In the later 25 years of his career, our “Slip” was a crew foreman: assembling line crews from IBEW local 11 of Greater Los Angeles, IBEW local 1245 of Vacaville, IBEW local 47 of Diamond Bar, and IBEW local 952— his home base of Ventura, California.
“Baby Ben” was delivered from local 11 in the summer of 1960-something, at six foot three inches long, and 300 pounds 4 ounces. His lovable character and soft looking stature the inspiration behind the name.
“I’ll bring the brains, you bring the string…” Dodging the extra physical work, “Baby Ben” ripped up the first fifty feet of cedar. His pole partner lit a cigarette while digging around for the hand line and grunt bag; slamming compartments, grumbling, dropping tools, and rattling leather buckles.
It was just another day in Aliso Canyon. The midday sun baked down on the barren lands so rich with oil and dust, while hulking machines kept rhythm in the distance. With riveted backs they creaked with each pump, dipping relentlessly for oil— the gold that paved Southern California. To this day, the high voltage lines look like shackles of the shunned Iron slaves who swing their timed, giant hammers to pull black dollars from below.
With is hand on the brim of a hat that matched the truck’s door, “Slip” watched the massive silhouette approach the communication line at 35 feet. This pole, no more unforgiving than the hundreds scattered throughout the freckled hillsides. As the fifty year old shadow unhooked and stepped, the oilfield cut-out for a moment of silence- on hold for his 300 lbs to find it’s rocky floor.
As Ben’s body interrupted that silence, “Slip” ran to collect what was left 35 below where the lineman had been moments before. He was surprised to find him alive- let alone able to speak.
As he looked up at his Foreman with smiling eyes, he wheezed:
“I think my guts are in my nuts…”
The crew collectively struggled to pack all of “Baby Ben” into “Slip’s” truck. Though the phone line was the culprit, a dial tone was about a mile away in an oilfield office trailer.
After surrendering their baby to the confused Firemen at that paved road nearest to the oilfield lease gate, “Slip” returned the pole and crew picked up where Ben had left off.
When “Slip” met Ben at his hospital bed later that evening, the only found injury was a broken collarbone.
His guts and his nuts proved to be fine— as he went on to climb another day.