You’ve Just Got To Take What You Can Get

15790_504698919552960_1024988692_n Jim has been a heavy equipment operator since he was a teenager and joined the Local 513 chapter of the International Union of Operating Engineers after moving to Missouri. When we bought the Salem Sears store, I convinced him to take a break, as I wanted him to help me out in the store. If you have ever owned a retail store, you know that it is pretty much a full time job. I wanted Jim to understand why I would be working late every night, weekends, and holidays. I asked him to give me 6 months.

Those 6 months turned into 6 years until he finally said he was tired of not seeing daylight. I told him I was tired of paying for our insurance and we could really use the income that came from his heavy equipment-operating job.


It was 2008, and shortly after Jim made the decision to go back to heavy equipment, the economy crashed so there wasn’t much work around anyway. In the past 3 years, he worked 2 months one year, 2 weeks the next and then 2 days the last. So, when he was called in December of 2012 to run a Scraper on a highway project near the state capital we were both pretty happy. Jim could see the sunshine, even though it was winter, and we could make some extra cash.

So much for the sunshine. The rain came and of course, you cannot move mud. Jim worked 2 days in January 2 days in February and 2 days here and there.

The other job is 150 mile round trip that he had to make daily. So, we were both happy when he got a call from a contractor that he had worked for before that is here in town. He called the union hall to ask if he could move to the closer job. The union said yes, but the off road truck he was supposed to be operating broke down, before he ever climbed on the machine. So he waited again…

Finally, the first of June rolled around and he called the hall again and put his name on the out of work list. A few days later, he was called to go back on the job near Jefferson City, starting Monday.

So of course, Sunday it pours all day long. Much to his surprise, he didn’t get a call so he went into work anyway. He ran his machine and was told to head home because it was just too muddy. Tuesday and Wednesday were nice and sunny so Wednesday afternoon he got the call to come in and work the next day.


Jim had a good morning, but Thursday right before lunch, a hydraulic line breaks on his machine and the hydraulic fluid catches on fire, and no, Jim does not smoke. He feels the heat behind him, jumps out of the cab, grabbing the fire extinguisher and kicking his dinner box out at the same time.

By the time he was out of the cab the flames were soaring high rendering the fire extinguisher useless.After he moved away from the heat, he realized his dinner box was still there on the ground next to the machine, and much too hot to get close and get it.


So he texts me two photos of his machine on fire. I make sure he’s okay and then tell him, “Maybe somebody is trying to tell you something.” A hydraulic line breaking happens at times, but the fire not so much. He says that he will think about it.


He worked the rest of the day with no dinner, that’s lunch to folks who are not from the Midwest, came home and we bought him a new dinner box. Then he was back out there the next day. In Jim’s line of work, you just have to take what you can get.