. This was taken when it was still pretty warm here and so we started pouring before the sun was up.
I love the smell of concrete in the morning! OK, enough of my Duvall impersonation. This is the business end of the pump truck. One guy has to guide the hose so the concrete is shot where you want it. The other guys are vibrating the concrete so that it gets around the rebar well etc. These pours can last for hours and you don't stop unless the concrete does. We can take turns running to get a drink or bathroom break. This is why I am so tired sometimes and don't always feel like working on my house.
A lot of people can't see why I do this and think that the men mistreat me. They are construction workers after all, you know. My brother, the minister, always says that construction ruined me but I think construction saved me. Before I was very, very shy and had no self confidence. I had always been used to working but did not realize what a person could do given a few tools. A successful construction worker learns 2 things: 1. Leave your feelings at home. 2. A construction worker can do anything. Even the most daunting tasks are "just a thang". You just take it one step at a time. So many people seem so amazed or whatever at the work I do but I'm not doing anything that most people can't do. It's all learned. Wonderful old carpenters and steel workers taught me and had patience with me. They teased me and pestered me until I opened up and would talk. And yeah, I get asked out and given gifts and phone numbers but mostly in very gentlemanly ways. They know how to give a nice compliment and have given me a lot of self confidence. These men are almost better to me than my own family. They are not how most of society views them, as knuckle dragging morons. Yes, of course, I have met a few who were but I've met plenty of white collar males that would fit that description too. Now, there have been some times that I could have choked some of them and had to pitch a few "come aparts" as we say, to get some respect but all in all, I couldn't ask for better guys to work with. I always say now that when I first started, the guys would call me "sweetheart" and ask me out, now they all call me "ma'am" and offer to carry my tools.... I'm not sure which I prefer.
The house is progressing albeit slowly. I started the shower tile and will have photos of that soon. The next big item is to get heat on in the house and hot water. My fixtures are on their way from somewhere so I'm hoping to have a working shower maybe in about a week. I've been trying to relax a little lately and not get so worked up about the house but I'm not sure it's working. The results from my heart tests came back and it's nothing bad but it's skipping beats a lot now and it makes me very tired sometimes. Not sure what to do about it. Be back soon!


Anonymous said...


Have you mentioned what type of heat you plan to use? You have plenty of firewood around you, didn't know if that was in your plans or not.

Did you go to the Covered Bridge festival? MY SISTER'S quilt won best of show and people's choice. My brother's wife got a second place ribbon. Yep, I'm bragging!

Take care, be up your way this weekend.

Woody said...

Annie..are they getting a new locomotive shop or is it a wash rack. It has been so long since I was in that yard. I don't even remember where the old shops were. All I seem to remember is a tunnel near the tower. Man..My brain is

Floridacracker said...

Take care of yourself and your ticker. We've all grown fond of you.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

XtjrscghhotggIt is good to see women in the trades making the big bucks. I was old when I went to trade school after years of social activism including coming to terms with feminism. I used to ask"Where are the women??" "Women can be electricians and plumbers." That was 30 years ago. They are now in the trades in some numbers. Now I ask, "Where are the women in forestry, "They can drive the harvesting equipment?"

When I was in trade school the steam fitters and welders all seemed to be into body building. They wiped our asses in hockey when they played the electricians or lowly tin bashers.

I bet even now you don't find many female steel workers on you jobs!

edifice rex said...

qybxsHey Anon! After the entire house is built I would like to use geothermal heating and cooling that utilizes my spring but I'm not sure if that is feasible at this point. I was planning on installing a wood burning stove also to save money and in case of power outages but the type I want with the catalytic burners are quite expensive. So, for now I will go with a wall mount propane heater. I will have gas run to the house anyway for the kitchen range (and in that same area) and it will work for power outages too. In fact, I found a really cool, contemporary version of one that I may actually keep permanently installed because the geothermal unit would be subject to outages if the power went down.
Had to work through the Covered Bridge Festival. Congrats to your sister and sister-in-law! That's great!

Hey Woody! We have been told it is a "locomotive service facility". I don't know where a tunnel would be here but then, we don't see the whole yard I don't think. We are on the far reaches of one end.

Hey FC! Thanks. I'm trying.

Hey Pebbles! Yeah, most guys assume that I am an electrician until they see my tool belt. There are more women but I rarely get to work with another. A lady block mason just came on the job this week but there are no other women with my company. It's strange. I would think there would be more by now and I think there are up north but not down here. Yeah, pipe fitters and welders are a lively bunch. I am actually a certified structural welder but rarely get to do that work anymore and I never heard anyone talk about any other women steel workers. I would think that would be a rough bunch to get in with as they can be a little hell bent. No, a lot of the steel workers you see now (here) are Mexican.