Tweed had busted his ass
when, as per need, it then came to pass
that one fine Monday morning
and on time. without warning
Tweed the fine steed was a GAS.
So if you should care, uh
Tweed bought a Pantera
and was showing it off in the yard;
the guys were nonplussed
as 'oer the car fussed
and some saidtheir dicks were bone-hard.
So before it was over
this Tweed's four-leaf clover
the lot of them broke all the rules;
Tweed's ride wouldn't stall
as the men had a ball
and shouted forth this: APRIL FOOLS!
Back on the shop
floor that was comprised of creosote-saturated wooden 'bricks', the boys of
summer got their kicks. Once in a while, though, errors were committed by certain white hats who
sometimes through shop flitted.
buttonholedDavey one day
with a 'request',he guessed you could say.
As sharp as a pencil,Bob asked him to stencil
some paint on the side of a car.Though Davey would fidgetthe paint was a digitthat may not have gotten him far.
'Twas a union shop,so forget all the slop:
that meant Davey could only hit 'stop'.
What a crock of
shit this was!
Um, like, HELLO!
Davey got chided
he weakly confided
with white-hats he'd sided
thus was roundly derided
as he was made into Jell-O®!
It figures bigassed Bear would figure out that Davey, a welder and mechanic,
had been called upon to perform the simplest of tasks: spray-painting numerals
and letters on the customary lower right side of a boxcar.
This was where the “LT Weight” and load capacity figures were customarily
posted, and Davey figured he just could have coasted.
But a major uproar ensued, as this stenciling was outside his job
It also figures that the often snide, slightly stuck-up
'Smitty' was out of his stationed area, painting other cars somewhere else. So
maybe he didn't actually have a 'stationed' area; his paint-sloppin' efforts
could be tapped by any vein of the shop for any car. That meant even passenger
So the greatly impatient Bob Winson took it upon himself to hasten the process
with what he thought to be a simple application of a decal and/or stencil.
One could understand his concerns, even commiserate; after all, payday for the
company only began with getting cars out the door.
“layin' down next to the wall.” quote, however, was a glimpse
into the deeper desperation that he hid from view whilst burnin' rods
during the workday.Being a black man in a mostly white shop,
Tweed may well have been affected by perceived notions of prejudice
on behalf of his whitey cohorts. But even if he was, he sure didn't
wear it on his sleeve. And to be frank, most, if not all of his
cohorts respected him for his skills and non-confrontational nature.
Bear, the only one who may have caused trouble in that department,
so much for bullsh**. That was a necessity in this silly-assed age of
ours, this April Fools thing. Oh, well, at least it’s not violent
or pornographic.Apologies for the lack of info-graphic.Truth
be told, Davey never did see what Tweed had for wheels. Tweed, it
could be noted, was one of the lower profile characters that just
seemed to appear each day, on the job, getting his mitts dirty,
layin' bead. You would rarely see him come in the door. If you
looked, you could find him; generally he kept his head down, nose to
indeed, as per the needdid rules with fools completely heed.It
seemed he never took a fallnot hindered by his lusty wall.And
from that wall, skip, jump or hophe'd make his way down to the
shop.Always calm and never pissedbut never a somnambulisthe
waxed proud, but never loudnor waving either fist.Davey
could relate to Tweed's coolnessand ability to work under
pressure.Thus, no fuss, to work under Tweedwas like having a
good book to read.The Tweed gig was a boost for Davey,whose
time was winding down.
If faulty memory
recallswhat happened next,Davey, with intact ballswouldn’t
be inexorably vexed.Signs were appearingthat Davey’s
former gung-ho-nesswas unalterably on the wane.No need of a wind
vane.Nope, it would not be necessaryto raise a moistened
digitfor the purpose of detecting wind directionfor this one:he
was losing interestand nothing could be done about it.Davey
had made the roundswith these working class hounds,and had
learned quite a bit about life,human-machine interaction,repair
of things thought 2 B destroyed,and erection of metal objects in
persisted in terms of metal objects on the job, Davey’s only
visceral erection was one of a façade, a dithering badass with grime
on his mitts and gray matter in his snot. But gray matter inside his
cranium? NOT!At times like this, he would take a piss,with
a shout and a hoot on the precipicehe would fight each
slightworking day or nightand try not to let his fears come
to light.Of course he was ‘job scared’ to some extent,though certainly not to the degree of thosewho had families to
honorable denizens of rail car repair with whom Davey worked each day
were all too happy to be in the fray.But those who wrote on the
shit-house wallsbegging for MONEY in bestial scrawlsonly
cared about one thingso perhaps this work was a seasonal
fling.Davey fell somewhere in the middle – the story of his
life, as he would say a little, and he wasn’t about to just up and
leave on account of some boredom and complacency. In fact, six
bucks an hour was more than ampleand gave him power for each
But things were winding down,
yes, it seemed,
and Davey would frown
as he often daydreamed
of leaving that place
where he learned how to weld
and thus saving face
before he was felled.
So in this state of affairs, complacency led to boredom,which in turn lent
itself to agitation and mischief – on the Boss’s nickel, of course.
And boys being boys, what’s the first thing to come to mind – especially for
those raised on GI Joe and war toys?
Bingo: things that go BANG!
As we shall examine in subsequent posts, all the requisite ingredients were on
Some idle time is always necessary for any given mischief
procedure to be successfully executed, as per the old adage, and this lag
betwixt completion of in-house projects was one such period.
Not all workers felt the same way, and the more moral fellows would of course
not participate in the least, no matter what the extracurricular proceedings
were comprised of.
Suffice to say that in the context of ‘things that go BANG!’, oxyacetylene
could top the list, given favorable circumstances.
Of course in the course of normal operations, it performed a necessary task, as
all things worked their course.
Yes, the beloved oxyacetylene mixture – piped to the
business end of any given torch on any given day at approximately a 15:1 ratio
– sliced and diced effectively through many sections of sturdy steel, with its
resultant residuals going up in the form of hot gases and slag, but feed said
mixture into an enclosed space, provide a source of ignition, and BOOOOM!
Perhaps the idea got started when a worker got that initial “POP!” when
lighting his torch. Even just that tiny pocket of raw oxyacetylene between the
nozzle and the striker would go off with a surprisingly loud report.
So the next step was to harness
this explosive power to scurrilous ends. Looking around, it wasn’t hard to find
discarded coffee cups lying about, and the bigger the cup, the better the boom.
Thus the sound could echo throughout the room.
20 ounce cups worked best: placing the cup face down on a horizontal
non-flammable surface, the mischief-maker would punch a small hole in the side,
place the torch in the hole and push the lever, thus filling the cup with fresh
oxyacetylene.Next, he’d light the torch, step back, bring the flame close to
the cup and POW!
Other vessels worked
well for these impromptu improvised “fireworks”, and empty
caulking tubes made quite a splash. But this run of potentially
unsafe pranks would not survive the scrutiny of the safety or common
sense minded individuals who frequented such hazardous machinery in
the nearby vicinity of the prankster’s “rocket launches”.One
such old man was particularly vocal about this, and had a perfect
right to be so.As a daily user of the “ironwork” – a
powerful mechanical contraption that could shear 3/8” thick steel
at the pull of a lever – this man had reason to bitch. And bitch
This being the
case,and with mischief apace,Davey lost faceall over the
place.The old man called him infor this dastardly
sin;Davey lost his grinat the drop of a pin.Well, at
least the gent didn’t call Davey OUT. No, that would have been a
friggin’ disaster; Davey had never learned how to fight or even
effectively defend himself, though he had become an accomplished
wrestler in his younger days. Holy Sh**: would he face off with the
old man?Fight-or-flight adrenaline gushed on the day Davey
got summoned into the office for a chat.
Woozy with dread and
guilt,Davey staggered into the office,feeling a forward
tilt.Present here in the office grillwere, he did fear,
those who wanted to KILL.As time drew near, guilty Davey’d not
shillas that would have not fit the bill.Friggin’
GUILTY. Guilty as charged. It was a small gathering, of course,
with Jim Campbell, Bob Vinson, Davey, and the old man whose name
Davey never got. Good it was an old man he also never fought.The
old man didn’t mince words. He launched into a surprisingly
expletive-bereft tirade aimed directly at Davey’s person.
Ironically, no OSHA
personnel were present at the Davey grill, if you will, as this would
have branded him the biggest, fattest, most disingenuous hypocrite
that had ever walked the filthy floors of this rail car repair
facility.Bob Vinson, Jim Campbell and the old man could well
have been perceived to be judge, jury and prosecutor in the case at
hand. But the old man was the one to take the stand.Thus, he
began:“You guys are always hollerin' about safety. Hell, you
don't even know what the word means!” he huffed, eyes preparing to
exit his skull.
Going further as he
continued with the railing he launched here at the rail car repair
facility office [though not, to Davey's perception, being
immediately aware of the irony inherent in such an undertaking], the
old man noted how common sense and indeed, sanity, had been
completely overlooked in the mischief makers' zeal to cut up with
their improvised explosive devices.Here it should be noted
that these were IEDs indeed – and with implementation in a non-war
setting – being snarlingly and uselessly proffered two decades
before the acronym became popularized during the Bush
administration's illegal war of choice in Iraq.
Midway through his
passionate, unscripted release of hot carbon dioxide which searingly
blasted precisely in Davey's direction, the old man drew attention to
the ironwork, uttering the following verse: “Where do you get off
lighting bombs when I have my hand in that ironwork over yonder? Did
you stop to think about that?”Sadly, Davey hadn't – and
from the looks of it, he had become the poster child and primary
instigator in the company's IED problem.Guilty, guilty,
friggin' guilty as sin;the old man for Davey sure had it in.Time
to go hide in the recycle bin.
After the dust had settled following the improvised
fireworks debacle, Davey kept his head down and nose to the proverbial
grindstone for a while. Surprisingly, he didn't lose his job.
The near-continuous and ever extant WTW (worker to worker) teasing continued
unabated, instigated mostly by Nicky and Jim Bowen, with occasional snarky
snipes from Lew Smith, to whom sarcasm came easily.
Davey would be the butt of jokes for the time being, having hung out his
mischievous shingle, shown his dappled colors, and practically begged for it.
Lurking in the back of his mind, Davey knew this was Strike Two.
In spring, things let up a bit after that nasty-ass winter,
and Davey could, if you would, chop wood without splinter.
Outdoor work was available at times, perhaps not due to a
full house, but in the interest of efficiency; damaged sections could just as easily
be torched off the cars as they sat in queue awaiting entry to the shop.
This was a bit of a relief for Davey, as he preferred to
work outside in decent weather anyway. In a sense, it was an opportunity to be
‘out of the pressure cooker’ whilst still remaining on the stove.
Reasonably fresh air was not the exclusive benefit of
working out in the yard on the incoming rails with all it entails; a worker
could, if shrewd, MILK the hell out of a job, within reason, of course.
Peering eyes from under white hats were less likely to penetrate the work
bubble of an outdoor worker, but a reasonable amount of production was
And as was also to be expected, a project could inevitably run into unforeseen
glitches. This, to the uninitiated, was not only par for the course but an
opportunity to milk a job to the max.
Thus, it was on one of these breezy spring days that Davey
was assigned to a biffed, banged up boxcar with a curiously bifurcated
tailpiece. His job, should he accept it, was to cut the horizontal plates that
held the vertical pieces, which in turn supported whatever else was in the mix.
It’s not clear at the time of publication which was where, what, or how, as
remember, this sh** was over 30 years ago.
Leaning hard into the task, struggling to see through the shade 3 burning
goggles with sun blaring down behind him, Davey mashed the torch lever.
It seems now, 30 years hence,
that Davey was not just straddling the fence.This locale, oh guy or gal,
was reason to get tense.
So stop that smirking!
At least he was working
and seeking fair recompense;
whilst yearning and burning
turning and learning,
but not using common sense!
It was in a weak moment, as the old adage goes, that Davey got burned – and
Nothing catastrophic, mind you; just a fat blob of red-hot slag that found its
way via gravity into Davey’s right boot.
He actually saw it start to fall,
that evil red-hot ball.
Needless to say,
Davey danced and screamed,
though mostly it was in vain;
because it hurt worse
than he’d ever dreamed;
an excruciating pain!
The devil is in the details, so here goes: Davey had been remiss during the
period when workers could put in a boot order; besides, he spent nearly all of
his decidedly disposable income on perishable ethanol-based beverages and
Some of the footwear catalog entries were for ‘slag-proof’ boots – curious
contraptions that featured a little flap over the lace area.
This could have saved Davey some serious foot-ache that his half-assed boots
In fact, the plain-Jane boots Davey was wearing at the time
of the slag incursion incident actually provided a small cup for receiving said
slag. What an ass-whuppin’ DRAG!
Work interrupted: since this was such a horrific experience, Davey knew he
couldn’t just swallow this sudden unsustainable discomfort and remain stoic in
the face of it.
No, that gig would only have been necessary had he been surrounded by a surly
jury of his peers. Hah! Then, it would be essential to ‘never let ‘em see you
Limping bathroom-ward as inconspicuously as possible, Davey gingerly pulled off
Rinsing the ailing ankle in cool water, Davey glared at the
rapidly swelling pink flesh.
Thin skin was nothing new to him;
nor to his kin, like his Granddad so slim.
This lineage hailed from the British Isles;
his cousins coquettish with skittish smiles.
And one thing those kinfolk
had quickly learned
was hey, no joke
in the sun they soon burned.
So what difference
did this little incident make
on pink skin so thin
that heat it couldn’t take?
The ankle was an ugly mess, a spider-shaped splotch turning redder by the
Should Davey have reported this burn?
No, Davey did not report the slag boot burn thing, not due
to any fear of repercussions, but at least partly out of pride and wishing to
avoid humiliation. Moreover, since the mysterious vandalistic candy machine
episode and the improvised fireworks debacle, Davey’s ass was sliding on some
rather thin ice.
But hey, ice would have felt DAMN GOOD right about this time.
So he hobbled back out and finished up the day, eager to lick his wounds when
work turned to play.
And although it was certainly too late for ice,he had to seek some good