Screaming Hank

Screaming Hank

I don’t know what his name was, but the people on the job called him “Screaming Hank.”  He was a building contractor.  When I first met him I heard him before I saw him.  He was up on a building under construction and hollering to his helper for something or other.  We found out he wasn’t hurt, just giving loud instructions.

Some time after I first met him I wound up working on one of his projects again.  He was building houses from pre-built panels.  The pre-built sections would come in by railroad.  Screaming Hank’s crew would assemble them on prepared foundations.

My boss had the wiring contract for the houses.  The carpenters would set up the inside walls but not nail them solid.  That would come later.  I learned this one day when I inadvertently leaned on one of the walls and it moved.  I thought we were experiencing an earthquake before I figured out what was happening.

One of the first things I would do on this type of building project was get up above the ceiling level and drill holes for wire in the outside wall partitions.  After the trusses and roof were on it would be much more difficult.  Some of the inside walls came pre-sheetrocked on both sides and also needed to be drilled right away.

The process for the carpenters was to also set up scaffolding around the outside of the house so that they could work on the soffits and eaves.

One day one of the carpenters – John is all I know him by – was in the future attic putting roof sections together.  Screaming Hank came driving up, apparently John wasn’t doing something right.  Screaming Hank started hollering “John!  Oh, John!”

John didn’t answer, he just kept nailing.  He didn’t acknowledge Hank.  John acted like Hank wasn’t even there.

After calling a number of times Screaming Hank exploded.  He crawled up the scaffolding and started across the ceiling rafters toward John.  I thought to myself; “Uh oh.  There’s going to be bloodshed.”   I eyed the distance between John and me and knew I could never get there in time to help.  Besides, what could I do?  I would likely only wind up getting hurt myself.

All of a sudden Screaming Hank disappeared.  About that time John turned around with his hammer in his hand with a look that said he was really going to nail something.   I went over to where I had last seen Hank.  There he was lying on the kitchen floor staring up at the hole he had made in the sheetrock above.

I heard Screaming Hank say; “Now I have to repair that ceiling.”

Hank got up, got into his car and drove away.  Old John spit out a stream of tobacco juice and kept nailing.  He had never uttered a word.

That was the last time I ever saw Screaming Hank.

Or John.