Dr. Steven Thomas knows all too well the struggles linemen go through while trying to restore power to thousands of residents without electricity.
Thomas worked as a lineman for Erath County Electric (now United Cooperative Services) for three years before becoming a chiropractor in Stephenville. He joined the company in 1980, just six months after graduating from high school.
“I know exactly what these guys have gone through and how much sleep they’ve lost,” Thomas said. “Good grief, weather makes no difference to these guys. They work through it all to get the job done.”
Thomas contacted the E-T on Monday to share a poem he wrote in 2010 about his experience as a lineman.
“It’s hard work and I have been thinking of them,” he said.
Why I became a doctor
The call came at two in the morning
With Albert Pack on the end of the line
He said “I hope you aren’t sleeping
With this storm we’re already behind.”
Albert and I were on call for the week
And we hadn’t yet slept a full night.
When this bad thunderstorm rolled in from the West
It darkened many a light.
With lightning flashes and thunderous roars
We headed southwest out of town
With much ground to cover in this kind of storm
We must find a line that was down.
We’d disconnect taps and punch in the breaker
Then wait to see what it did.
If the breaker held tight we’d get all excited
We both would just grin like a kid.
But too many times a breaker would kick
We’d get back in the truck with the map.
We’d study the line then drive thru the storm
Trying to find the next tap.
We performed this procedure over and over
’Til the breaker would finally hold tight
With the trouble located we’d now get prepared
For the real work to start for the night.
We found a pole with the top of it gone
Lightning had blown it away.
The primary line hung down like a swing
The powerful wind made it sway.
The lightning was flashing the thunder was crashing
When Albert told me to tool up.
He said “while you’re climbing with it raining so hard
Don’t even try to look up.”
With the hand line attached and my hooks firmly strapped
With caution I start my ascent.
I thought to myself while climbing this pole
A lineman just can’t have much sense.
I’m at what’s left of the top of this pole
with the primary laid in my lap.
I’m boring a hole with an old brace and bit
And I jump with each loud thunder clap.
The ground chain’s attached to the neutral
The wind makes the primary flutter.
If lightening strikes anywhere on this line
I will melt like a hot stick of butter.
I’m breaking all rules I’ve learned since a child
About what is safe and what’s not.
I’m holding a line in a lightning storm
And I’m forty feet high at this spot.
I’m a lineman in training I’m learning the trade
While the journeyman works as a grunt.
Albert explains “it’s the way lineman learn”
I can’t believe that I fell for this stunt.
I know that I should have known better
‘Cause of something I heard PD say
After working long hours on an outage
He said something to Joe Smith this way.
“I got twenty-five hours in one day
and I know that sounds like a bunch
But Joe if you think back to Tuesday
You’ll remember I worked straight thru lunch.”
First class linemen know lots of tricks
And they think they’re really swell
Like tacking a trainees safety belt
To a pole with a handful of nails.
First class linemen are a prideful bunch
They bask in their own glory
Albert Pack was just like the rest
So I’ll get back telling my story
Albert sits in the truck with the window rolled up
Then he cracks it when I make a motion
When I ask him to send a tool up the pole
He complains and makes a commotion
He’s unsuccessfully tried to bring the hand line inside
And control it from within the truck
I laugh to myself looking down from my perch
When I see he’s not having much luck
I’m wet and I’m cold and I’m praying to God
That the lightning keeps missing me
I think of Julie asleep in our bed
‘Cause she’s got a nursing degree
She’s a graduate nurse not yet an RN
But earning much more than I do
So when I come down the pole I tell Albert Pack
I’m thinking of going to school
I continue to climb for the summer
That fall my hooks go the locker
Several kids later and years of hard study
I finally graduate as a doctor.
I still miss line work in good weather
Overall I’m still very glad
That I chose the profession I’ve chosen
When the weather is nasty and bad.