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BY Davey H

05/01 Direct Link

Maybe 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 abrasions.

Burns needed to stay moist, apparently, and not get crusty. By keeping them covered, the likelihood of scarring is kept to a minimum.

05/02 Direct Link

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.

05/03 Direct Link

Now, having prattled on ridiculously for several hundred words about his minor burn saga, Davey feels compelled to relate the Gordy phenomenon.
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 their W-4’s.

It became immediately apparent that something was different about Gordy.

05/04 Direct Link

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 steel objects.

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’.

05/05 Direct Link
When things were quiet – which was almost NEVER – Gordy regaled Davey with tales of horror from the U.S. government’s war of choice and horrific immoral actions performed by soldiers in Vietnam.
He noted the near-epidemic incidence of heroin addiction among U.S. soldiers and provided clues as to the unlikely yet cunning method by which soldiers were enslaved to this highly addictive substance.

First, the dealers – whether Vietnamese or U.S. soldiers – would hook the men on cocaine, then gradually begin adding heroin into the mix.
Needless to say, they would soon have a willing “customer” to which to sell their wares.
05/06 Direct Link

Gordy’s stories related a dismal state of affairs, low morale, drug addiction, and consequently compromised individuals within the ranks.
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.

05/07 Direct Link

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 nearly freak.

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.

05/08 Direct Link

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 purpose.
He said, “I woke up, looked around, realized I was in with a bunch of corpses. So I started screaming.”

05/09 Direct Link

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.

05/10 Direct Link

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.

05/11 Direct Link

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 floor.

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.

05/12 Direct Link

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.

05/13 Direct Link

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.

05/14 Direct Link

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.

05/15 Direct Link

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 hour
and 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.”
‘Nuff said.

05/16 Direct Link

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.

05/17 Direct Link

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 look,
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.

05/18 Direct Link

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 issues.

Boffo was being himself: totally and effortlessly obnoxious. Yet it was in his very existence that the obnoxiousness came to bear.

05/19 Direct Link

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.

05/20 Direct Link

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.

05/21 Direct Link

Mission accomplished.

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 wise.

05/22 Direct Link

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.

05/23 Direct Link

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 levels rose.

Chalk it up to regret.

05/24 Direct Link

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 derailments.

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 proverbial boys.

In our sordid ancient past, men grouped together, we presume.

05/25 Direct Link

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 gourds.

05/26 Direct Link

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.

05/27 Direct Link

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 spot-on.

05/28 Direct Link

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 that door.

05/29 Direct Link
It MUST have been a Friday.
Yup, that was friggin' mandatory. Couldn't possibly have been any other day of the week.
'Twas beer out of fear that the seer did seek.
It did not matter if they were in hock;
their feet pitter-patter around that time clock!

Although punch-out time was officially 4:00 p.m.
on the nose,
many workers long before that did close.
So actual knock-off, cleanup or no,
was twenty or a quarter 'til, if you will.

And what happened then, Sven?
Well, you, fair reader, can quite well surmise
what was the feeder of those hungry guys.
05/30 Direct Link

The men formed up a scrum,
didn't fight, fuss or haggle;
and 'round the clock drum
they stood in a gaggle.

This was a typical end-of-day scene,
and perhaps it would be at ANY given shop
where 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?

05/31 Direct Link

This 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.