it was Mom, or was it Mrs. Brown?
Or was it that guy Tom
who lived up north of town?
Anyway, regardless of the source,
the timely ‘keep it covered’ rap
was best kept in full force.
So Davey religiously changed the bandage and gauze daily, sometimes two or
three times, each time taking note of the progression of hoped-for healing.
The premise was sound: burns didn’t heal like other wounds, like, say, cuts or
needed to stay moist, apparently, and not get crusty. By keeping them covered,
the likelihood of scarring is kept to a minimum.
Well, at least the scar could be kept at bay in the context
of 2nd degree burns, said they.
Going through several boxes of gauze per week was getting the results that
Davey did seek.
In the end – and yes, the wrapping and limping did finally come to an end –
Davey was surprised at how small the scarred area was.
During this minor ordeal, he had made damn sure not to feel sorry for his sorry
ass self. No, not for a minute. In fact, the pain had not been much hindrance
to continued function.
Not since the initial searing.
Now, having prattled on ridiculously for several hundred
words about his minor burn saga, Davey feels compelled to relate the Gordy
Gordy was a hero, a victim, and a great inspiration to Davey.
It was a good year and a half into Davey’s tenure at the company when Gordy
showed up as a full time utility man. Again, to reiterate, this ‘utility man’
title was given to new entry-level hires regardless of skill upon entry.
The requisite 45 day probationary period ensued practically upon final inking of
It became immediately apparent that something was different about Gordy.
Gordy’s sandy blonde curls spilled out from under his
hardhat in a way that suggested he was just a naïve kid who grew up in some
posh pastoral suburb. Well, that may have been the case when he was younger,
but not now, here, during this wrenching and writhing of cold-assed hulking
His history, therefore, was, for the most part unknown. But his recent
discharge from the Army told the entire story that needed to be heard: yes,
Gordy was a Vietnam veteran, and would not think of considering himself among
the heroic ones.
He was ‘damaged goods’.
Gordy’s stories related a dismal state of affairs, low
morale, drug addiction, and consequently compromised individuals within the
We won’t go into the details of mass killings, but the twin, related phenomena
of guys going “kill crazy” and having “shell shock” was a chilling reminder
that our quirky species was indeed capable of utmost brutality. After all,
hadn’t a long litany of wars in our sordid past borne this out?
Gordy was himself a victim of shell shock, and he could not hide it from view.
Most of the time, his trauma was deeply held, just out of sight.
But when Gordy came upon loud noises – of which many could
be had at any given time of any day of the week – he would, at times, very
Other than that,
he could bop around the shop,
perform the most skilled task,
or take it from the top,
or wear that cheap dust mask.
He’d weld, burn, grind, or chop
but if anyone would ask,
and he rarely created slop
thus had a right to bask.
Despite his brutally honest telling of those wartime experiences, it was
anybody’s guess as to what had transpired during Gordy’s Vietnam tenure.
But one could be sure it was a bloody, utterly appalling
mess. No need to guess.
Now getting back to the details surrounding Gordy’s personal experience, he was
VERY lucky to be here, walking the filthy floors of this dingy shop.
In his words, “I woke up in the dead pile.”
Shot through the chest, with bullets lodged close to his lungs, Gordy was
presumed dead and laid with other casualties in a large tent set up for the
He said, “I woke up, looked around, realized I was in with a bunch of corpses.
So I started screaming.”
Eventually, the medics came and got him, fixed him up, and
he was eventually sent home.
Unbelievable, isn’t it?
Davey felt privileged, to say the least, knowing this remarkable man and
getting his stories!
But things went downhill after Gordy’s discharge, and he delineated details of
diabolical denigration and deductions at the hands of his own government.
“At first, I was getting six hundred a month in disability,” Gordy said. “Later
on, they cut it down to three hundred.”
Davey recalls feeling outrage at this sleight of hand, a cruel bait and switch
from the country Gordy served so fully.
So now Gordy was more or less stuck in the same treadmill as
many others in the shop.
“Hire the vet” wasn’t a slogan yet,
but this company had done it,
that you can bet.
But suffice to say,
that on any day,
although his needs were met,
he still had to work
not for one moment shirk,
so Gordy was less than SET.
Notably, many Gordy revelations were had as Davey gave him rides home after
work in the pimpmobile®..
Back on the shop floor one day
in the 10-ton crane bay,
Davey and Gordy collaborated on a project.
It seems the two men had to move a car slightly or something
along those lines, with Davey in the small crane and Gordy directing on the
A loud ‘CLUNK’ emanated from somewhere in the block/hoist assembly –
predictable for equipment of this vintage – and Gordy ducked, his eyes filled
with fear. Davey immediately felt a pang in his solar plexus as he looked down
at Gordy’s face. That was no ordinary fear, mind you; it was the deepest, most
guttural, primal terror that came from a man who had seen more horrors than
most men would in seven lifetimes.
This glare was not the look of a doe-eyed twenty-something
whose only horror was gleaned from watching the fictitious Freddy Kruger or
sitting through Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. No, this was a quivering man
sporting twin facially-mounted lenses into a maddening, gruesome past.
How terribly sad its effects would long last!
Davey noticed Gordy’s seemingly constant elevated nervousness even at the
smallest events which produced audible effects.
So this was a living, breathing example of the aforementioned ‘shell shock’.
Guys Davey’s age and a little younger could never know the true depths of
wartime depravity experienced by vets such as Gordy.
Here and now,some 35 years hence,
Davey, and how,fairly sits on the fence.
He really liked Gordy,
and thought he was great;
but was no soldier sporty:
he was born too late.
Davey must have related how he did indeed feel more than a little guilty at
never having served – at least not yet – in the military during such times as
fellows like Gordy were called up.
And surely Gordy, being the saintly dude that he was, would have reassured
Davey that it was merely ‘the luck [or FATE] of the draw’.
On definitely can’t choose their birth.
So a big irony persisted, at times itching Davey like an
infected tick bite:
Hells bells, all those lazy-assed afternoons spent watching Wee Willy Webber’s
Colorful Cartoon Show and often listening to Mom play “The Green Beret” over
and over again had been whittled away whilst young men were halfway across the
globe in searing hot jungles bombing and being bombed.
The men came back in body bags – over 50,000 of them – and some made it back in
one piece, permanently haunted without cease.
So here we were: two steelworkers of similar composition, poles apart in terms
of life experience.
Gordy was most likely grateful to have landed back in his
country of origin, and to be here at this dingy shop amidst the din and grit,
happy to pull down 6 bucks an hourand sh**.
So here was yet another irony: Gordy was back on terra firma, in the flesh,
for the most part whole, in the country that literally SCREWED him. It was
like, “okay, you go over yonder, fight the good fight [after all, you don’t
have a choice; you must follow orders], get wounded, come home, then we won’t
take care of you.”
Gordy may have been one of the few coworkers with whom Davey
forged any kind of meaningful friendship during his tenure, and the two drifted
in and out of collaboration on various projects.
In the big picture, though, after hearing of Gordy’s experiences, Davey mulled
his own stupidity and frankly felt more than a bit remorseful at having so
impulsively set off all those improvised explosive devices.
It was such sick fun, to pardon the oxymoron. And yes, guilty as charged:
Davey had BEEN a moron.
Thankfully, however, all this foolishness had subsided prior to Gordy’s arrival
at the facility.
A little later that final year,
a scrappy kid got hired,
and filled some workers with mortal fear
so he really should have been fired.
He seemed to seek out confrontation
and made his presence known;
itching for a conflagration
and full of testosterone.
Hailing from somewhere south of town, bearing a scruffy unshaven, disheveled
no matter, this was steelworker-land
and with all kinds is what it took.
The dude – let’s call him SCRAPPY – was full of piss and vinegar with more
than a dash of pepper.
Davey had the unmitigated displeasure of working in the same car – once.
So, what, the incredulous reader may inquire, was the
wayward and potentially violent youth's major moniker?
His mother and father named him, surely, but for the propounded purposes of
this exiguous essay, let's just call him 'Boffo'.
That name seems to suit him well,
he needed a boot, that we could tell.
He'd probably hoot sooner than yell
amidst the fiery soot and smell.
So anyway, Davey got stuck with Boffo inside a boxcar with siding and door
Boffo was being himself: totally and effortlessly obnoxious. Yet it was in his
very existence that the obnoxiousness came to bear.
I mean, seriously now – the dude was just BEGGING to get in
some kind of altercation or another. The kind of altercation that Boffo would
NOT be interested in hadn't been invented yet.
All you had to do was walk close to the guy and/or look at him wrong and you'd
likely spark a gasoline fire in that frizzy head of his.
So here was Boffo on one side of the boxcar, clumsily wielding an oxyacetylene
torch, ripping at something close to the edge of the door frame, his torch
popping with the noisy staccato of an amateur's unsteady hand.
Davey, situated opposite the door frame from Boffo-zit,
became annoyed at this stream of sparks and hot slag that seemed to carry
copious agitation that inexplicably seethed inside Boffo, and here, spewing
forth, seeking hostile purchase on the nearest victim's unexposed flesh.
Didn't anyone see this? It seemed so blatant. Davey took it in stride – for
about thirty seconds – then let go with his hand held MIG gun.
Taking careful aim and turning up the feed roll wire speed just right, Davey
unleashed a blast of hot metal beads directly at Boffo.
Hopefully, some found placement atop that frizzy dome.
Few words were spoken after the incident; not many were necessary.
And one can further surmise that disciplinary actions would not be forthcoming
for either worker; furthermore, no witnesses to this flaming ember pissing
contest had been on hand to, should such an opportunity arise, bear morbid
testimony to the kinetic kerfuffle and resultant perceived minor victory that
had just been achieved.
But not to rest on any laurels whatsoever, Davey feared that this had been a
minor bump down in the pecking order for Boffo.
More future tensions would undoubtedly arise, with Boffo perhaps even getting
Davey continued to be miffed by Boffo, and quite frankly was
also at times afraid of him. This stood to reason, as Davey had never trained
in any of the fighting “arts”, and would no doubt be perturbed by expensive
dental work that could possibly arise from such confrontations.
But Davey had also a lot to learn in the human relations department in terms of
confrontational avoidance. Yes, that would be a helpful skill to have; a nice
sharp arrow in his quiver to pull out in such tense and ultimately avoidable
circumstances as a face-off with a frizzy Neanderthal.
Let's face it: a face-off is not only undesirable but an
utterly unpleasant adrenaline producing encounter to be averted.
And all it would take to erase such potential confrontations from the chalkboard
of one's future was preemptive friendliness and intentional getting-to-know.
To wit: “Hey, dude – where ya from?”
“Down south of town, you low-life scum.”
“Well, whaddya know? I'm playin' dumb.”
Yeah, you HO – you're dumb as they come!”
Well, not exactly like that. You get the picture. Davey could have faked friends
with the temperamental frizz-bo long before tensions mounted or testosterone
Chalk it up to regret.
Regret? You bet. And Davey could vet.
But he hadn't begun to live this life yet.
He had bigger glitches 'oer which to fret,
and might well have broken the set.
Boffo was, in a way, yet another mirror into Davey's own set of peculiar
Hells bells, if Davey couldn't master even the most basic of human relations
difficulties, how the hell would he navigate the bloodied waters of working
class life going forward?
This type of stuff was what separated the proverbial men from the equally
In our sordid ancient past, men grouped together, we presume.
Yea, men ostensibly stuck together – at least when not
fighting over readily mountable females – to hunt for food.
To further wax philosophical, this camaraderie was necessary for survival, but
a bit of bludgeoning could come in handy in the event of a misunderstanding
that could not otherwise be ironed out.
Hence, our innards, particularly those curious, highly charged little orbs
mounted atop our kidneys and going by the name of 'adrenals' came into play.
Now here it was, many, many a seamy millennium fast-forwarded into this, the
supposedly 'modern' era where men wore pants instead of loincloths or penis
Davey wouldn't fit a 'large' penis gourd anyway, so that was
further cause for avoiding confrontation with a potentially bigger-dicked
adversary. He wouldn't stand a chance in a brawling pissing contest. And
besides, loincloths didn't prevail over the onslaught of wicked hot metal
fragments and UV exposure here in the shop.
So a little oh, so welcome modernity, with its tightly-woven denims or Dickies®,
thick-assed slag-friendly boots, a tough set of leathers, equally stalwart
gloves, goggles, earplugs and a hood WOULD.
They say “you can never go back.”
Hey, who the hell would WANT to?
No, cut us some slack.
As Davey digresses
and time thus progresses
one might think he was doing fine;
but that's not the case
as he lags, saving face
for today is, well, May twenty nine.
The Boffo memories have faded well
and that's okay, far as Davey can tell.
He never made up, didn't make a friend
and was coming close to his tenure's end.
Of all the fellows Davey kept a friendship with, Jim Bowen stayed on throughout
as a continuous admirer of Davey's Harold imitation, among others. For some
reason, Bowen thought Davey's 'Mork' [of Mork & Mindy fame] imitation was
Of course, Bowen still loved ribbing Davey and watching
the reactions therefrom.
This was yet another Davey life lesson still to be learned: how NOT to turn
that pink nose light on whenever his goat was gotten.
Never mind that their political underpinnings may have been diametrically
opposed; the Davey-Bowen pal-ship seemed to stand the test of time. Moreover,
their political views weren't fully solidified or staunch just yet.
And so it was, then, that this somewhat unlikely friendship engendered a certain
amount of trust.
This would lead to Davey's ultimate downfall – and a fallin' out – right out
men formed up a scrum,didn't fight, fuss or haggle;and 'round
the clock drumthey stood in a gaggle.This was a typical
end-of-day scene,and perhaps it would be at ANY given shopwhere
once things were riven, 'twas easy to stop.At the end of the
day,yes, what more could you say?Hah! Time to let work
projects DROP!One wonders at this point as to what downward
effects on productivity the infamously consistent 'clock gaggle' had,
but one could be sure it was slightly bad.Where were all
these guys the previous 8 hours?
collection of eager-to-GTF-outta-Dodge fellows was such a common and
welcome occurrence as to be a bit like the morning coffee slurp: it
may have been the only time you saw a particular buddy before [or
after] you all holed up in your various multifarious metallic
caverns.Much ribbing and teasing commenced, invective was
frequently hurled in mild adversaries' general directions, and many
guffaws were had amid the tension of impending release from this
veritable prison.It was against this backdrop that Jim Bowen
buttonholed Davey with a simple request – one which, in somber
retrospect, Davey wishes he hadn't heeded.