H is for Highways

I used to work on the highways during the summers in between semesters of college. It was very difficult because I often faced the threat of heat exhaustion, careless drivers, high ledges, and the misuse of dangerous machinery. Most of my coworkers were known by their last names. It was like football practice all the time and no games.  And I’ve never liked football.

My second strongest memory involved standing on top of an exit sign twelve feet in the air and fearing for my life.  I was given the task of bolting the sign to the standing posts while the main source of support for the sign’s weight was a hanging wench. Sure, some of the bolts were already attached which gave it some stability, but the thing was suspiciously floppy.  So I had to balance on the sign’s inner beams and reach my left arm around the front of the sign while using my right arm to tighten down the bolts with a wrench.  Keep in mind that this is being done in Texas and not in pleasant Southern California, so my left arm was being seared by the blistering face of the sign. This was simply the only way of getting the job done.

While I’m hanging up there, the sign is wobbling with each torque of my wrench.  I wasn’t too concerned about it, but I did get the message, “You need to finish the job and get out of here.”  What I didn’t realize was that at the bottom of the posts there was a massive fire ant bed and each turn of the wrench was sending shock-waves through their hive.  They crawled up the posts, in through my open shirt sleeves, and repeatedly tore into my flesh.  I felt miserable and desperately wanted to get down, but I also knew any temporary relief would make it even more grueling back up.  So by the grace of God I finished the job, quickly hopped down, and ripped off my shirt all for the free entertainment of the highway traffic.  Whew!

My strongest memory was with a coworker who came to play a significant role in my coming to Christ.  Greg Page loved Jesus and wanted to talk about Him all the time.  We spent many days working together and I, likely being unsaved at the time, greatly benefited from seeing a man live out the gospel in front of me.  I remember talking with him endlessly about evolution, inerrancy, the unreached, and every other topic under the sun.  I think I found later I simply wanted to have objections so as to make my inner rejection of the gospel more, “intellectually fortified.”  My last summer, he said, and I’ll always hold on to this, “Stay in the Book.  I think you know which one I’m talking about.”

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6 Responses to “H is for Highways”

  1. It’s a challenge for me to see how fire ants tearing into your flesh, the slightly disturbing image of the knotted highway system and, ‘Stay in the book,’ all work together, but I will say I am glad you had the mentorship of Greg Page.

    • Suze, I realize now that it wasn’t entirely clear that Greg Page was a coworker of mine during those three summers and have since edited it. Or maybe you meant that my experience working for the Department of Transportation was very chaotic and trying, in which I would wholeheartedly agree.

  2. Ack! The fire ants! Shudder.

  3. That sounds like a seriously draining job. I don’t mind heights, I actually like high places, but a shaky support puts me in immediate panic mode.

    • It was a pretty atypical day, most consisted in shoveling asphalt, dead dogs, and a bit of climbing. But yes I’m glad it’s over because it was very draining.

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