Chief The Stuttering Mexican

Back in the days, the 1970s and into the 1980s when blasting was necessary on almost every project, we would have to hire outside “blasting contractors” to supplement our forces.

We had done this for a big subdivision we were building and this guy was well into a project and he hadn’t shown up for a couple of days. I would stop by and it was evident his crew was without leadership and therefore without direction. So I ask where their boss 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.

I think it was the next day I got a call from the boss man. He had been locked up in jail. He had rented some equipment and when he didn’t return it, the rental company reported it stolen and in short order an arrest warrant was issued. It seems like it was just a big ol’ miss-understanding, but that gave me a new reason to want to pay my bills on time.

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). So I went up to the Williamson County Jail and assisted in obtaining his release.

While they were processing him out (I was going to haul him home) I was wandering around outside when I encountered Chief. Chief was washing a cop car out under a big tree.

I was driving down the street today, by the old jail. This is the tree that Chief was washing police cars under.

He was actually a trustee that had spent the past year living there at the jail because of too many drunk driving convictions.

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.

A few months later I got a call and I knew instantly who he was. His stutter was so unmistakable. 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 wasn’t 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 what ever 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 sometime in the late 80s.

I was walking down the isle of a Home Depot a few years ago and there was Chief. He had gotten old but still had that unmistakable stutter. He said he never returned to drinking. We had a nice visit. 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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