flanging 19

More about Jim D.’s toupee.  I saw it fly once.  Well, actually, it fluttered.  Luke G. was a young flanger operator who also happened to be the only black man on second shift at the time.  This was the 70’s, in a suburban area twenty miles from the urban center of Cincinnati – there just weren’t that many black people around.  Jim D. came by his machine to yell at him about something, I don’t know what.  In response, Luke grabbed an air hose and shot a blast of air at Jim.  The toupee lifted up, but Jim got his hand up there fast enough to snag it and keep it from flying off.  Pretty good reflexes for an old man.  Of course Luke, and the others who witnessed this, started laughing.  Jim wasn’t amused.  He picked up a four by four and hurled it at Luke.  But Luke was too fast for that.  He skittered away laughing.

Luke G. was a musician.  A drummer, and he sang.  We never believed he was in a band like he claimed, until the Friday night they came by to talk him into leaving work early to go play somewhere.  The musicians were in their performance clothes, which were a riot of styles and colors.  And several young attractive (sexy as hell) black women were with them, and were all over Luke trying to persuade him to come with them.  Luke said they were the back-up singers.  So of course he took off.  He was young and single, probably didn’t have a debt to his name, and I think he still lived at home. He was small and slight-built, not bad looking, with a quick smile.  Sometimes he wore a hair net.  His hair would be done in elaborate curls, for playing in the band he told us, and he tried to take care of it.

We knew he could drum.  He’d line up several 55-gallon steel drums and attack them with metal files, using them like drum sticks. You could hear him drumming all over the shop.  His band mates claimed Luke had a sweet voice.  But the only song I ever heard him sing was Jim Dandy.  The Black Oak Arkansas 1973 cover of this 50’s rock hit was popular at the time.  Jim Dandy was Luke’s name for Jim D.  He’d see the foreman coming and start singing ‘Jim Dandy to the rescue, Jim Dandy to the rescue, go Jim Dandy, go Jim Dandy’.  And Jim D. would get mad and start calling him names.  Luke used to call us names, too, such as honkies and crackers and whiteys.  He got called a few names in return.  The back and forth was playful, I don’t think anyone ever got angry.  But we were a bunch or rednecks, and he was the sole black.  People were always talking about ironing their sheets to get ready for the next meeting.  While Like invited them to hold their next meeting in his neighborhood.  I doubt if a one of them would have had the nerve to set foot in his neighborhood.

Luke never sang much, other than to antagonize the foreman, but he did scream.  He had a powerful set of lungs.  And a thing about bugs.  Of course, once that became common knowledge people were forever sneaking up behind him to put something horrid on his shoulder.  Amazing how fast he could run, while screaming.

Luke only worked there a couple of years.  I heard he became a nurse.  So he must have been going to school during the day.  A lot more initiative than I’ve ever had.  But I can still see that broad smile on his face as he made Jim D.’s toupee dance on top of his head.


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