STORIES

Jack Hammer

That same year, I traveled with Dad to Shelbyville, Indiana, to help at an outdoor theater, “The Starlite Drive In.”  To run a sewage line to the Starlite, we needed to cross under a nearby highway, and that meant narrowing traffic to a single lane.  The first few days in Shelbyville I was the flagman, stopping traffic in one direction and admitting it from the other.  But after days of watching Cadillac, John and others perform what looked like a much more interesting task, I asked: Could I be the jack-hammer guy?

The next thing I knew, I was trying to hang onto a 75-pound jack hammer as its body slammed a metal blade into simmering asphalt 50 times a minute.  Success was chiefly a matter of holding on and I was too frightened to let go, too embarrassed to fail.  So I rode that ear-shattering, body-snapping machine for an hour, and then another; I held on to the end of the day.  I had never exerted such energy, nor had I ever felt such pain.  But at day’s end, my Uncle Harry and Dad took me back to the motel, handed me a Falls City beer and said, “If you work like a man, you can drink like a man.”  I was hot, tired, dirty, and on top of the world.  I was a man.

 

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