TexasEscapes.com HOME Welcome to Texas Escapes
A magazine written by Texas
New   |   Texas Towns   |   Ghost Towns   |   Counties   |   Trips   |   Features   |   Columns   |   Architecture   |   Images   |   Archives   |   Site Map

Texas Bridges

Texas | Architecture | Bridges

Adventures in Bridge Excavations

by Bob Mohel
Table of Contents

  • The Worst Possible Time/Place to Run Out of Gas
  • Lightning Only Needs to Strike Once
  • Giving LBJ (my) Finger
  • The Sonora Jukebox Incident
  • The Jail in Ojinaga

  • Bob on driller, 1958
    Bob starting out
    Photo circa 1958 courtesy Bob Mohel

    "The Last of the True Road Hands"
    The Bob Mohel Saga

    by John Troesser

    Bob Mohel originally wrote to us with information on Casa Piedra. When we found that he had worked on the bridge out there we got nosier. Bit by bit we got some stories and asked Bob if he wouldn't mind retelling them for the benefit of readers who most likely won't get to have the fun of drilling holes all over the state.
    Derrick on Hwy 183 in Austin
    Derrick on Hwy 183 in Austin

    Williamson County, Texas, 1957.

    The town of Friendship was spending its last few months above water before being flooded to form Lake Granger. Seven miles east of Friendship, in the actual town of Granger, Bob Mohel and Raymond Hajda were hanging around the Humble Gas Station wondering what the odds were of a stranger appearing and offering them a job. It turned out they were pretty good.

    About this time, Rudy Vaclavick, a driller, was visiting relatives across the street from the station and recognized the two young men as friends of his niece. His drilling crew was short one man so he approached the two and asked if one of them was looking for work. They said they both were, and that any deal made would be “both - or nothing.” He told them to pack their bags and meet him the next morning at Eddy - a small town midway between Waco and Temple on Highway 35.

    They arrived at Eddy at 9:00 sharp and had no trouble finding the drilling rig. It was already hard at it - making holes for a bridge in the median of Highway 35. Their first job, however, was to drive to DeLeon to pick up another rig and drive it to Corsicana. This initial moving of equipment to the next job was just a taste of what was yet to come. But at the heady wage of $1.60 an hour, it sure beat the hell out of emptying Coke bottles in Granger.

    Bob would eventually get to know Texas like few people ever will. From Casa Piedra in deep West Texas to Toledo Bend on the Louisiana side of the Sabine.

    Raymond, a few years older than Bob, died young. He was asphyxiated one winter day when he showed up for work early and was keeping warm in a truck with a faulty exhaust system. The work was indeed rough, and faulty equipment, human error and the suicide of his boss trimmed the rolls until Bob is now the last man standing and is truly "the last of the True road hands."

    Living out of his suitcase in cheap hotels and sometimes sleeping on quilts alongside the equipment, Bob had his share of close calls, which he’ll be relating in his own words. Sleeping outside had it's drawbacks as Bob soon learned when his work boots were stolen one night while he slept. Bob suspects either a dog or a hobo. He spent the day working in his dress shoes until he could get into town to buy a replacement pair.

    Bob Mohel and wife Leta
    Bob and Leta at their daughter's wedding.
    Photo Courtesy Bob Mohel
    His First (and last) Wife

    Bob met his lifelong partner in Fort Worth. Leta was a Cherokee maiden (just like the Bob Wills song) from Wagner, Oklahoma. The constant relocating had the Mohels at one point paying simutaneous rent in Fort Worth, Hemphill and Austin. They have since settled on one home outside of San Antonio.

    The Job

    Drilling holes as deep as 80 feet in crumbling rock and shell, before safety technology and OSHA, the inspection of holes was performed the old-fashioned way - by lowering a man on a cable. Frequently this man was Bob. At Lake Tawakoni, East of Dallas, Bob was checking a hole by being lowered fifty feet down. A small clod of shell hit his hat as he was approaching the bottom, barely giving him time to shout to the operator to pull him out. Seconds later twelve feet of shell and mud filled in the space he had just occupied.
    Bob at his retirement party after 47 years across Texas
    Photo Courtesy Bob Mohel
    The vignettes provided by Bob offer a glimpse at life on the road, off the road and sometimes under the road. There's someting for everyone with fistfights, lightning strikes, wild rides down caliche roads and a even a view from a Mexican border town jail.
    Photos & Text © Bob Mohel
    August 4, 2004

    Mr. Mohel invites any veterans associated with the bridge building trade to contact him at 210-379-2977.
    Bridges: The Spans of North America

    More Texas Bridges

    Related Topics:
    Texas Architecture | Texas Towns

    Texas Escapes Online Magazine »   Archive Issues » Go to Home Page »
    Texas Counties
    Texas Towns A-Z
    Texas Ghost Towns

    Central Texas North
    Central Texas South
    Texas Gulf Coast
    Texas Panhandle
    Texas Hill Country
    East Texas
    South Texas
    West Texas

    Rooms with a Past

    Gas Stations
    Post Offices
    Water Towers
    Grain Elevators

    Vintage Photos
    Historic Trees
    Old Neon
    Ghost Signs
    Pitted Dates
    Then & Now

    Columns: History/Opinion
    Texas History
    Small Town Sagas
    Black History
    Texas Centennial

    Texas Railroads

    Texas Trips
    Texas Drives
    Texas State Parks
    Texas Rivers
    Texas Lakes
    Texas Forts
    Texas Trails
    Texas Maps

    Site Map
    About Us
    Privacy Statement
    Contact Us

    Website Content Copyright Texas Escapes LLC. All Rights Reserved