Milling About ( Part 3 )

Posted on October 4, 2014 under Storytelling with no comments yet


Check out Part 1 and Part 2


Life is a series of learning opportunities. You survive some hard knocks along the way, and when it comes to a job or career it can take a very long time to decide what you want to do.  The flip side is that most of us can quickly discover what we don’t want to do for the rest of our lives.

After a few months in the mill and having worked in two different departments, I was beginning to wonder if the administration saw some hidden aptitude in me and might be grooming me for a management position. Nothing could have been further from the truth.  Any talent I had was clearly buried under mountains of sawdust.

My last shift with the construction crew started and ended with an accident. We were building a new shipping and receiving dock and, of course, the old one had to be dismantled first. The beams were truly massive and despite having been in place for decades they still had a distinct smell to them … the smell of railway ties.  Come to think of it, I think that’s what they were.  I was helping a fellow worker move some of them.  They were very long and we had to take opposite ends.  One lesson I had learned early about lifting heavy objects was to bend at the knees to protect the back.  As we hoisted the timber, I felt a tear in my jeans followed by a stabbing pain in my thigh.  This plank had an old rusty nail protruding from one end and it had made a nasty gash in my leg.

I was hustled off to first aid and immediately dispatched to the hospital to get a tetanus shot. The needle found its target. Let’s just say that it got to the bottom of the matter.

Recognizing that I was now a serious threat to the mill (and myself!), I got my transfer papers and was moved to the maintenance crew.

All of the equipment in the mill had to be maintained. Time was money and they couldn’t afford to have work stoppages because of malfunctions.  My new job was to keep the machinery cleaned and oiled.  I wandered the floor like a gypsy, largely unsupervised, cleaning the huge machines that spit out sawdust and profits.  I spent a lot of time underneath conveyor belts and I will never forget the feeling of wet sawdust going down the back of my flannel shirt.

From Day One, my boss didn’t like me. It only took me two days to be able to say, with certainty, that the feeling was mutual.  He was a joyless, menacing troglodyte.  And I’m being charitable with this assessment.  No amount of draft beer at The Colony pub could shine a brighter light on him.

I had a pretty good work ethic and often finished my tasks long before the whistle blew to indicate the end of a shift. These gave me time to day dream and yes, even write letters.

My last day at the mill was like many others. With an hour to go and all my work done, I crawled under a conveyor belt, just far enough away to avoid the sawdust.  With pen in hand, I dashed off a note to my folks back home.  And then old sourpuss himself showed up unexpectedly.  He was in a near rage.  I had a broom beside me and after listening to his diatribe for about ten minutes; I grabbed it and threw it at him.  I said something to him and I don’t think it had anything to do with having a great day.  I had learned a lot of new language at the mill and I gave him my best shot.

I calmly walked to the time shack and punched out for the last time. I sauntered over to The Colony and sat with a frosty glass of beer, contemplating my next move.  Teaching, which had always intrigued me, was starting to look like a great alternative to a career in a saw mill.

And so the next chapter began … with a move back east.

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