My Great Adventures…..A Journal

This site follows my happy trails.

Month: October, 2013


Myself, Pat McCoy, and Ron Weaver left Virginia to do a six month exploratory project for Public Service of New Mexico. We relocated our families to Rio Rancho, just northwest of Albuquerque. Our job was sixty miles west of Albuquerque on a small Spanish Land Grant named Seboyeta. The Spanish Authority under Gov Chacon decreed the land grant to 30 settler families in 1800. The location was in close proximity to the Laguna Pueblo of the Navajo Indians. Seboyeta is still populated by many descendents of the original families. From Albuquerque to the Laguna Pueblo exit on Interstate 40 is sixty miles of nothing. Grants, NM, a productive mining area, is about 30 miles west of Seboyeta. Our exploratory project was to mine a test chamber underground to  determine feasibility of a hydro-electric powerhouse using the discharge waters from the large mines near Grants.

We worked two ten hour shifts at Seboyeta. Most of the time there was nothing notable about our commutes back and forth across the semi-arid high desert. The return trip off night shift at four in the morning consisted of country music on the radio, a little CB chatter from the trucks, and an occasional distant light at a remote dwelling in the high desert. Any distraction from the drive was normally welcome, as long as it didn’t come as a result of accidents or injuries. Cruising along one night I noticed all the trucks were running in the left lane instead of the right lane. Everything else was normal so I didn’t dwell on it. I caught sight of something on the edge of the right lane and swerved left to avoid it. It was a person laying flat on their back with their arm in the air hitchhiking. I couldn’t believe what I had seen out here in the middle of nowhere. Before hitting Albuquerque there were several more in various positions on the pavement at the edge of the traffic lane. All were hitchhiking. Come to find out, it was near the first of the month and payday for the Indians. They would buy liquor in town, take it home, and get drunk. When the liquor ran out they would walk miles to the interstate and hitchhike to town for more. Being drunk and tired, they would get comfortable right on the white edge line of the traffic while sticking out their thumbs at the vehicles. The first week of the month people familiar with the area would stay in the left lane to avoid them. Once in a while you would see one of them sleeping in the center median of the interstate.

Going to work one day we saw a car that looked like it was bouncing up and down in the distance. As we got closer it was bouncing. The hood had unlatched and blown up breaking the windshield. The brave was standing with his arms crossed on his chest. The two hundred pound squaw was jumping up and down on the crumpled hood so they could latch it or tie it down.

I always thought drunk Indian stories were jokes………until I commuted to Seboyeta on Interstate 40.


Back Creek

Back Creek flowed through the lower reservoir of the Bath County Project. The project included many facilities and design features to protect the water quality and flows of the creek. Many residents downstream of the project used the water for domestic and farm purposes. Upstream from the project we built a series of large settling ponds to treat water being discharged from the construction activities. The pods and discharges into the creek were monitored daily. Chemical flocculants were injected into the pumped water entering the ponds. Heavy solids were easily settled out of the pumped water, but dissolved solids and contaminates required the flocculants to make them drop out into the ponds. If the water was over treated it would be dead because everything including much of the oxygen had been removed. Under treatment allowed contaminants  into the creek. It was a constant balancing act.

We received a call from a farmer over a mile from the project complaining about his cows drinking red water out of the creek. When leaving the job I checked the creek and it looked fine. The farmer still had off colored water running through his property. The hoof prints from his cows were filled with bright red water along the creek edges. I left the farmer and drove downstream. The red was more prominent as I drove and more calls were being made to the project. We later found a pipefitter crew was chasing a leak in a water line on the project. When they couldn’t find the leak they put red dye in the pipe. They went to lunch, the dye found it’s way from the leak to the creek, and turned the creek red. Two hours later the pipe fitters were still trying to find signs of their dye which went down the creek. The dye was non toxic, but got a lot of attention.

Our rock crushing facilities and batch plant were at the lower end of the project. Ponds were built across the creek to process their recirculating water system and discharges into the creek. The ponds were connected by 18 inch culvert pipes buried in the embankment between the ponds. The pipes were ten feet underground and each had a ninety degree elbow and riser pipe at the inlet. The depth of each pond was controlled by the riser pipe. Each pond had a small concrete spillway in case the culvert pipe got plugged. Recent storms had blown branches and debris into our upper pond and they plugged the elbow at the bottom of the riser pipe. Myself, Randy Pickering, and his crew had no luck removing the plug. The only thing to do was remove the riser pipe and elbow 10 feet underwater. When the crane pulled the elbow off the ten feet of water exiting the top pond flooded through all the lower ponds. Learning from the pipefitters, we got out of there in case the ponds washed out and went downstream from the surge. After an hour we were brave enough to go look. The ponds survived. We repaired the riser and elbow.

The farmer lived with the red dye……….and never saw the surge from the ponds.

It Has To Be Yellow

When arriving at the Bath County Project in 1978 there was something that caught your eye as soon as you hit the job. All of the bulldozers on the project were made by Terex, a General Motors subsidiary. Terex was well known for their TS-32 twin engine self loading scrapers on heavy and civil projects. No other scraper available matched them for durability and power. General Motors provided a lot of equipment to the military and government agencies. Their bulldozers were not common on large construction projects. All of the Terex equipment was painted a bright green color. You could identify them from a long distance. It was pretty obvious the bulldozers had been purchased by somebody from a government or institutional purchasing background. No self respecting construction equipment superintendent or purchasing agent would ever buy green Terex bulldozers.

Caterpillar was the bulldozer of choice for big contractors. Their distinct yellow color was recognized everywhere. This was before the influx of foreign competitors into the US heavy equipment market. Imports were generally looked at with disdain by contractors and their employees. It wasn’t a global market like today. It had to be yellow and it had to be CAT yellow to be the best bulldozer. After two years the Terex bulldozers were replaced by Caterpillar bulldozers. If my memory is correct there were twenty three new Cat bulldozers purchased.

Several months later Caterpillar invited many of the excavation related supervisory staff on the project to a weekend fishing trip. CAT chartered two twin engine Piper Navajo planes to pick us up at mid day on Friday in Roanoke, VA. We flew from Roanoke to Manteo, NC which is in the center of the Outer Banks/Cape Hatteras seashore areas. We spent the evening doing sightseeing and dinner. The next morning we were at Oregon Inlet for breakfast at four. Our five o’clock departure for marlin fishing was delayed by fog. We started tossing quarters on a sidewalk near the docks. Soon we had a dozen players and a lively game going. The quarter closest to the crack split the pot fifty fifty between their pocket and the tip jar for the deck hands at the end of the day. It wasn’t long and somebody broke out a cooler. The party was on. We all made the best of the two hour delay. The fishing didn’t get us into any marlin, but we got enough smaller hits to make the day interesting. We all took pictures of a 450 pound marlin on the docks. On Sunday afternoon our charter flights returned us to Roanoke.

Regardless of make or model in the “Green” world of today……..all bulldozers are still yellow, but they aren’t all Caterpillars.