Julie Carter is a New Mexico writer and author whose column appears weekly on Rio Grande Digital.
You’ve known a few. You might even be one. One of those guys who can do a whole lot of things with a little skill, but not any one thing that has put your name up in lights or made you hit the Fortune 500 list.
It’s more or less a general rule that most ranch cowboys today, out of necessity, are fairly capable with a hammer and saw, and a horseshoeing rasp.
When some mechanic skills are required, he can operate a crescent wrench, pliers, and maybe even figure the right sequence for a socket set. The proverbial jack-of-all-trades, master of none.
And while there seems to still be a good number of cowboys around, those that get to make their living at that trade are fewer and fewer.
Ole “Jack” makes the rent by being a housing contractor. Actually, he sort of makes the rent and is sort of a contractor.
Here a while back, he accepted a week-long job down in the deep tick-picking pine tree part of East Texas.
He was scheduled to be there on a Sunday evening to attend a mandated government safety meeting prior to the project start up. Jack, like most contractors in the trades, is totally incapable of referring to the men from OSHA without calling them those “safety ________s”. [expletive deleted]
Keeping his priorities in line, he spent all Sunday morning until sometime past noon at a roping plying his skills with that tool of choice. Afterward, he still had to drive the two and half hours back home, drop off his rig and horses and pick up his crew.
After everyone and everything was in its place, he and the crew proceeded to make the four-hour drive to the project, arriving about ten minutes before the safety meeting started.
Sure didn’t want to get there too early. It’s not like this isn’t something the entire lot of them didn’t need.
A few months prior, one of the hands had fallen off the roof while working on a house. That tumble resulted in a broken ankle.
Another one of these handy guys was taking apart a two-story scaffolding after a job finished up so that he could load the sections onto a trailer. However, he began his dismantling project on the ground level section.
After they had fished him out from underneath all of the scaffolding pieces that came crashing down on him after the top section lost its foundational pieces, they dusted him off and of course, asked the obvious.
“What in the tarnation [expletive substituted] were you doing?”
His sincere reply indicated that he felt it was too high up there to be taking it apart from the top. Hopefully this topic would be covered in the meeting. This is where you say, “You can’t fix stupid.”
Jack, however, is not a whole lot better in the safety department. Just last week he karate chopped a piece of tin, and was sporting some fresh skin glue that was holding his finger together.
Fortunately, the job startup had been postponed because of the delayed arrival of some equipment, buying Jack some healing time.
That OHSA dude was going to earn his pay on this one.
Julie can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her website at http://julie-carter.com/