Campbell sang this mystical line in the song Wichita Lineman. During
our beginning years together Terry Aston recalled that Glen Campbell's
family sold the services of Insulation of Pipe to the same Pasadena
refineries that we tried to rent scaffolding to or sold tools. That
did not explain the meaning of the lyric.
I have always had my heroes. Being a native born Texan it has been
easy for me to find hero examples. I've loved a lot of legends and
have written about a few. Texans of my age are used to being addressed
as Cowboy. Many men in my mind have been "as they say" riding tall
in the saddle. And I think all Texans should try to be "The Best
Texan they can be", born here or not. Think John Wayne from Iowa
if you must and know my cowboy hat is off to him. I never met John
Wayne or Sam Houston
for that matter but I have shaken the hand of one of Sam's grandsons.
In 1982 I met Terry who was age 29 while I was 51. Then and still
today Terry and I find our lives have a family-like commonality
connection. He would find every stray that scatters - like it was
all that mattered. I mention this because he speaks kind and gentle.
And I know he would lift up any maverick or friend that falls.
Terry Aston is a greatest cowboy of them all.
believe that most people think of a common Lineman as doing his
job while using a ladder. Ferrell Westbrook was born in Angelina
County Texas. He was well aware of how Texans use what they
have to get what they want. To cope with customer growth about 1940
the old Southwestern Bell Telephone Company designed and built flexible
lead conduits containing many wires. Each phone required 2 wires
to work. Over time these soft metal lead conduits developed leaks.
These leaks allowed moisture to enter causing static on phone service.
Ferrell Westbrook was a serviceman for the phone company everyday
in the Texas sun. At the end of the day men like him visited an
Ice House on the way home. Enjoying a long neck beer on his way
home often qualified him as a "Regular" meaning others conversed
Note: An Ice House does sell ice but one major reason it exists
is to sell beer in long neck bottles wrapped with a special tissue
paper. This special paper acts like an evaporative cooling device
to keep the cold bottle's contents cold during the drinking time
required. That varies probably from 15 to 30 minutes depending on
your nursing ability. The other major reason Ice Houses exists is
to share "War stories" of life in general. People don't like to
drink alone. If you come often enough sooner or later you will become
known as a Regular. Regulars may eventually get invited to sit at
the Big Table. This is truly a high honor.
At his Ice House Ferrell had noticed the neat welds on a welder's
pickup truck. When asked how he did that the welder told Ferrell
he used Nitrogen gas to shield the atmosphere while making his welds.
Ferrell inquired about Nitrogen gas and was told it was cheap, inert
and if applied under pressure that the gas pressure would keep moisture
from entering the telephone conduit. So he and his welder friend
fabricated an attachment to connect a hose to the conduit. Nitrogen
gas pressure from a bottle eliminated the moist atmosphere that
created static. This reduced the service calls in Ferrell's territory
by eliminating much static noise for phone lines. Ferrell Westbrook
was born in 1905 and died in 1998 but his idea is still in use by
Bell after ~75 years.
Ferrell Westbrook is a greatest cowboy of them all.
| Nitrogen gas
Photo courtesy Ken
connection device to conduit
Photo courtesy Ken
fast forward 20 years to 2018. To a time when it is normal for metal
power poles to be 5 times as tall as timber poles during Westbrook's
time. So tall they must be serviced with the aid of a helicopter.
While traveling I saw a helicopter with a cable dangling from it.
I thought about my helicopter pilot friend, John Fox. John was born
and raised next door to me so I always cherish his comments. As
a Helicopter pilot he served 3 tours of duty in Viet Nam. I wanted
his comment. Before I could compose the photo too much separation
occurred between the camera and the subject.
Four days later I used the same highway returning home. This time
the same helicopter was closer. Instead of simply a helicopter photo,
my photos also revealed two Linemen standing on a power pole crossbar
maybe 100 feet up. I looked with awe at these two men standing in
position at their tasks. This may be their daily work but it is
not for me. I am guessing the way the Linemen got there was by dangling
from that cable attached to a helicopter. Then we know there had
to be a moment when the man is released from the helicopter tether
and attached to the power pole.
Linemen are the greatest cowboys of them all.
cable, Tivoli TX
Photo courtesy Ken
| Linemen working
on wires high up, Tivoli TX
Photo courtesy Ken
Fox did finally view and comment on these helicopter photos. He
said they reminded him of the hardest flight task he performed was
flying a Chinook in the A Shau Valley retrieving air dropped ammo
into 50 foot elephant grass with a 100 foot sling. Remaining a steady
and constant position is very difficult high above the pickup point.
John Fox is a greatest cowboy of them all.
| There is a
great story telling of Ghost Riders in the sky who rode into the sunset
that had no returning sunrise. We remember all those great riders
in the sky. We will have our bed roll together and be ready for that
roundup that winds up where greatest cowboys never die. The trail
we will ride is narrow and straighter than an arrow. We will ride
point for all the great and small. It will take us to that plain that
is higher. There we will join the greatest cowboys of them all.