The summer without shorts…

Folks, it hit 90 here in Seattle, it never does that.  In fact, 90 degrees today topped off 30 straight days of over 80 for our neck of the woods.  Around here, people get cranky and grumpy when this happens!  Some of us get creative in staying cool at work and at hime!

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Outside walking though, I remembered the hottest summer job I ever had!

As the summer of 1983 approached, my dad gave me a call.  A friend of his who ran a roofing crew was looking for “strong backs and weak minds” to work over the summer.  In am effort to help me understand what life would be like if I didn’t stay in college, he volunteered me!

Bosnick roofing had just gotten a contract to reroof half the buildings on Ft Lewis.  Being commercial building, that meant each and every one of them were HOT tar roofs.  So along with the blazing sun and no shade, we were walking around on a flat black roof.

When we first got to a building, we had to tear off the old roof.  This was back-breaking shovel work, prying up chunks of roofing and then caring them across the BIG roof, to the dump truck, and since we were burning daylight, we had to go as fast as possible. The only saving grace for this part was that is was early in the morning, the coolest part of the day.

No matter how fast we went though, seems like as soon as the sun started beating down, Ron, or one of the other foreman would yell at me to “Get your hot clothes on!”  Hot clothes were jeans (mostly covered in tar, a long thick shirt, and gloves.  Somehow, and I honestly don’t know why since I was by far the smallest, I was the designated “hot tar boy.”

My job was to carry two five gallon buckets at a time, fill them each to the brim with hot tar from the tanker pipe, HURRY, (so it didn’t cool) over to the mop mans kettle and pour it in. My cue to move was hearing the call “HOT tar, I need HOT over here!”  I’d shout “You got it!” and be on the move.  Sometimes needing to climb ladders with one bucket at a time.

Now I am fast, so one mop man was easy, and two, kept me steadily moving, but no biggie, but there were times that I had up to four mop men with kettles at once, I had to fly!  I was able to keep them full, just barely, while stopping to slam water now and then.

As I type this, I suddenly realized why I was the Hot boy.  No one else could keep up with 4 on their own.  With me running the buckets, the others could do the remaining work and we maximized our day.  It was my own damn fault…

Oh well, onward.  The tar would slosh as I moved, and the pants would build up a residue. By the end of two weeks, no lie, they could stand on their own in the corner.  I bought a lot of cheap Goodwill jeans that year!  So there I was, the hottest part of the day in the hottest part of the year, and I had the thickest clothes I owned on for almost 8 hours…  I will say, I was in incredible shape that year and ate like a horse, but I am surprised I didn’t melt.

The individual days are a blue.  Of the entire summer, there are only 3  that stick out, one good, one funny and one bad.

The good was the day someone screwed up bad, and we had no water jugs with us at all.  30 guys, 80 degree weather, you need a LOT of water!  We found one gallon jug in the foreman’s car (Who by the way blamed all of us when he and the other bosses usually grabbed the water in the morning.)

He grabbed me, and said “Keep filling this thing and make sure EVERYbody keeps drinking!  That is your one job today!”  And that’s what I did.  For 8 hours, up and down the ladder, filling the jug from a hose on the building, taking it to each person and making them drink.  YEP share koodies all around (I drank out of the hose, I was good!).  I kept them all hydrated though and we never forgot water again!

The funny was the day we were putting down a “torch down” roof.  As it sounds, this is a roofing material that is heated by a propane torch, laid down, and then two guys follow behind with trowels sealing it.  Guess which hairy college kid got a bit two close to the torch.  YEP, no pain, but crisped a good chunk of my hair!  My retired army dad loved the almost crew cut I had to get to make it look even semi decent!

The bad though, I still bear the scars.  On a day I’d been packing hot for hours, I finally made a mistake and bumped a bucket against a roll of roofing, the tar sloshed UP and then down inside my gloves!  I will not type the words I said, but that hurt like hell!  I put both buckets down and dove down the ladder to run water over it.  I still bear the scar on that today.  It was a bad enough burn that it took till Halloween to finally heal.

Of course had I gone to a doc it mighta been faster….

I will tell you, to this day, I can smell hot tar from miles away…

This job came up as I think it started me on my “year round shorts” routine.  After that summer, I hated being hot, and tried to do I could to avoid it, I still do.  I learned a lot from that job, but without exception, it is my leaf favorite job and always will be!

No wonder I wore the kilt today!

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2 Responses to The summer without shorts…

  1. I always think of the roofing and road crew workers in this heat. Now I know a little more about their days, thanks.

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