Out In The Cold

Out In The Cold

In Montana and North Dakota it can get downright cold.  The last winter I spent there it got down to 57 below zero.  Usually construction slows down in the cold weather.  If a job was “out of the ground” they would put up tarps and use space heaters and keep working until the job was done.


One fellow told me he had worked for a local shop one winter.  He was working on a job out of town a ways.  He saw a deer standing in a snow bank while driving to the job one morning.  When he came back that night the deer was still standing in the same spot.  He stopped, got out of the truck, and went over to the deer.  It didn’t move so he kicked it.


“Man I nearly broke my toe.  That deer had frozen solid while standing there eating.”


I knew there was a trick that the locals would play on newbies.  They would find a frozen deer and prop it up in a snow bank.  Sometimes they would use it for target practice.


I let him think what he wanted to think.


Though I no longer work on them, one of the jobs I worked on in the winter was a radar station up near the Canadian border.  It was a government job and supposed to be a secret.  It was so secret that the only ones who knew what was going on were the men working on the site and the government inspectors.


Well the neighbors living next to the job site also knew.


And all of the residents of the nearby small towns knew about it.  And of course they told everyone they could think of, as far as they could spread it.


The blue prints for the job were not like anything I had seen before.  On the plan they would draw a line from a part or device to a number.  The number would be in a circle, a square, or an octagon.  You would take that number and sign and look it up in a book.  Then take the number from the book and go to the warehouse and look it up in another book.  That book would give you a bin number.  The bin number was coded to take you to the location of the part you were after.


Sometimes the part number/location number would be bigger than the item.  A half inch lock washer could have a 12 digit number.  (Or, maybe that was the lock nut.  But that’s O.K. it was supposed to be a secret.)


There are stories about the tricks we played on one another because of those part numbers.  Stay tuned for those.


One time when we were traveling to the base, about 30 miles north of town, one fellow asked me; “Are we pretty close to the Canadian line?”


I said; “Yes.  See that ridge of snow there?”  I was pointing at a ridge of hills in the distance, about 3 miles away.  (The snow had just covered the top of the ridge I was pointing at.  Everything beyond it was snow covered.  Everything in front was not.  The ridge was called Gobblers Knob.  It was just high enough to be the highest point on the prairie.  Hence the name “Gobblers Knob”)


I didn’t say anymore.  More as in – “The border is about 15 miles past that.”


From then on those guys thought they were about 3 miles from Canada