A Man Called Thumper

True Stories from the 20th Century at Pacificorp

By J. Charles Cheek[1]

© June 2004

A Man Called Thumper

In the mid 60s, PP&L ( Pacific Power & Light Company), built a 230,000 volt transmission line from Walla Walla, Washington to Enterprise, Oregon. The contractor building the line hired a couple of dozen union linemen referred to as “Boomers.” Boomers were itinerant linemen that moved from job to job all around the country. They were a tough bunch. They worked hard and played hard.

Bob Sires, a brand new construction inspector, had been hired away from a PP&L line crew in Walla Walla. Bob was a sharp young square jawed fellow that had ax handle wide shoulders sitting on a bucket size waste. He was not one to be toyed with but the devil-may-care Boomers tested him anyway.

New inspectors always started out inspecting hole digging and pole setting because the specifications were simple – make sure the hole is as deep as specified by the engineers and the pole is set in the ground with one man shoveling in the soil and two men tamping it down tight.

“Well, how did it go on you first day as an inspector?” asked Chief Inspector, Bob Goldsmith.

“It didn’t go worth a damn,” replied Sires. Those filthy boomers wouldn’t backfill the poles according to the specifications.”

“Tomorrow,” said Goldsmith, “Tell them you’ll have the job shut down if they don’t do it right. If they don’t shape up, call me on the radio and I’ll notify the contractor’s superintendent that nothing will be paid for until futher notice.”

“Okay,” said Sires, “I’ll try and get the point across. It is hard to even talk to those guys though. They’re Neanderthal men.”

“I hope you can convince them,.” replied Goldsmith. “I don’t really want to do shut the job down because the Portland Contract Construction Office will have a fit but I will back you up if that is what you have to do to convince them to backfill correctly.”

“Well, how did it go today?” asked Goldsmith the following evening after quitting time.

“Great,” replied Sires. “They did it exactly the way they are supposed to – one shoveling and two tamping.”

Somewhat surprised at his quick success with the Boomers, Goldsmith said, “How did you convince them so quickly to go by the specifications?”

“Well, I got out there early and waited for the crew to show up. When they arrived I asked the foreman to come over behind my truck and chat a bit. I grabbed him by the collar, pulled him up real close and said, ‘Look you SOB, today you and your crew are going to do the backfilling according to specs or I’m going to thump your ass.’”

And that is how Bob Sires got the nickname, Thumper.


[1] Mr. Cheek has written dozens short stories under the general headings of True Stores from the 20th Century at Pacificorp and Digressions of J. Charles. He is also the author of the novel Stay Safe, Buddy – A Story of Humor and Horror during the Korean War,300 pages, Publish America ISBN # 159286631X

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