Please… Just Let Me Try



I was inspired by Thotman’s wonderful blog, “A simple philosophy” which he posted a week or so ago.  It reminded me of an experience I had years ago while my dad and I were pulling mobile homes.  I had left the story as a comment in Thotman’s space.  He thot that it was worth blogging.  My words here are nothing special, but my experience back then, and the lesson I learned from it were memorable.  So here is another work story from long ago.


17 years ago, I spent a year pulling mobile homes.  Mostly, I was hooked on to a new unit from the factory headed to the dealer’s lot.  But occasionally, my mobile home toter was strapped onto what we called "a secondary".  These used (usually old) mobile homes were always alot more work to move, because they were old, had tire and axel problems, and because we had to deliver them to somewhere besides a nice dealers lot. 

I was attached to the nightmare of all nightmares.  It was an old run down mobile home which needed to be delivered to Stanley Idaho.  Actually to a remote outpost for some sort of camp in the mountains around Stanley

The road up the mountain was like a sidewinder snake.  I could see the back of my house from the cab of my truck as I made the sharp turns.  Finally, I arrived at the destination.  That was worse.  The small crew got the man in charge for me.  We walked through the trees and over a creek, and up the side of a rocky mountain side to a plateau to the place where he wanted the house placed.  There was no road, not even a trail or foot path. 

I told him no way.  I can’t take my truck up through there.  Eventually I convinced him that I had gone as far as I would with that load.  He then asked me to just stay and give advice as he and his crew pulled it up with his tractor.  At least it wasn’t my truck being ruined, so I agreed. 

His little tractor was too small to even carry the weight of the house.  Let alone pull it up the mountain.  And his crew told him so, in no uncertain terms.  He patiently listened to all of our objections while he brought his tractor over to chain up. 

As he chained the mobile home hitch to the small backhoe bucket of his tractor, we all told him again that his tractor is too small,  the mountain side too steep, too rocky, too …  He stopped us all with one request… "You may be right, but please just let me try."  We started cooperating with him.  And I wasn’t the only one who stood in amazement as he repeatedly lowered the outriggers of the tractor and pulled the house three feet at a time to where he wanted it. 

For my entire 4 hour drive home I thought about what I had just witnessed.  It was impossible, but he had placed that house where he wanted it about an hour after he said, "YOU MAY BE RIGHT, BUT PLEASE… JUST LET ME TRY.  Maybe I’ll go try something impossible today. 




            Since my work is always trying to dominate my life, and it tries to push everything else important to me out of its selfish way, I have given how I provide for my family a lot of thought lately. 

            It is interesting to me how we get our various jobs in the first place.  I know from studying my family’s history that many had little choice of what they did. 

My Scottish ancestors had no choice but to work the coal mines.  For several hundred years, the law prohibiting families to move away from the mines amounted to slavery.  As families, they had to work long days in the mines for barely enough to eat.   

Many of my ancestors followed the sea.  This was in an era when being a sailor was as common of a job world wide as working in an office at a computer is now.   

Even in the old country, farming has been part of our family work ethic.  My Danish family were quite self sufficient and comfortable on their farm.  They moved to the United States following a religious movement more than to seek better opportunities. 

My Tillack family, who lived in Germany, were seeking better opportunities.  They sold their farm and chased after the Australian gold rush in 1855.   

After gathering to North America, most of my family took advantage of the most available work opportunity in the west… farming.  Hard times in this profession, has over the years, spun my family into other directions.  My grandpa Tillack told me of what great losses he experienced in Alberta, Canada during the Great Depression.  His sweetheart waited for him to finish barber school so they could have a future together.

My Grandpa Haroldsen saw to it that each of his children had college educations so they could choose to do what they wanted.  My dad’s aspirations were in a specialty of agriculture… the egg business.  For the time and era, the egg business which he built up was cutting edge modern.  This is where my parents raised their family.  This was the life I knew as I grew up.  I loved the egg business more than my other siblings.  And I planned to carry on in the family business with my father.  But not long after I was married, the economics of the business change very quickly.  Instead of family sized farms producing and distributing eggs regionally, the egg business was taken over by large national corporations.  The future was national distribution and marketing.  Now any farm with less than a million birds was considered a small unprofitable farm. 

My dad and I started a new career in driving.  This time instead of driving egg and feed trucks, we drove trucks pulling oversized loads… mobile homes.  Again, like my ancestors, our choice of work had more to do with what work was available at the time then it had to do with what I really wanted to do.  After all, I had a young family and I felt the weight of responsibility.  After a year of pulling mobile homes throughout the Pacific North West, I decided that my responsibilities to be at home at night with my young family was more important than my developing career as a truck driver. 

So I was soon back in the egg business, working for one of those large egg companies who had helped gobble our family egg farm’s market share, and my dad started a new career as a bus driver.

So that brings me to here and now.  I’m still in the egg business, working for a large national corporation.  But in my long work hours, when I can think about such things, I wonder, if I had it to do all over again, what would I CHOOSE to do to provide for my family?  Is it too late to change careers?  I can’t really afford to start over in the salary scale.  As my children choose and prepare for careers of their own, I pray that they look at it very carefully and that they keep their options open. 

I think if I could do things over now, I’d live anywhere my Beautiful Wife wanted to instead of where my job is.  I’d spend my work day writing something.  I don’t know what you can get paid to write.  I know that I have read a lot of very poorly written technical manuals.  Maybe I could write a troubleshooting guide for the fancy egg processing equipment.  I know I would have paid a million bucks for one of those a few weeks ago.              

When the well oiled machine comes to a stop

            I know this is a broken record from me, but my work came in like a tsunami and swept away my daily life once again.  I have a list of blogging friends saved in my web browser favorites.  A few weeks ago, I was about half way through that list, as I visited my friend’s spaces and enjoyed what they had to share and then making comments to their (your) blogs.  That’s when I discovered the mountainous wave of work problems sweeping toward me, causing me to abandon my family life, computer, sleep, religious life, and everything else but trying to survive the flood of work problems which I am required to do to provide for my family.

            A work problem snowballs very quickly here.  The type of processing plant I manage is one where if we have a problem with anything in the processing side of the business, our producing side won’t stop and wait for us to do what we have to do to get things going again.  It’s like a wreck on the busy city freeway system during rush hour, where the cars just continue to back up and jam behind the original problem.  Every time this happens in my processing plant, where a million eggs a day flow through the process and out to consumers, I think of the old comedy “I love Lucy” where Lucille Ball is working on the chocolate candy assembly line, wrapping the candies as they pass by her on the conveyor belt.  The chocolates come faster and faster until she is frantically trying to keep up by eating some of them, stuffing them in her pockets and throwing them in the air.

Well, this latest breakdown was a real bugger to fix.  Our egg grading and packing process is amazingly automated where the million eggs a day are never handled by human hands.  They are gathered, washed, dried, candled, graded, packed, and boxed all by machines.  The electronic technology in this process is amazing.  Computers control the speed to the belts which carry the eggs.  Computers identify each egg as they leave the washing and drying stage of the process and enter the candling phase.  Through electronics, our machines can see a dirty egg that needs to be sent back to the washer, and send it there.  Our crack detectors can find and remove any egg with the slightest crack in the shell, even those imperceptible to the human eye.  The accuracy of the twelve scales which weighs those million eggs a day is accurate to one tenth of a gram.  Packing machines place the eggs, small end down to preserve quality, into the many different types of packaging material and then those machines code date and close the pack before sending it to the caser where they are place with robot precision into the shipping carton.  These boxes are sent down another conveyor though taping machines before being palletized and loaded onto the trucks for delivery into the human food chain.

When running well, our processing plant can pack about 140,000 eggs per hour.  That works out to just over 7 hours a day to do the job.  But with all these electronics, when something goes wrong, it can be a nightmare to find and fix.  There are many computers working together to make this process work as I have very briefly described it.  Besides the many PC’s, there are literally hundreds of electronic circuit boards, even more sensors, hundreds of feet of special shielded computer cables, and miles and miles of wiring, relays, servo motors, and the list goes on.

Sometimes when the process breaks down, it is hard to find a fix the problem.  It could be something as simple as a single wire shorted or a sensor malfunctioning.  But which one?  Often there are thousands of possibilities… tens of thousands.  And the whole time we are working on the problem, those eggs are backing up like that freeway traffic jam.

Two weeks ago, the day after taking a day to go up and play in the snow with my Beautiful Wife, this marvelous machine of modern technology became an unending night mare of torture and misery.  It took us two full days and nights to find and fix the problem.  The residual problems of over loaded egg belts and related problems kept me at work almost continually for the next two weeks. 

I’m home today, away from the processing plant for the first whole day since that little ski trip I took with my Beautiful wife.  I’ve enjoyed my family immensely today.  Things are good at work again.  And my day of rest has been heaven sent. 

This is not the next story I wanted to tell, though it’s closely related.  But first I want to go back and catch up with all my friends.  That will take a day or two… I’ve got at least two weeks to catch up on… for some of you it’s been even longer. 

Life is good again.