I came to see you today, but you were not there. You left. It must have happened quickly as those things usually do. You were there just a few days ago, standing on that same ground, looking at the same hoist, casting your eyes over what seemed to be a wasteland during the winter but completely alive during this time of year. So many calls there had struggled for a hand-off and you were there to give it to them.
Only problem was that you are not there now, nor are you here, nor will you ever be, at least, not in the flesh. Your wife will lay alone tonight, as she will for many more. Your kids will look up when the door opens and expect to see you walk in. In time, however, they will get used to it being someone else that walks in, and in further time, that someone that walks in will be their new dad,
because for whatever reason, you dismounted earlier in the week and you won’t be around to do that job yourself.
It was windy today. I stood for a while and just felt the wind and looked as the grass bent. I studied the hoist, I looked at the feedlines and the other antennae on the tower. I tried to surmize what brought you to that point. I stood and stared at the narrow cleft in the gravel where the gurney had attempted to roll, only to be tormented by the gravel as it tried to keep you close.
Earler in the day in a tacky dollar store in a tacky, worn out Mississippi delta town, surrounded by legions a different color than I, standing with red eyes and a handkerchief in my hand, I bought a tacky, synthetic wreath and sympathy card. While bearing witness to the wind and the thought of your spirit riding upon it, I took out my trusty leatherman tool, wiped the vapor wrap off of it, and wired that little wreath to the fence.
As I turned and cursed the demons of gravity, I could only wonder. Was it your proclivity for morning herbs that took you? Was it a sense of courage that robbed us of you? Was it just plain carelessness? Did a normally steady piece of steel have a missing bolt or nut? What was it Shane? What took you?
After a while I just started the car and slowly eased on down Highway 82. As I passed the big 400 footer behind the old K-Mart I looked up at the DB812′s and remembered the howling wind in my ears as I tried to seat those 24 foot monsters. God knows, I’ve been stupid a hundred times, and I did stupid stuff on that install, but somehow I made it through one more day. You, however, did not.
I’m sorry for your kids, I’m sorry for your co-workers who had to witness it. I feel for the owner, for you see, I too have had to endure the OHSA investigation that comes with a fatality. I too have had to open the citation envelope and have not only the guilt that comes from the loss, but the financial pain that goes with it.
In some states (Arkansas included) the workmens comp death benefit goes out the window if the deceased tests positive for chemicals. I hope that is not the case in Mississippi, or at least I hope that your screen came back clean. Being a widow surely is not fun at such a young age. Being broke in addition would only make things worse.
I’m sorry I missed you today Shane. I’m sorry I won’t ever get to meet you in person, but will have to depend on the stories of your fellow workers to describe who you were. I’m sorry that your accident happened and I wish I could turn back the hands of time to take it all away, but I can’t.
So today Shane, since I did a few things for you, you can do a few things for me. Next time some 28 year old kid decides to hot shot it or big dog it while on the steel, I want you to show up and whisper loudly in his ear to get that decel clamped down in a good spot. I want you to help him give a damn about his wife and three kids at home, and I want you to let him know that even though he
has hit a home run a thousand times in the past, he could strike out this day, and this could be his last time at bat, as it was yours.
I hope you’ll do that for me Shane. I really don’t want to buy any more cheap plastic wreaths at smelly dollar stores in dirty little towns and I don’t want to stand on gravel driveways with the wind whistling by me as I try to make sense of why we do what we do, and why we can’t seem to do anything else and be happy.