After graduating high school that spring my summer job was as a bag handler at Baroid bentonite plant. It was a great job. The guys on my crew were pretty damned good at loading 100 lb. bags of bentonite into train cars for 8 hours a day. Except...we didn't actually work the full 8 hours. Crews on each shift were given a quota and if the quota was hit we could slack off for the rest of the shift. Except if the foreman was Virgil. He made us sweep the floor or do some other minor tasks to keep busy. But he wasn't always around, and we always hit our quota early. Like I said - we were pretty good at throwing those hundred pounders. I don't remember their names but I remember a few details about my crew mates. One guy looked a lot like Toad in the movie American Graffiti, which came out later that summer. Man, that guy could run the packer. That's the machine that blew the clay into the bags, sealed them, and dropped them onto the conveyor belt which fed them down the line to us for loading into the boxcars. We had a four man crew but only three of us worked at a time while the other one rested. We were that good. One guy on the packer, the other three of us taking turns rotating in and out throwing the bags so only two of us were throwing at a time. That was our operation. The other man might jump in if there was a bag jam or if one fell off the conveyor, but that didn't happen very often.
The other co-worker I remember best was a square jawed jock on summer break from college at Black Hills State. He was one tough sonofabitch. One time I actually saw him throw a 100 lb. bag from the door opening all the way to the back wall of the car and land it perfectly in position to start the row. And, every now and then, he would one-hand a bag from the conveyor into the car just to show off. I wonder what happened to those guys.
It just got quiet. Another record I was playing ended. Rocky Mountain High by John Denver. That one came out some time in the Fall or Winter of my Senior year in high school. A lot of memories associated with John Denver music, too. Some a little melancholy, but mostly good. He had a song for every event in my life...major or minor. There's a lot more I could say about that. And maybe I will some time.
Roger O'Dea 6/23/2019