“Bucket of Tits”: A Labor Day Story from IMMORTAL FOR QUITE SOME TIME

Combing my hair after a shower, I finger a thick scar on my forehead and remember a summer’s night on a drilling site between cotton fields outside Eloy, Arizona.

A pump had lost pressure because of worn gaskets, and we were replacing them. Sweat burned my eyes and dripped off my nose and chin as I wielded a thirty-six-inch pipe wrench to back out a heavy steel shaft. The third time my hard hat slid off, I threw it aside, grateful for the slight breeze in my hair. An hour later, the gaskets replaced, the shafts screwed back into place, Rudy signaled for Howard to switch the pump back on line.

Scott! I heard someone say. Are you all right? I was lying on the ground with three faces hanging over me in the floodlit night. When I tried to sit up, my brain threatened another shutdown. Where’s your goddamned hard hat? Howard muttered. I put my hand to my head. It came away slick with blood.

On the way to the Casa Grande hospital, holding a wet rag to my head, I asked what happened. A brass fitting broke when I kicked in the compressed air, Howard said. It swung around on its hose and knocked you on your ass. The only time you’ve had your hat off in two months. With that kind of luck, if you fell into a bucket of tits you’d come up sucking your thumb.

A doctor cleaned me up, stitched the wound, and said he wanted to keep me there for observation. Howard asked to talk with me for a minute, and the doctor left. In two and a half more weeks, Howard explained, I’ll have enough accident-free hours with my crew to get a paid Caribbean vacation. If you check into the hospital or if you don’t show up to work tomorrow night, I’ll lose that.

The doctor returned, and I said I just wanted to go home. I can’t allow that, he said. You have a concussion. I asked if I could stay without checking in. The doctor spoke with a nurse, and she made a bed for me on a lobby couch. At the rig the next day, my hard hat teetered precariously on a fat bandage.

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About Scott Abbott

Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University, 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I'm Director of the Program in Integrated Studies and former Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade), and translations of a book by Austrian author Peter Handke and of a catalogue of an exhibit called "The German Army and Genocide." More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as a watershed scientist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a corrections officer, as university students, and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett and our yellow dog Blue. Some publications at http://works.bepress.com/scott_abbott/
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2 Responses to “Bucket of Tits”: A Labor Day Story from IMMORTAL FOR QUITE SOME TIME

  1. nemadude says:

    I hated wearing my hardhat too, for the same reasons. One time we were putting the casing in and I was up in the top of the derrick steadying the pipe for the welder down on the deck. I’d spot welded 4×8 inch iron ears with a hole for the clevis on the top end the pipe so we could winch it into place. After the weld at the bottom was completed we’d lower the pipe down and a guy on the deck would pound the ear off the pipe with a sledgehammer before lowering it in the hole. We finished the job and as I was cleaning up the site and loading up the trucks. To keep my hands free to carry more stuff, I put my hardhat on. I walked past the derrick and wham, I was knocked to the ground. Lying on the ground next to my dented helmet was one of those 4X8 inch iron ears. As best we could tell, one of them must have been left up at the top of the derrick and fallen down when we were cleaning up. If I hadn’t put on my helmet, I might not be here today. Labor day. Celebrate work safety!

    Like

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