Posted by: cordy74 | March 10, 2009

Chronicles of Dad 2: A New Pole for the Antenna

Disclaimer:  In no way, shape or form do I intend the posts in this category to imply that my dad is a buffoon, clumsy or accident prone. He is a very intelligent, albeit somewhat deaf, man who just happens to occasionally stand in the wrong place at the worst possible time. Growing up with my dad could sometimes be exciting – perilously so. Several people have enjoyed hearing these stories from time to time. I now feel it is time to bring them to a wider audience.

Imagine that it is a beautiful fall day. You live out in the country and do not have access to cable television. You really only get the three air-broadcast stations from a nearby city and the reception isn’t great on the best of days. These are the days before digital air-broadcast television. In fact, DTV may even just be a figment of someone’s imagination at this point. These are also the days before small-dish satellite television and your family cannot afford one of the large-dish systems

This was my life before I went to college. If you wanted to watch tv in my house, you had to get off your butt and start fiddling with the rabbit ears to improve the reception. The only thing that came in crystal clear on our tv was a movie you put in the VCR that had been purchased in 1987.

While not doing much else on this glorious day in autumn I can imagine my dad collecting me from my bedroom or the living room where I was probably sitting, reading a book. He may or may not have mentioned where we were going or what we were going to do. The actual details of the beginning of our quest are somewhat vague. He could even have said, “Come on. Let’s go get us a pole for the antenna.” At any rate, that’s just what we did.

At some point Dad had gone to an auction and bought a fishbone-type aerial antenna.  I’m not sure if he bought it with the intention of someday mounting it on a makeshift antenna tower or if it was just in with some other stuff he was after [ALL THREE BOXES – ONE MONEY is all the auctioneer would have had to say to get my dad’s attention].  Any way you look at it we already had an antenna.  Now Dad was going to get us a pole.

We climbed into Dad’s ride, a 1981 Datsun pickup truck, and headed out.  We didn’t have to go far.  Apparently Dad had been driving out in the county near our house a couple of days earlier and witnessed the local power company replacing power-line poles.  The power company would identify a pole which was somehow damaged (but not too much for our purposes), plant a new pole next to it, detach the power lines from the damaged pole and remove it.  Upon removal the damaged pole would sit next to the road awaiting another truck to come along and collect it. Lucky for us the lag between pole replacement and pole removal straddled the weekend, leaving plenty of poles from which to choose.

After locating a pole that did not appear to be damaged Dad pulled the truck around so it was facing the way we had come and backed up to the pole.  It is at this point that I begin to wonder just how we are going to get the pole home.  Keep in mind that the portion of the pole you see sticking out of the ground is easily 30 feet long.  When you add the extra 8 to 10 feet that was buried in the ground you have a pole that is way too long to fit in the bed of a truck.  The solution:  drag the pole home.

Dad pulled his 12 foot log chain out of the cab from behind the seat and secured one end to the rear bumper.  He then instructed me to feed the other end under the pole, about 8 feet from the end, as he straddled it and lifted.  Granted, at 5’3″, Dad is not a large man but he is pretty strong.  He managed to pick up the smaller end (in case you’ve never noticed power poles are tapered, with the slightly smaller diameter at the top) of the 40 foot pole about 6 inches off the ground without too much effort.  Little did I know at the time that the wooden electricity pole weighed anywhere from 1500 to 2000 lbs.

Once the chain had been wrapped around the pole a couple of times and secured to itself Dad declared that it was “close enough for government work.”  We were off!

I was designated the spotter and would ride in the bed of the truck, keeping an eye on the pole and chain.  I’m not really sure how my spotting abilities were supposed to help.  I’ll tell you what:  when you take off down the road, dragging a 40 foot wooden pole behind your truck, the noise alone is enough to let you know the pole is still back there.  Aside from the noise I’m sure there was enough drag on the truck that it would have surged ahead noticeably were the pole to suddenly become detached.

What a sight we must have been!  Picture it.  Somewhere between 50 and 60 feet of redneck awesomeness cruising down the gravel and blacktopped roads of the county.  I don’t recall passing many vehicles that day but I’m sure that any we did pass remembered us for a long time.

While most of our path back home consisted of the less traveled county roads there was one major road we had to cross.  Right near where we lived we had to cross US40.  Back home US40 is a fairly busy highway and, depending on the time of day, you might have to sit for a couple of minutes waiting for the opportunity to cross.  Couple that with the fact that you now have to maneuver 60 feet of vehicle/pole hybrid across the highway using a small 4-cylinder engine and you are probably going to be sitting for several minutes.

Finally, the time had come.  There was a gap in the traffic so Dad started the truck lurching across the highway.  Once across it was only about a 1/2 mile to the house.  Up the hill we went, pulling the truck and pole into the yard near the road.

Then came the next step:  unhitching the pole from the truck.  Once again, Dad straddled the pole, lifted it and I attempted to remove the chain. 

As I started to unwrap it I realized the chain was extremely warm.  Once the chain was out we took a look at it and realized that the links positioned on the bottom of the pole had been ground flat more than halfway through their thickness.  If we had picked a pole a little further from the house the chain would probably have worn all the way through, freeing the pole from the truck.

Dad then rolled the pole part of the way over.  We then stood looking down on a 40 foot wooden pole with a very pronounced flat spot on the portion that had been in contact with the road.  Dad didn’t seem too concerned about the flat spot.  In fact, he would later put that side of the pole to fairly good use…but, as Paul Harvey would say, that is the rest of the story.

To be continued in the future post:  Chronicles of Dad 3:  The Planting of the Pole.



  1. This is fun. Can’t wait to read part 3. Sounds like a classic Clark County story to me-I sure did my share of helping my dad haul/drag random things with his pickup, too!

  2. I love your dad stories, I think we all have some of those.

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