Sunday, June 2, 2013

Two Front Teeth

Everyone once in a while, usually when in the dentist’s chair, I think of the lyrics to this song by Don Gardner:

All I want for Christmas
is my two front teeth,
my two front teeth,
see my two front teeth!

Gee, if I could only
have my two front teeth,
then I could wish you
"Merry Christmas."

The new dental hygienist noticed my two upper caps.
“Car accident?”

No, nothing that commonplace. My mishap had drama, flair, and a piece of showbiz involving a major golf tournament at the prestigious Southern Hills Country Club. And no, it wasn’t a wayward golf ball. Here’s the story:
This happened back in the day, way back in the day, before satellite television and cell phones. (Yes, I am that old.) My Southwestern Bell crew had the assignment to assist in the broadcast of a PGA Championship golf tournament. This was an undertaking of staggering proportions back then. The work began almost a year before the actual event when trenching machines began laying video cable all over the course. Yep, that’s the way we got short distance TV from point A to point B. Our job was to not only feed the video from the cameras to the various network trucks, but to send the on-air signal to the AT&T Television Operating Center in downtown Tulsa where it was then distributed to millions of viewers. To do that, we had to erect a 60 foot temporary tower very near the final hole and use point-to-point transmission to relay the signal.

At one time during play, via one of the cameras, I could see that Jack Nicklous was approaching the tee nearest my station. I admit to abandoning my post at the microwave transmitter long enough to watch that golfing legend hit the ball. To this day, I can still close my eyes and see him puff up like a big ol' frog and hammer that thing.
Few people ever see what happens after a golf tournament, after the trophy is awarded, and all the players go home. Somebody has to tear all that equipment out and clean up the mess. One of those people was me. Cables were coiled and stored, racks full of electronics were dismantled, and oh yeah, that 60 foot tower had to come down.

Ron, my old drinkin’ buddy, and I were given the job to go to the top and start in. Two other fellas, one a new guy by the name of O’Dell Robertson, were to stay on the ground and work the ropes. The tower was made of heavy aluminum, box-like, about four  foot square if I remember correctly. It was assembled and disassembled in sections, kind of like Tinker Toys. A device called a davit, like what you might see to lower a lifeboat from a ship, was used to lower each section as the locking pins were removed. A long rope, or tag line, reached to the ground  and was used to steady the descending sections to keep them from getting hung up on the remaining part of the tower. There were guy lines of course, to keep the whole thing from falling over in a gust of wind. These lines were disconnected, section by section, as the tower came down.

Things went smooth enough although being that high in the air on such a shaky apparatus wasn’t all that much fun, but we were about done. The men on the ground removed the last of the guy wires. Ron and I hooked up another section to the davit and raised it up and over the side. O’Dell was on the tag line. To this point, O’Dell had been doing a great job of keeping the sections clear of obstructions by putting a fair amount of diagonal pull on the rope. What this collection of brilliant technical minds failed to consider was that without any form of guy line, the force being applied by O’Dell was more than enough to tip the tower over. I heard someone call out, “IT’S FALLING!”

Estimated height of the tower at this crucial moment was in the neighborhood of fifteen to twenty feet, much more survivable than the previous sixty, but still a long way to the ground. I was inside the framework of the tower and did not have a lot of options. I grabbed two round beams, one on either side, and managed to position my body between them. I clearly recall my logic. “If I can just stay between the beams, the whole thing will crash around me. I’ll be fine.”

It worked, up to a point. The problem was, I forgot to release my death grip on the beams as my feet made impact. My legs bent under the weight, forcing my now stationary and upright knees into my face that was still traveling at the approximate speed of Mach One. Goodybe teeth.

Ron managed to ride it down with one arm slung over a beam. He still had his teeth but his shoulder suffered some damage.

We were checked over at the emergency room where x-rays were taken. No broken bones thank goodness, but I still had a stop to make at the dentist office.

I can still remember his words. “Young man, you’ve had a rough day and I know you’re in pain, but I’m about to help you with that.” And bless his heart and his happy gas, he did.

Merry Christmas




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