Leap of Faith
Many years ago I worked in the wheel and axle shop for the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. The shop received old wheel sets from boxcars. It was the department's job to remove the wheels from the axles. We used a hydraulic lift to raise the wheel setup so we could press the wheels from the steel axle. The lift was mounted under the machine in a 10-foot pit. One day, one of the limit switches on the lift failed. Although I was new to this procedure and had never been in the pit before, I stepped onto the steel ladder and made my descent. As I was standing on the ladder trying to reach the limit switch, I noticed that hydraulic oil covered the floor below me. Not wanting to get oil all over my shoes, I decided to jump down on top of a wooden block that was sitting in the middle of the pit. Unfortunately, this wooden block was floating in about four feet of oil. As I went down, a splash of oil shot up out of the pit entrance. As I climbed out of the opening, covered in oil, my buddies held up scorecards like in the Olympics. They gave me a 5.8 on my dive. However, I felt I deserved more.
Where There's Smoke…
After graduating from high school in 1985, my father — a line supervisor with the local power company — found me a job with an electrician. After a year or so, I was given an entire house to rewire from stem to stern. After changing out the service drop and creating a temporary drop to power my tools, I quickly made a huge discovery. Soon after I plugged in a trouble light with a metal bulb guard and hung it on some old BX cable that was going to be removed, smoke started to fill the house. Just as panic ensued, my father pulled up to check on me — perfect timing, as usual. I soon learned the older entrance was a two-wire feed. After years of being out in the weather, the markings (if it was ever marked to begin with) for the neutral had deteriorated. I had switched polarity when making my temporary power connection and applied voltage to the metal cage and jacket on the BX. After quickly disconnecting the source and pulling out the old BX, I got a lengthy lecture from the old man. Luckily, in the end everything worked out okay, and I shared a laugh with my mentor and best friend.
Illustrations by Clint Metcalf