Wednesday, July 24, 2013

2013 Lineman's Rodeo!

Yes, this is a little later than promised, but I have a good excuse...My camera died the second we got into the car after the rodeo (thank goodness it lasted that long!) and my charger is still in Hawaii. Has been since May, and apparently I don't use it enough to miss it. Anyway, after ordering a new charger (and two extra batteries) from Amazon, and having it express shipped, I finally have the pictures from last weekend loaded onto my computer and ready to go.

As the grounds were moved to Butte this year, we decided to go down Friday night and get a hotel room instead of getting up at three in the morning to drive down. One definite upside to this was that I finally got to see the documentary on linemen that was made a year or so ago, called Storm Soldiers. I'm not sure if it's for sale anywhere yet, but as soon as I can get my hands on it, I'll be doing so. It's a very cool watch. Tanner's company is featured in it, as they were some of the only ones that would let them capture footage. That makes it even neater, as I got to meet (or had previously known) quite a few of the guys in it!

On to Saturday: The day began at 6:30, for registration. Thank goodness there was a pretty wide window of time--we got there around 7:30, got his number pinned on, and then he was off checking out all the events. He kind of gets in a "zone" at these competitions, and often forgets he brought anyone with him (something that never fails to amuse me) so it was nice to have Mom for company. She had never seen linemen in action, so she came over from Belgrade to watch him with me.

A little bit about the set up of the whole thing--All competitors are divided into two groups: Journeymen and Apprentices/Those still in school. They are given different assignments, and for now (and next year) we only care about the apprentices' =) First thing was a written test. Basic theory and really hard math. Seriously, I thought I was a math buff in high school, but this stuff boggles my mind, especially when they start throwing in things like amps and voltage. After that, they had four active events--two mystery events, a speed climb, and the hurt-man-rescue. Obviously, I didn't take pictures of the test...soo, we'll start with the speed climb, which was his next event.

Basically, I just like this picture. Not much to do with anything...

Getting ready to start the speed climb. The object, obviously, is to climb as fast as you can, but to make it a little more difficult, each climber has to carry a small cloth bucket up the pole in his mouth, swap it out for the one already on the arm at the top of the pole (not forgetting to call out "headache" or something similar, or risk being docked points), pull out the egg, put it in their mouth, and climb back down without breaking it. Oy.

The ascent...

And the bucket change out...I didn't get any pictures on the way down, but suffice it to say, he did awesome. 34 seconds, no faults!

Next was Mystery Event #1: The goal was to take off and replace the dampener on the wire (the twisty thing, below).

And then climb back down, of course. While we watched Tanner, there were dozens of others competing at the same time, on different poles. The second man in the picture below was another apprentice, just starting the event Tanner was finishing.

The second his feet hit the ground, they called time. Times were only used in the event of a tie, which was a pretty big bummer. Tanner was the first (and possibly the only) to beat two minutes on both mystery events!

 Mystery event #2: Moving an insulator (the thing that keeps the wire from touching the pole) from one side of a cross arm to the other.

I just think this picture is kinda sexy. Moving on to the real stuff...First you unbolt it from one side--

--and dig around in your belt for the right tools--

--then pull it out of that hole, swing around to the other side of the pole with insulator in hand,

stick it in the CORRECT hole on the other side of the arm (apparently they had drilled multiple holes in the hopes of throwing off some of the apprentices who didn't know better. At least one person got docked for that that we know of)

and bolt it back into place, all while looking like a stud muffin.

Then climb back down, of course. Have I mentioned that this is WAY harder than he makes it look? Last year, when I wasn't knocked up, I did the ladies pole climb. They had set up a special fifteen foot pole for the women, and had lots of safety equipment, like a guy on the other end of a pulley attatched to the climber. It took me three and a half minutes to climb the durned thing and come back down, and by the time I was done, I couldn't stand. Now...scroll up the page and recall the time Tanner did his speed climb in. Take into account he was climbing forty feet instead of fifteen and had an egg in his mouth. I've said it before, but it bears repeating...I'm so glad it's his job and not mine.

 But I digress. Last on the list was the hurt man rescue. The point here, obviously, is to simulate a crew member who has just been injured at the top of the pole (as in, he got zapped). Dummies were set up at the top of the poles, held on by their climbing belts. As they were simulating an emergency that they were unprepared for, contestants had to start with their climbing belts and gaffs (the hooks on their feet) on the ground. When they called out "Call 911" their time was started. Failure to do so was a deduction.

On the way up, they had the option to climb with or without a belt. It seems to be quite a bit quicker without, if you're comfortable that way, so that's how Tanner tackled this one. It's like watching a monkey shimmy up a tree.

I didn't get as many pictures of the action as I should have, but from where I was standing it was hard to see anyway, so I'll just explain. Once at the top, they had to unclip the pulley on the handline that was already up there (a very well prepared emergency!) and drop it, holding one end of the rope and wrapping it around the arm. Then the rope was tied under Tough Kelly's armpits, he was cut loose from his belt, and sent down to the ground, while the lineman controlled his descent by holding on to the other end of the rope. Points were docked if the dummy actually fell, obviously.

So that is a pretty basic (although long) summary of the events. The overall winner was chosen based on points (each event being out of 100). Tanner got an 80% on the test, and one deduct out of all events, which is incredibly stellar, especially considering his times were better than most others (sorry, just have to brag a little bit!) He found out the Monday afterward that if it hadn't been for that one deduct, he would have won! Of course, that makes it really hard to stand, because the one mistake he made was a very minor one. But such is life. Next year, he's vowed to win so that he can head to the international rodeo in Kansas City again. Crossing our fingers it works out next time!


  1. Thats pretty impressive sounding and looking. Next time get some videos if you can :) I want to see it in action. Way to go Tanner too

  2. You're Papa just sent this to me from his market in Pahoa. Very cool! He's sure a son-in-law to be proud of!! Tell Tanner & his son-to-be "hello" :-)

  3. Cool! You managed to capture the tension and nerves involved. Or brought it back to my memory, anyway. That was a fun day!

  4. I like your new by-line. :-)