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Monday, February 23, 2015

The Tunnel Competition of 1966 - a cranky re-run

The Tunnel Competition
This re-run from February 2013 had very few hits. 
I like it so I am running it again anyway.
That is what re-runs are all about.

 Finding a summer job during my college years was not easy. I was fortunate that my best friend Charlie (Chuck, Ditmus) Widmer had a contact.  His cousin owned a fertilizer/pest-control company, “Andrew Wilson.” Their motto was “Why Bugs Leave Home.”   They sold their product mainly to large estates and golf courses.  His cousin was expanding into the underground sprinkler business and Chuck got me a job as an installer.

Charlie’s cousin, Drew (we referred to him as Mr. Big) knew almost nothing about the business, but lack of knowledge never stopped Mr. Big.  He was the kind of a guy who would tell people he could do something and then learn how while doing it.

One of the other “installers,” Paul, was the son of a friend of Mr. Big.  Paul was as dumb as a stump, and just as lazy.  Mr. Big thought he was great.  Paul was a good looking kid.  He once got a modeling job for a shaving cream company.  His big claim to fame is he made the back cover of Time Magazine in an ad.  Somehow Mr. Big thought this made him smart.

Paul was so stupid; he once went to the Doctor complaining of constant pain in his balls.  The doctor determined that Paul, who had been engaged for over a year, was often demonstrating his affection for his fiancé but never to completion due to his religious beliefs.  The doctor told Paul that he needed to “Find some release, or he would continue to be in pain.”  Paul told us he didn’t know what the doctor meant.

Charlie explained it gently to Paul, “You need to do what you are.”


“Jerk off... jerkoff!”

In the summer of 1966, business was slow.  Mr. Big did not have enough sprinkler jobs to support his full crew.  One of us would have to be laid off.  It was not going to be Charlie. Charlie knew the situation, Paul and I did not. 

The toughest job in the installation process was getting pipe under a driveway or walk.  On the day of the "competition," Mr. Big assigned Paul and me to tunnel under a ten foot wide driveway, a bitch of a job.  Charlie and Mr. Big left together for another job site.  Before they left, Chuck whispered ominously in my ear, “Dig mother-fucker!”

Now Paul was not that bright, and he was lazy, but I might not have been the most productive worker myself.  Hell, we were paid $1.35 an hour for a back-breaking job so we did not always work full bore.  This day, I put the pedal to the metal.  I didn’t know the full score, but Charlie’s comment was clearly a warning.  Putting two and two together I suspected this tunnel dig represented a competition.

Paul and I started digging, both on opposite sides of the driveway.  It was a ninety degree day and there was no shade.

“Hey Hagy, you up for a water break, no one to see.”

“Ah, you go ahead, I’ll catch a break later.”

“Hey Hagy, slow down, this driveway ain’t goin nowhere.”

“Yeah, well I need the exercise, you take a break, I won’t say nothing.”

This went on for three hours, Paul taking water breaks, stopping to wipe his brow and just resting and talking.  I continued to plod away taking only an occasional short break.

At noon, Mr. Big and Charlie drove up and checked on our progress.  I had dug six feet on my side of the driveway; Paul had dug three and a half feet.  Charlie got out of the truck and Mr. Big told Paul to come with him.

“Nice fucking job Hinkus (I don’t know where that name came from), you won.”

“Yeah!…what was that?”

“Mr. Big has to let someone go.  He decided whichever of you two dug the furthest would keep his job.  Paul lost!”

We never saw dumb Paul again.

Back in college, anytime I had to cram overnight for an exam, the phrase “Dig mother-fucker” was the mantra that got me through.


  1. $1.35 an hour for a back-breaking job in 90 degree heat - are you SURE you won ...

  2. Yep and you were smart enough to know what was happening. Love this post.

    Have a fabulous day. :)

  3. I've had my share of dumb coworkers, now that I manage them I realize how much worse that can be! Dumb + lazy is a bad combo...I can live with dumb as long as they work and you give them jobs that don't require too much thought!
    Good tale Cranky!

  4. And so a young future Cranky receives another valuable lesson on how the world works.

  5. Good for you! You showed yourself what you were capable of doing, and now you don't have to do stuff like that any more.

  6. You've toned down a lot...I wonder why...

  7. Construction workers always had the nicest patois.

  8. I've had dumb co-workers, except we didn't call them "dumb as a stump." We called them, "dumber than a bag of rocks." And then the geologists told us to quit insulting rocks.

    Wondering whatever happened to Paul. Maybe he became a politician...?

  9. Whew! I was afraid you were going to walk around to the other side to see how much Paul had done, and then the boss would drive up and think you had done the least work.

  10. Lots of "Pauls" in the world. I always think of them when a president is blamed for an unemployment rate that's above zero. There should be a percentage immediately taken off the top to accommodate the lazy and dishonest - ones who don't deserve to be employed by anybody!

  11. Wonder what happened to pretty boy Paul? I was leaning towards a horror ending like Val. So glad you triumphed.

  12. I'm guessing Paul went on to a lucrative 30-year career as a government bureaucrat. :)

  13. So that's really true about guys getting pain if they abstain??
    I think I'm going to start hearing that mantra myself when something important is on the line. It's a good one.