Hiring Chief

Back in the days when blasting was necessary on almost every project, we would have to hire outside “blasting contractors” to supplement our forces.

We had done this on a big subdivision we were building and this guy was well into a project and he didn’t show up for several days. I would stop by and it was evident his crew was without leadership and therefore without direction. The guy’s name was Ron. So I ask where Ron was. No one knew but they were beginning to get concerned because payday was coming up and he hadn’t been seen for several days. They seemed a lot more concerned about the paycheck on Friday, than about their boss.

I think it was the next day I got a call from Ron. He had been locked up in jail. He had rented some equipment and when he didn’t return it and wouldn’t return calls either, the company reported it stolen. In short order Ron was arrested.

That gave me a new reason to want to pay my bills on time. I never was sure that it had worked just the way Ron said it had.

Anyway, could I come up and get him out of jail? It was about time for him to be paid a draw, that’s construction lingo for being time for him to get some money. I went up to the Williamson County Jail and assisted in obtaining his release. In other words I baled his sorry butt out of jail.

While they processed him out, so I could haul him home, I was wandering around outside when I encountered Chief. Chief was washing a cop car out under a big tree. He was actually a trustee that had spent the past year living there at the jail because of too many drunk driving convictions. He spoke with a real stutter. Maybe the worst I had ever heard.

We struck up a conversation and one thing lead to another and he told me he was a loader operator. I gave him my business card and told him to come see me when he got out if he needed a job.

About six months later I got a call and I knew instantly who he was. His stutter was so unmistakable. As soon as I answered the phone I knew who it was. I had no true expectations about what I was getting in the way of an operator but I had him show up to a job the next morning. That started about a decade long relationship between us. He hardly never missed a day, he stopped drinking and was the best operator that I had around in those days.

He was Hispanic, not an Indian but was called Chief, because of his looks. I even looked back and found a picture of him in my employment records. Okay not really but he looked just like this guy.

I’m not sure whatever happened to him, but I noticed he wasn’t around anymore. I asked and no one knew why he quit, but it was probably because he could make more money somewhere else. That was in the late 1980’s.

I was walking down the isle of a Home Depot just a few of years ago and there was Chief. He had gotten old but still had that unmistakable stutter. He said he never returned to drinking. I guess that says something about rehabilitation.

The lesson to me was to never be surprised where you may find a good man and a great employee.

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