by kfrego

The 16% decline tunnel at Silver City,NM was a pretty good hike when we got out 2500 feet from the portal. It was a leisurely stroll going in, but climbing back out kept us in good shape. Larry Patro was walking boss on day shift at Silver City while waiting for a shaft job to start in Washington,DC. Larry and I were both in good physical shape with the exception of a couple defects.

Larry had a bad hip which would have stopped a lot of people from working. This was before the methods used today to replace knees and hips. If you had hip surgery the rate of success was pretty slim. You definitely would never recover normal use of your hip or be able to hold a job which required extensive walking, climbing, etc. Larry wasn’t going to give up until he absolutely had to. Larry had a limp which he couldn’t hide, but I had never had a serious conversation with him about it. We were about 1500 feet into the tunnel one afternoon walking. Suddenly, Larry toppled over sideways and was squirming on the ground. I thought he had a heart attack. When I tried to assist him he assured me he was all right and waved me back. He crossed one foot over the other, pushed hard on the lower foot with the upper foot, and popped his hip back into place. We rested, smoked a cigarette as he explained his hip problem, got on our feet, and headed down the tunnel. Larry was tough. He always scared me when he went down, but was adamant about getting the hip back in the joint by himself.

When we went to Silver City I had an inguinal groin hernia. It didn’t bother me much, but as the job progressed it was getting larger. Half way through the project it was about the size of a tennis ball. When it was protruding I would put my right hand in the pocket of my blue jeans and hold it in. There was some pain associated with it, but I was able to function all right. Paul Eller our company president was on a site visit. Late in the day he observed me climbing the hill to our job office while holding the hernia in. He immediately asked what my problem was. Paul’s wife was an RN and had a fit when he told her about my hernia. He told me to get it fixed or get off the job. Off I went to the Arizona University Medical Center in Tucson for surgery. I stayed overnight and rode on an air mattress back home the next morning. Surgery was nothing, but that was a ride I’ll never forget. I always handled pain pretty well, but felt every little bump for 200 miles. At least I wasn’t defective any more.

I often wondered…….what if Paul saw Larry flopping around on the ground getting his hip in place again.