just a small story

When I skipped school- almost every day – I would try my best to head into the city.
My skipping school was’nt out of rebellion-more less it was out of fear that what was happening in Richmond was going to happen here because of Debbie. It did’nt even make a difference she was there-I just did’nt realize that myself and thus I quit going to school.
Instinct told me I needed to learn and so much of my excursions into DC led me right to the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress is what a computer is like except the computer relies on electric genious and the Library relies on the genious of the Dewey System where the books and publications are cataloged in numeric pattern. The place is awesome in size-and one needs not look for his or her reading interests,one merely submits a list to the desk and they assign a seat and you just go and wait and eventually a clerk rolls a cart by and delivers each order as he passes the rows of chairs and desks.
And I would read.
But the city-there is no denial-has so much to offer from every angle and every street. In basic-DC was a great place to grow up in during the 50’s and 60’s.
My Grandfather and Uncle were iron workers and worked many years on the construction and reconconstruction of many of the buildings there. The history of my Grandfather has always had an impact on me-I saw so much through that silent man.
I lived in DC through the days of civil rights and saw in injustice of black men going to Viet Nam to fight a useless war and yet to return to hatred and disrespect-growing up watching the violence white people subjected black families to. Seeing the images of Emmitt Till-always makes a man want to hang his head in shame…not every man,only those with hearts.
I learned that DC had series of tunnels connecting some building to others to provide utilities and underground pipes to be accessable or to share heat and cooling between several buildings. I could go from certain buildings with out being soaked in rain or snow…but heck,I was a kid-footloose in the big city-and one of great importance,the capital of the United States.

My grandfather and my uncle were both ‘iron workers’-men who worked with the huge steel beams used to erect the structural frames of large buildings. They kept thier trade busy in downtown DC-the most prominant job that stays in my memory is the Museum of Natural History-better known as the Smithsonian,although they also worked on the renovation of the old post office building and I was just a baby when ‘Sir’…thats what we called my grandfather-Sir worked on the White House renovation that took place in the early 1950’s.

Sir would have been pleased to know that I ended up in the same lines of work that sustained him-and much because of his guided tours of some of these construction sites. As a boy about ten Sir ordered me to bed at an unusually early time of day-sometime around four in the afternoon. I thought I might have been in trouble but the request allowed me a special opportunity to take this nap in my grandparents room and that was enough to take my mind off of everything else because this was a room we could only peek in as kids-and now I am laying on thier bed.

My grandfather came in around dusk and stirred me out of my sleep and we shortly walked to the bus stop and there we met a taxi cab-a very rare occasion for my grandparents to use such extravagance , a bus was the normal way of transportation.

We drove down Pennsylvania Avenue and to the old castle-which is what the original building for the Smithsonian is called…then we walked over towards the Washington Monument and near there we sat on the lawn and my grandfather made us a snack with dry hard boiled eggs seasoned with salt and pepper he had in a small wax paper packet. Across the way we could see the bigger new building where my grandfather and uncle had been working and off and on while chewing on our dry eggs Sir would point out this and that about the building of this monolith….all things long forgotten-except for one choice moment.

Up in the distance in the dark the flashing yellow lights of some big trucks were working like a dance off the sides of the large buildings along the avenues and my grandfather said thats what we were waiting for so we started walking towards the flashing lights.

We got down to Constitution Avenue and there a sight to behold for a boy my age was moveing slowly down the street being led by the flashing red lights of police cars and the yellow lights of a bunch of tow-trucks and in between them was a big Diamond-Reo pulling a trailer made of wheeled dollies all supporting a huge locomotive engine big and green and shineing in the night with the street lights and the yellow truck lights illuminating this awesome sight.

We watched for what seemed hours as they tugged this massive load down to the cranes that where in place to lift the engine off the dollies and set it on the track used to move it into the building-I believe that took some time to do because once the train was on its track we walked away to a bus stop and went our way home.

I thought about that night for days and those turned into years-always remembering Sir and how special he was to me for his takeing me and none of my cousins-who lived right down on the floor below my grandparents. Once he visted us in West Virginia-my last memory of seeing him alive. The union had made him retire-an old iron worker in his 70’s…it was what kept him going. That visit he and I would go downtown Charleston and would sit day after day watching the construction of the ‘Heart of Town’ hotel. Every once and a while we’d cross the street and look through the plywood barrier erected to keep people out of the site and we’d look through the small holes to see the progress-Sir explaining everything as it moved along. Often , very often-as an adult…when I was operateing my own big rig and working with cranes and rigging involved with all of my loads-I’d think about old Sir and wonder what he thought of me working in the same field of work he and Uncle Press did? I learned to pull the loads that were so big it took days to move them and required cranes and flashing yellow lights to get them where they belonged-I moved things for NASA that were so big that we could’nt pull them across some sections of Interstate 10 and we’d have to route through downtown Baton Rouge…complete with police motorcycles as escorts to speed us in and out of the city quickly. My family has a photograph of my grandfather standing on a scaffold holding the aluminum pyramid that sits at the top of the capital building there and my spirit gleaming with pride that that special little piece up on that building was my grandfathers eyes and he could see the things I was doing that made me be like him.

Today near my home in the city of Gainesville I can drive up and down and east to west and point out building after building that I helped build-or towed the steel beams to each jobsite during the buildings construction. I love going to the top floor of the Dental College at the University of Florida and looking out across campus and the city and I can see the south endzone of the Florida field-the Ben Hill Griffeth stadium. I hauled all of the structural steel for that project. I always feel my grandfathers approval of what I’ve done. Funny-in an odd way….my father Sirs son-has no idea what I have done in the progress of this city and cities around us. My dad went to Scotland a few years back on a solitary trip to look for the graves of our ancesters…people so long dead that one can only guess who they were. But he has no idea what his own son has done , and I am still alive and he is getting older and older and now has cancer and probrebly will never know who his son was. Pretty strange.

One Response to “just a small story”

  1. foxymommylady Says:

    What a sweet poignant memory…perhaps Sir is still with you now..all those internal structures that he built…those things that hold you up, but you never see from the outside…

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