NO WATER COOLER AT THIS JOB
I think that I may have just heard of perhaps, one of the hardest occupations ever. I asked my listeners to send me descriptions of the most difficult jobs they ever had. I got some wild replies. But, this one from a listener now living in China beat them all hands down. Mike Rowe eat your heart out. Friends, I think even he would have quit on the spot for this one. Want to hear about it? You’re sure? OK here goes.
The listeners name is Scotty, I believe he lived, as a young man, in the coal fields of southern Illinois. Scotty told me that although he never worked in a production coal mine, he did in fact work for a tunnel contractor instead. Their basic function was to make shaft tunnels to service working and new mines. One of his toughest projects was to sink a tunnel for a new mine. The tunnel was to be thirty feet in diameter and travel straight down eight hundred and sixty feet deep.
Scotty told me that your basic plan is to drill fifty ten foot long holes into solid rock. You then pack the holes with dynamite and get out of the way. When the smoke clears, you go in and remove the rubble. Then they lower circular steel mold forms. You get them into position and, pour concrete between the form and the bed rock. When the concrete dries, you remove the forms and send them topside. You have a cup of coffee to celebrate and, then you start the process all over again. Repeat this for eighty five more times and you can go to the next project. Towards the end of the job, you are in a hole that’s over eight hundred feet deep. The sky above must look like a tiny little far away light bulb. There is no corner office. In fact, there’s no corners.
Hard hats with lights on them are standard issue. You do not need a tie. There is no snack bar. Everyone is issued a first aid kit that is worn on your belt next to the headlamps battery pack. You can chew but, don’t even think about smoking. It takes two hundred pounds of dynamite to blast the rock apart. If for some reason, it went off prematurely, you’d all become human cannon balls.
It seems to be a rite of passage in this job to get a new guy to break off a hunk of dynamite and chew it like tobacco. Turns out that will ruin your whole day. Dynamite is sawdust and nitroglycerine. The Nitroglycerine gives you a headache that if you live to retirement age,you’ll want to tell your grandchildren about. The nitro fumes off the dynamite evidently gives you a headache as well but, it’s something you can get used to.
Scotty, said that the worst thing he ever saw happened, was when quicksand pressed against a fairly new concrete sidewall and caved it in. The crew found themselves swimming in a fast rising sea of quicksand and concrete hunks. Somehow they were able to climb above the mess and escape. This sort of makes a day when the office copier breaks down seem like a walk in the park doesn’t it?
I think this jobs gets the first prize. The wild thing is that I’ll bet somewhere out there, people are most likely sinking shafts nowadays, just like Scotty and his crews did it many years ago. I don’t know about you but, the next time my supervisor yells at me to polish the chrome on the dairy case, I think I’ll just kiss her right on the lips and get to work, smiling all the way.
In true Australian fashion, one of my other listeners, Paul, wrote in and wondered out loud if sinking one of those tunnels was how Scotty got to China? You know? That just might be how it happened.
I know, I tried to dig a hole to China myself once. I gave up at an unheard of depth of three feet. Cartoons were on and my Mom had made popcorn. I never went back to that worthless pit.