John Harlan did a lot of our road-bores back in my early days in the business. A road-bore is where we drill underneath a roadway or other obstacle to install a pipe for some type of utility. John wasn’t the easiest feller to get along with, but if he and his sons showed up on the job, one thing for sure is they would get the bore done. Besides it was a real sideshow watching them hollering, cussin, and storming around at each other.
Back around 40 years ago I had a project in Austin and was waiting for John and his boys to finish another job then come to mine. I was driving down Ben White Blvd and looked over and spotted John standing there beside the highway so I turned around and went back to check with him about when he’d be to my job. It was a very customary thing to do. Back then everyone wasn’t walking around with a cell phone in their pocket.
John and I had talked for a couple of minutes when the contractor he was working for walked up and climbed all over me for “birddogging” his project. That fellow, Tommy E., and I knew each other, however not all that well. While most competitors in that business got along and were friendly, Mr. E always seemed on the outside of the social click. He was a full generation older than me, having a son about my age.
I was so stunned, being talked to that way, that I didn’t say anything and walked over and got in my pickup and drove off.
It was late in the day, so I went on home and contemplated that situation that night. Early the next morning I drove back over to that same job so I’d be there when Mr. E and his bunch all arrived.
Once he got there and stepped out with most all of his employees standing nearby, I collared him and explained a few things to him about how he would never want an incident like happened the afternoon before to ever happen again.
I’ll have to say he appeared more dumbfounded than I had been the afternoon before.
I don’t remember there ever being another word spoken between the two of us. Which was fine with me.