On the job….

One of the things I liked most about my previous work was the variety we experienced. We drove large ATV core drills (swamp buggies as we called them), small trucks, large trucks and larger trucks. We pulled small trailers, large trailers, boat trailers and moved heavy equipment. We operated ATV mounted core drills, truck mounted core drills, skid rig core drills mounted on a barge, crane trucks, motor boats and bulldozers. To reach our drilling site we may hike 200 yards uphill thru the woods, drive our jeep 2 miles thru the foothills of the mountains or speed along in our boat for a couple of miles up the lake or river. We carried out drilling operations on ridge tops, pasture lands, swamps, lakes, rivers and in the middle of a creek with water snakes swimming around us. Some days we would shiver while working on a hillside in sub-freezing temps while other days barely avoiding a heat stroke while working from an extremely hot steel deck barge in the middle of the lake with temps over 100 degrees. While our experiences may not have always been fun at the time we experienced them, they did make for some great stories at the next Christmas party!

Having a job that one enjoys and working with some great people are a couple of things that make life fun. I had that kind of job for nearly 48 years with TDOT before retiring. Oh, there were days when it wasn’t as enjoyable as others but for the most part it was great. Working outside in all kinds of weather across the beautiful state of Tennessee and meeting and talking with lots of different people were both educational and exciting. Our projects took us from the business districts of large cities to the most remote areas of the poorest counties. One of the most important and interesting requirements of my job was obtaining right-of-entry to peoples’ lands. This was necessary for us to carry out our drilling operations and assist with roadway and bridge design across the state. And that brought me in contact with many interesting people, from the professional business man to the rural farmer. And after conversing with people across the state for over 45 years, I found there to be lots of kind, friendly, nice people in Tennessee and very few that were not.

I was a drilling operations specialist in the Geotechnical Engineering section of the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT). Our small Knoxville office consisted of a professional staff of two civil engineers, three geologists (all five serving as geotechnical specialists), and a support staff consisting of a secretary and six drill crew personnel. Our geotechnical specialists made difficult bridge and roadway design recommendations using the sub-surface information gathered by our hard-working drill crews. And our secretary was given the task of keeping up with everything going on. Even in our small office, we had people with varied interests, talents and personalities. But we had great team work and appreciation of each other’s skills and abilities. That, along with the flexibility we had in performing our tasks, was probably why we all enjoyed our jobs and got along as well as we did. Well, at least most of the time!

Watauga River near Wilbur Dam Rd in Carter County

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