Grande Isle

by kfrego

Grande Isle, VT installed a water system in the fall of 1969. The system was picking up water out of Lake Champlain and distributing it to the local communities. The water lines followed the local streets and roads. I worked for the contractor doing the drilling and blasting of rock to get the required depth of the water line. The lines were four or five feet away from the pavement and eight feet deep. My job was to drill test holes at twenty five foot intervals to determine rock depth. If the rock was within the area to be excavated I would drill and blast the rock with stick dynamite and electric blasting caps. Each hole contained only enough powder to break the rock in the bottom of the trench. Most areas to be blasted had less than five feet of rock. The drilling and blasting was done before the ditch was excavated so the soil overburden would function as cover over the blast of the rock. The heavy soil contained the blast.

There was no traffic control, no construction signs, no blasting signs, and no blasting warning signals. I commuted from Lyon Mt., NY daily on the Lake Champlain ferry. All my tools, dynamite, and caps stayed in my car with me. My boss would bring five or six boxes of powder as needed. We drilled along the side of the road, through driveways, across lawns, and past the rural mailboxes. At the end of each day I would shoot every thing that was drilled. I would knock on peoples doors and tell them to stay inside away from windows, look each way for traffic, and shoot the dynamite. Never had any problems or complaints. At the end of the day the drill and compressor were parked on the side of the road.

My sister Judy’s husband Mickey was my only employee. He drove a big old Pontiac car. We had our vehicles backed into a field across the road from our blast area one afternoon. Mickey was moving the drill and compressor away from the blast while I finished loading the holes. The air track drill was hooked to the compressor which had a front steering axle and a fixed rear axle. The drill would jerk around and it was trickey backing up the compressor without breaking the hitch. Mickey was turning around. The foot on the boom of the air track got hooked on his car bumper. I couldn’t figure out what was giving him so much trouble. I looked up just as Mickey tried to back up and turn the compressor. The drill didn’t have enough power to drag his car and couldn’t turn the compressor. Mickey never looked forward as he rocked the drill back and forth trying to make it move. Every time he jammed forward and back to make the drill move, another piece of chrome or trim would fall off of his car. All I could do was kneel on the side of the road and laugh. Even Laurel and Hardy couldn’t have pulled this stunt. When Mickey finally looked forward he went into shock. The grille, one headlight, and the bumper destroyed on his car.

Mickey was a good worker………………… long as he went straight ahead.