FLANGING 23

Leotis W, aka Badeye, never looked up from his work.  He was classic balls-to-the-wall for eight hours straight.  Except, of course, when I interrupted him by asking him to come fix something I’d screwed up.  He always would, willingly, but only after hurling a few epithets and insults at me.  Otherwise, he was always at his machine flanging away.  That’s why people liked to prank him.  He would return to his machine from the bathroom or water fountain and rush back to work, to find someone had slopped grease all over his controls.  But he was in such a hurry to get back to work he wouldn’t notice this until he grabbed them, and got grease all over his hands.  Then he’d cuss and look around to see who was laughing at him, then stop to wipe the grease off his machine and his hands.  If the grease was really bad, he’d go off to the bathroom to wash his hands.  Of course, as soon as he’d walk away the controls would get greased again.  Another trick was to close the valve on the propane tank on the forklift he was using.  The forklift would start, with the propane that was already in the line, go a few feet, then die.  He would have to get off the forklift to open up the valve.

But that is another post, or several more.  The pranks we have pulled on each other at work are legion.  Management disparagingly calls it horseplay, but we call it fun.

Badeye was a good car mechanic.  He did auto repair at a service station during the day.  All of the older employees on second shift had day jobs.  We young guys didn’t have the seniority to get off second shift, we were stuck.  But the old guys chose to remain on second shift so they could hold down two jobs.  He related this story about his day job.  He repaired a young woman’s car.  He never said what was wrong with it, but she owed him money.  When she came to pick her car up, she pulled up her dress – she didn’t have anything on underneath it – and said he could have her instead of the money she owed.  He laughed in her face (his story) and demanded his money.  She yanked her dress back down and stormed out.  Eventually, her husband came by and paid the bill.

Badeye built a Jeep at Brighton.  He built the body from scrap steel, at least most of it was scrap, he got in the shop.  He did a lot of the welding and cutting and bending and grinding and drilling at work.  Whatever work he did on the motor and transmission he did at the garage he part-timed at.  But it ran.  He took it off-road a lot.  Whenever he wrecked it he would bring it back in to work on it some more.

Leotis was from Kentucky, so he knew all kinds of places to run off-road in the mountains.  And it nearly killed him.  After he sold the Jeep…  Let me stop that story to relate this one.  He sold the Jeep to Pete B., who at the time was the QC manager.  He took over after Ray M. retired.  Big mistake on Badeye’s part.  Every time something went wrong with the Jeep this guy would bring it in expecting Badeye to fix it.  Badeye told him the Jeep didn’t come with a lifetime warranty.  Then Badeye would fix it anyway.  Now back to the other story.  After he sold the Jeep he bought an ATV to go off-road with.  And flipped it.  He nearly died.  He was off work for months.  But that’s the way he was, reckless as hell. He got pissed off at the company one time and quit to drive a truck.  Which he wrecked.  And lost his CDL.  Of course, Brighton was more than happy to hire him back.

Later, he was promoted to foreman one of the several times Brighton has started up a third shift.  Which surprised me, I never thought they would allow someone so productive off the floor.  But then a year or so later, when they shut down third shift, as they inevitably do, he was expected to return to work on the floor.  He refused, and quit again.  By this time Jeff Hock had begun the tank head division at Enerfab, so he was happy to have Badeye come work for him.  Badeye finished out his career working for Jeff Hock, and retired from Enerfab.

Badeye was always looking for ways to flange heads faster.  He learned a different way to machine a head than the way he had been trained.  The operator who ran the same machine on first shift, Leroy W., complained that Badeye was abusing the machine.  So one of the brothers who owned Brighton, Alvin H. Jr., watched him machine a head.  It was reported Alvin said, “If that’s abuse, then everyone should abuse the hell out of the machines.”  I think Badeye is the most productive operator ever to run a flanging machine.  Hell of it is, Leroy was right.  The way Badeye machined heads wore out the machining arm.  And the metal screamed bloody murder as he peeled it off, god what an awful racket.  But it actually didn’t matter. New machining arms were designed once Geoff L. was supervisor.  But that’s another post.

Another anecdote involves me.  I found his wallet on the locker room floor one time.  So I stuck it in my pocket, then walked up to the machine he was working on and asked if I could borrow five dollars for lunch.  He said sure, reached back for his wallet, which wasn’t there, then got that sick look on his face a guy gets when he discovers his wallet is missing.  Without another word he shot off toward the locker room.  But I stopped him and gave the wallet back.  Then I asked him if he knew how much money he had in his wallet.  He said no.  I said good, and walked off.  But I don’t think he’d really believe I’d steal from him.

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