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I Need You More Than Want You

by Ken Rudine

Glen Campbell sang this mystical line in the song Wichita Lineman. During our beginning years together Terry Aston recalled that Glen Campbell's family sold the services of Insulation of Pipe to the same Pasadena refineries that we tried to rent scaffolding to or sold tools. That did not explain the meaning of the lyric.

I have always had my heroes. Being a native born Texan it has been easy for me to find hero examples. I've loved a lot of legends and have written about a few. Texans of my age are used to being addressed as Cowboy. Many men in my mind have been "as they say" riding tall in the saddle. And I think all Texans should try to be "The Best Texan they can be", born here or not. Think John Wayne from Iowa if you must and know my cowboy hat is off to him. I never met John Wayne or Sam Houston for that matter but I have shaken the hand of one of Sam's grandsons.

In 1982 I met Terry who was age 29 while I was 51. Then and still today Terry and I find our lives have a family-like commonality connection. He would find every stray that scatters - like it was all that mattered. I mention this because he speaks kind and gentle. And I know he would lift up any maverick or friend that falls.

Terry Aston is a greatest cowboy of them all.

Terry Aston, Houston TX
Terry Aston
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine

I believe that most people think of a common Lineman as doing his job while using a ladder. Ferrell Westbrook was born in Angelina County Texas. He was well aware of how Texans use what they have to get what they want. To cope with customer growth about 1940 the old Southwestern Bell Telephone Company designed and built flexible lead conduits containing many wires. Each phone required 2 wires to work. Over time these soft metal lead conduits developed leaks. These leaks allowed moisture to enter causing static on phone service.

Ferrell Westbrook was a serviceman for the phone company everyday in the Texas sun. At the end of the day men like him visited an Ice House on the way home. Enjoying a long neck beer on his way home often qualified him as a "Regular" meaning others conversed with him.

Note: An Ice House does sell ice but one major reason it exists is to sell beer in long neck bottles wrapped with a special tissue paper. This special paper acts like an evaporative cooling device to keep the cold bottle's contents cold during the drinking time required. That varies probably from 15 to 30 minutes depending on your nursing ability. The other major reason Ice Houses exists is to share "War stories" of life in general. People don't like to drink alone. If you come often enough sooner or later you will become known as a Regular. Regulars may eventually get invited to sit at the Big Table. This is truly a high honor.

At his Ice House Ferrell had noticed the neat welds on a welder's pickup truck. When asked how he did that the welder told Ferrell he used Nitrogen gas to shield the atmosphere while making his welds. Ferrell inquired about Nitrogen gas and was told it was cheap, inert and if applied under pressure that the gas pressure would keep moisture from entering the telephone conduit. So he and his welder friend fabricated an attachment to connect a hose to the conduit. Nitrogen gas pressure from a bottle eliminated the moist atmosphere that created static. This reduced the service calls in Ferrell's territory by eliminating much static noise for phone lines. Ferrell Westbrook was born in 1905 and died in 1998 but his idea is still in use by Bell after ~75 years.

Ferrell Westbrook is a greatest cowboy of them all.

Nitrogen gas supply bottle
Nitrogen gas supply bottle
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, 2018
Nitrogen gas connection device to conduit
Nitrogen gas connection device to conduit
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, 2018

Now fast forward 20 years to 2018. To a time when it is normal for metal power poles to be 5 times as tall as timber poles during Westbrook's time. So tall they must be serviced with the aid of a helicopter.

While traveling I saw a helicopter with a cable dangling from it. I thought about my helicopter pilot friend, John Fox. John was born and raised next door to me so I always cherish his comments. As a Helicopter pilot he served 3 tours of duty in Viet Nam. I wanted his comment. Before I could compose the photo too much separation occurred between the camera and the subject.

Four days later I used the same highway returning home. This time the same helicopter was closer. Instead of simply a helicopter photo, my photos also revealed two Linemen standing on a power pole crossbar maybe 100 feet up. I looked with awe at these two men standing in position at their tasks. This may be their daily work but it is not for me. I am guessing the way the Linemen got there was by dangling from that cable attached to a helicopter. Then we know there had to be a moment when the man is released from the helicopter tether and attached to the power pole.

Linemen are the greatest cowboys of them all.

Helicopter with cable, Tivoli TX
Helicopter with cable, Tivoli TX
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, 2018
Linemen working on wires high up, Tivoli TX
Linemen working on wires high up, Tivoli TX
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, 2018

John Fox did finally view and comment on these helicopter photos. He said they reminded him of the hardest flight task he performed was flying a Chinook in the A Shau Valley retrieving air dropped ammo into 50 foot elephant grass with a 100 foot sling. Remaining a steady and constant position is very difficult high above the pickup point.

John Fox is a greatest cowboy of them all.

John Fox, Houston TX
John Fox
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, 2018
There is a great story telling of Ghost Riders in the sky who rode into the sunset that had no returning sunrise. We remember all those great riders in the sky. We will have our bed roll together and be ready for that roundup that winds up where greatest cowboys never die. The trail we will ride is narrow and straighter than an arrow. We will ride point for all the great and small. It will take us to that plain that is higher. There we will join the greatest cowboys of them all.

July 10, 2018
Copyright Ken Rudine


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