Push That Button

Dear EWM,

I layered together this trailer (mpg
| mov)
for the final four weeks of my first semester
of the doctoral coursework.  Just ahead, fourBlast
weeks.  That’s
how long it takes the loaders to cart away the blasted dolomite rocked loose in
this vid-clip.  Four to five
weeks.  Load the crushed rock on the Great Lakes ship-way for steel
smelting, roads, anything.  Two thousand tons of carted, ground-up,
fresh-water-cooled, loaded, shipped rock.  Quarrying was my grandfather’s
charge for thirty years at this site–through 1983.  Work the deposit;
aggregate. When we were there last summer the operation was grinding something
like ten variations of crushed rock.  Pea one, pea one-A.  (Nah, seriously,
I don’t remember what the bits get called, but none’re named RSS.)   

The hyperbolic track is from Sun-Ra. The implications are plain: weeks ahead
loaded, dust-clouded. Figure: blast, cart, grind, load-ship. * that button.


  1. I saw Grandpa today – he says they were not mining gravel. 🙂 I told him I thought he should have posted his comment himself. Nice vid though – I like it – and the music to go with.

  2. Not gravel? Thanks for getting technical on me. I should’ve used something less geo-logical like “bits” or “chunks” or “stuff.” Meant gravel in the sense of fragmentary rock-rubble. But yeah, Grandpa would know better than I would that it wasn’t gravel, exactly.

  3. Truly awesome! I’ve been backtrack’n and catch’n up.

    I can remember when I was in grade school, and the Soviet Union tested its 100 megaton nuke, your grandpa calculated the amount of rock that it would break up and the size of the hole that would be created. If I remember correctly, the blast would cut loose enough rock for about 100 years of processing. Hmmmm, would Drummond Island be left or would it have become part of Lake Huron?

    Here are some letters that I sent to Grandma the last time I was out on the lakes. They give a little insight into the people and ships that move the cargo. I had hand written them and she typed and emailed them back.

    Years ago your mom saved almost all the letters I sent her while I was working on the big boats during the early ’70s.

    Your great-great-grandfather was written about some awesome events during his sailing days.

    I guess it’s called bloging, the old fashion way.

    By the way, November is the anniversary of “The Wreck the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

    “Lake Huron rolls Superior sings in the rooms of her ice water mansion
    Old Michigan streams like a young man’s dreams
    the islands and bays are for sportsman
    and farther below Lake Ontario
    takes in what Lake Erie can send her
    and the Iron boats go as the mariners all know
    with the gales of november remembered

    In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
    in the maritime sailor’s cathedral
    the church bell chimed ’til it rang 29 times
    for each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald
    The legend lives down on from the Chippewa on down
    of the big lake they called Gitche Gumee
    Superior they said never gives up her dead
    when the gales of november come early”

    – by Gordon Lightfoot

    This letter dated Sept. 14, 2000

    brief respite in Ashtabula or the end of the Cuyahga shuffle for now.
    The last few days have been a blur. Yesterday I asked one of the guys what
    day it was and he didn’t know. I didn’t either.
    I was just talking to our new captain briefly during dinner and he said he
    has just made more docks in the last 36 hours than he would normally make in
    several weeks on the big boats (1000 footers).
    With a load of stone from Calcite we came into Cleveland and unloaded at one
    of Ontario Stone Corps. docks on the lower Cuyahoga. This took about 6
    hours.Then it was another hour up a branch of the Cuyahoga to the Cargill
    salt plant for a load of salt.
    Cargill has a salt mine which is underground and extends out under Lake Erie.
    When we tie up at the salt dock, the boat is floating ovoer one of the mine
    It took about 8 hours for the load of salt and then we were off, up-bound on
    the Cuyahoga destined for another Ontario Stone Corp. dock where we would
    unload the 13,000 tons of road salt for use this winter.
    Our trip up the Cuyahuga lasted about 3 hours. We went up backwards under tow
    of a tug boat, smelling thick diesel exhaust all the way.
    The dock for our unloading was what we call a “work boat dock”. We couldn’t
    get close enough to drop deckhands over in the boom chair, so a small
    aluminuim boat and motor are lowered over the side.
    At this particular dock Marines and Navy Seals would have a hard time making
    a landing. The main dock level is about 15 Ft. above the river. The bank is
    very steep and covered with chunks of broken concrete. Regular concrete was
    then pooured down the slope, randomly to stablizle the bank. Needless to say,
    this river bank is great for sliding down, but not very good for climbing up.
    In most places where there are cracks in the concrete along the bank, thick
    thorn bushes grow.
    When we land the work boat we climb to the level dock area where the spiles
    are located. At the dock, in order to tie up the Taylor, most of our cable
    pulls are over 100 ft.
    After we tied up the boat, Hoz and I got to unload in the tunnel. It took
    about 5 hours. By the way, Hoz and I have the record unload on the Taylor
    this year. We unloaded about 14,000 tons of stone in Buffalo in 4 hours. This
    is a tunnel that still requires sledge hammers and a last century mentality
    to make it work.
    At 10:30 P.M. last night, I was done for the day with 6 1/2 hours over time.
    During the night I heard my door open and the 2nd mate call out, “Tom, three
    thirty for four.” Meaning it was 3:30 A.M. and I was to be ready for work at
    4:00 A.M.
    When I got out on the deck I could see we were backing into the harbor at
    Ashtabula, Ohio. At the Norfolk Southern coal dock was the Middleton getting
    loaded. We put out our lines across the slip from the Middleton and waited
    our turn to load.
    About 6:30 A.M. the Middleton pulled out from the dock. By this time we had
    all our hatch clamps stripped and most of our hatch covers open.
    After we let go the lines, Hoz and I scrambled up the ladder as the Taylor
    pulled out from the dock. We then had about 15 minutes to change all the
    lines over from starboard to port so we could tie up at the coal loading dock.
    By noon my day was done. A loading delay worked to my advantage and it looked
    like our departure time would be about 2:00 P.M.
    I had a brief conversation with the loading dock foremen about nearby
    establishments which serve my favorite beverage. He said “I’m on my way up
    town to get some cigarettes, you’re welcome to ride up with me.”That was an
    offer too good to refuse. My new found friend drove me to an old downtown
    area. Within 1 block were 6 taverns.
    I stood on the sidewalk like a kid in a candy store. I couldn’t make up my
    mind. The Old River Trader looked intriguing. Then out of the corner of my
    eye there was apretty lady walking out of a door. The door was to Bennan’s
    Irish Pub. The decision was made, Brennan’s it was.
    In I walked. Unfortunately the crowd at the bar was your typical small town
    types. Six guys including the mailman. However, I hadn’t come to Brennans to
    socialize. My mission was to drink beer and that I did.
    After enjoying 3 Miller Genuine Drafts I came to the conclusion that it was
    in my best interst to return to the boat.
    About a 3/4 mile walk back to the boat was mostly along a river. It kind of
    reminded me of the sheboygan River in the downtown area near the old Reiss
    Coal Dock.
    When the Taylor came into view I could tell, I had plenty of time. Just from
    the position of the Taylor’s unloading boom, I could tell what hatch the coal
    loader was in. A quick mental calculation told me I had another hour of life
    in Ashtabula. A short walk back to the Old River Trader for some more beer
    was temptimg. However, on this beautiful sunny, Sept. day a slow walk along
    an unfamiliar river in Ashtabula is a rare experience indeed.
    Well, that’s the news from the Myron C. Taylor.

    Love, Tom


    The end of an era or what’s the Polish navy worth?

    It looks definite now. The Taylor, Calcite 2, and Sloan have all been sold.
    We’re scheduled for lay up on Oct. 31 at Sarnia, Ontario, just across the
    river from Port Huron Mi.

    these 3 boats make up 75% of what was U.S. Steel’s southern fleet. The new
    owner will be Lower Lakes Shipping.

    Over the years a person had to be a member of a nearly exclusive “club” to
    work on this fleet. Even today it is rare to find outsiders on board.

    With names like Ganski, Gierlieske and amny other hard to spell and pronounce
    last names of Polish heitage, guys from Roger City, Posen, Cheboygan, etc.
    have held the jobs on what has been called the “Polish Fleet” for years and

    I was told that noot so long ago on this fleet if you weren’t in the ‘club”
    life became very difficult on board. The new jobs were for the friends and
    relatives of the guys already here.

    The 2nd mate on here is from Buffalo and we had a 2nd assistant engineer who
    is on vacation now from Hancock, Mi. Of course there is yours truly who
    claims little allegiance to any region. Other than that, the rest of the crew
    is the “Polish Nave”.

    One thing is certailn, nothing ever stays the same. Calcite at Roger City was
    sold to Ogelby-Norton a few years ago and now this deal is going forward.

    There will be guys on here with 26 years seniority who will get bumped back
    from their positions if they stay with U.
    s. Steel. Wheelsmen will be watchmen and watchmen will be deckhands.

    It looks like I’ll be bumped off of here about mid Oct. Although there is a
    small chance that I could be here until layup.

    Should be in Green Bay late today. Pass by St. Marten Is. at lunch time and
    now have the Door Peninsula off our port side with the U.P. starboard. The
    sun is bright with a few high cloouds, a stiff breeze is blowing and the
    water has a light chop. A great day for a boat ride.

    The past few days have been a little rough, however, after we came our of
    Ashtabula, we hit 40 mph. winds in Lake erie. We dropped the hook in the St.
    Clair River and finally tied up for a while in St. Clair to wait out some
    rough weather in Lake Huron.

    Dinner is always from 1600 to 1700. Had some greast spaghetti and meat sauce,
    peas, carrots, along with home made New England apple cake.

    There was a lot of grumbling going on during dinner since the Lions lost.
    Also questions were being asked like “Where are you going to work next year?”

    On my way to the galley I ran into tray, an oiler who works in the engine
    room. He pointed out a large flock of seagulls following us. This is unusual
    these days since no garbage is thrown overboard any more. Tray said that
    accordint to legend, seagulls that follow ships are reincarnated sailors who
    were lost at sea. That’s a new one for me.

    Time to get ready to go to work. We’ll probably start stripping hatch clamps
    about 17:30.


    Got done with the unload at the Reiss Coal dock early this A.M.. Had the
    hatches closed and deck secured by 3:30 A.M. Gat a 10:00 for 10:30 call to
    finish out my day. When I got out on deck I discovered we were anchored on
    the lee side of washington Is. just off the end of Wis. Door Peninsula.

    From my perspective, about a mile off the north side of the Is. it’s quite a
    view. Limestone cliffs rise verically from the surface of the water. They are
    honeycombed with caves just above the water level. From my road map a ferry
    boat goes to the island and it has a road on it. Doesn’t look like much
    development on it from where I sit. Could be a fun place to visit someday.

    It is hard to tell how long we’ll sit here. The winds on Lake Mich. are out
    of the south southwest and are apparentllly high enough to concern the
    captain. We need to run along the wnorthern end of the lake so the waves will
    be preey rough in the open. We’re running empty now so the old Taylor could
    take a pounding.


    It’s 18:00. Still sitting here. We did some maintenance work on the #4 cargo
    compartment today. About 3 hours worth of work took all day.

    20:30 We just got under way. We haven’t got out of the bay yet and I can
    feel the roll already. We’re on our way to either Port Dolomite or Calcite.
    Sometimes you don’t know where you are until you ge there.

    9-20-2000 We didn’t get very far last night before the hook went out
    again. Got underway for real at about 6 A.M. this morning. When we got out
    into the Big Lake there wasn’t much weather or big swells.

    It appears that a lot of caution is being exercised when ti comes to the
    weather. Of course no one has a lot of confidence in our main engine either.

    As of now our destlination is Calcite. However, one time we were headed there
    from this direction and had gone under the Mackinaw Bridge and were east of
    Mackiac Is. when our orders were changed. We made a big turn and then headed
    for Cedarville.

    I’ve got 5 hours in today as of 13:00. Jake and I hosed down the boom and
    deck while Doug and Hoz hosed down the tunnel, There was lots of black coal
    all over everything.

    We’re due in Calcite about 19:0o. Hoz and I go back to work at 18:00 until
    21:00 then Doug and Jake will take over from 21:00 til midnight. Then Hoz and
    I will go back on after midnight.

    There’s a boat ahead of us at the north pier so we will tie up at the south
    dock and wait. It looks like if all goes well, there may be some in between
    time for me. Maybe I’ll get a chance to get up to Greekos for a few beers.
    (Smiling face)

    I love this game! You never know until you get there.

    9-21-2000 13:20 Well, I’m still here. We got done loading at 4 A. M.
    It was one of those nights that after it was done, you felt like a survivor.
    I got done at 5:30 A.M. and still have 2 1/2 hours to give for today

    The night was windy with intermittent rain and as the temp dropped, you could
    see your breath.

    When I went to bed sailing time was set for 8:00 A.M. When I woke up forlunch
    we hadn’t moved.

    From my perspective on deck, the waves are pretty big. With the high winds
    and cool temp, it feels and looks like Nov.

    At this point sailing time is set for 16:30.

    9-22-2000 Finally pulled out of Calcite yesterday at 20:30. The ride had
    been pretty smooth. Should be docked in Detroit today around 17:00.

    Since it looks like things are up in the air for me on this boat about mid
    Oct. it probably would be a good idea not to send anything to my Taylor
    address around that time.

    I’ll have to see what U.
    s Steel has going. Maybe Lower Lake will make people on here an offer.
    Otherwise I’ll try to ship out with the S.I.U. At least that way I probably
    wouldn’t be tied to one fleet for seniority.

    Hope all is well. Take care. Love, Tom


    Answers to questions and anxiety on a boat called Myron

    Did you have brandy on board? Of course. Even though it’s illegal. I’m a
    libetarian at heart. Give me liberty or give me brandy.
    After all there are so many rules and regulations we all end up being
    criminals in one way or another.
    Since May I’ve had 4 drug tests. One for the Coast Guard and then one for
    US.Steel. Then after being on the Taylor for a week I found out that
    U,.S.Steel lost the results from their tests so I had to have another one.
    Then about mid Aug. the whole crew had a random drug test.
    My question is this: Why don’t they give drug tests to people who run for
    public office and let the voters know the results before the elections. I
    wonder if Gore and Bush would be drug free?
    Regarding brandy, I promise I won’t drive the boat when I’m drinkingf.
    As far as visiting pubs, I don’t get off the boat that much. Whenever we are
    unloading, I have to work. Whenever we are loading, I usually have to work
    half the load.
    This is a good job if you want to save money. The bills from my place in
    Lansing are minimal, I don’t have to drive anywhere, there are no grocery
    bills. On top of that, I make about a grand a week.
    On Sundays it’s in the contract that we don’t have to do any “unnesessary
    work.” We stopped for fuel today in Sarnia, Ontario. It takes about 2 hours
    for fuel. It was my turn for the fuel dock. We tied up about 9A.M. when we
    left it was just about time for Sunday dinner. After dinner it was time for
    football. Then I cleaned my room.
    Lately it’s been working out so that about every other Sun. is an easy day.
    The way I look at it is we get enough tough, dirty work, so that the few easy
    days are a well deserved break. There’s a lot of truth in that saying,
    “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”
    Righ now we’re headed north in Lake Huron with a load of salt for Milwaukee.
    Just had a radio station on from Kitchener, Ontario. the predicted high
    tomorrow of 16. Of course the Canadians report their weather in celsius.
    That’s still a little cool.
    The reality of the boat sale has been setting in. Negative attitudes are
    contagious. Fortunately I’ve become immune to that disease. It’s sad to see
    people become victims of that creepy, crawley called anxiety.
    And besides, what’s the use of worrying? What good does it do? Will it add a
    single day to your life? Of course not! And if worry can’t even do suc h
    little things as that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things? “Look
    at the lillies ——–Luke 12:21-34 (Sounds like he has time to study his
    bible. I think you will find this in Matt. too.)
    Thanks for the thought on the knitted cat. I do have one with me. However, we
    are requited to wear hard hats while working. U.S.Steel provides liners for
    them. They also rain gear, rubber shoes (6 buckle boots) and rubber gloves.
    In the past U.S Steel had been providing a new pair of coveralls a year after
    you got 90 days on the Lakes. This year no one has got nay and no
    explantation has been give. Although this is such a minor thing, it’s amazing
    how big a deal it is to some people.


    Lake Mich, Blue—Left Milw. about noon and are now headed towards Port
    Colomite. Started my day at 4:30 A.M. and now am done. It’s now one of those
    clear sunny days on The Big Lake. More blue than a person should be allowed
    to have. On top of that it’s warm enough for shorts and a t-shirt on deck.
    Quits a contrast from the cold early morning hours.
    The Port of Milw. is a very pleasant place to pull into. The docks are well
    built and safe to work on. The same toes for Green Bay. This is in stark
    contrast to the trashy dangerous docks in Cleveland and Detroit.
    All the northern stone docks are good to work on. So much for my revilew of
    docking conditions around the Lakes.
    15:30—Just got my last glimpse of the Wis. shoreline. According to my
    calculations, we should be due east of Sheb. right now. Can’t see land, jsut
    the tall stocks of the power plant on the south side of town. There is a flat
    line of contrast between the water and the sky. The large stacks project up
    from the water. No other part of land is visible. Just goes to show, things
    sometimes never appear the way they really are. Who was it that said “Truth
    is absolute, but mankind doesn’t have the capacity to understand?”
    “I praise you, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these
    things from the intellecdtuals and worldly wise and for revealing them to
    those who are as trustling as little children.” Luke 19:21.

    Just arrived in Port Dolomite at 14:00. Our orders changed for Calcite but a
    strong northwest wind wouldn’t let us into the dock. Not many happy people
    here right now, As you know, Calcite is home for the “Polish Nave.”

    9/28 It’s looking more and more likely that I will be bumped off of here as
    early as Oct. 9. One permanent weeelsman and one perm. watchman will be back
    from vacations at that time. They will bump down lesser seniority people on
    here. That means the two low seniority guys on here will either go to shor
    or be place on another boat. Right now I’m second to lasst on there with
    seniority so I’ll be gone.
    Up until now, the vaction schedules worked out so that when one senior person
    was returning, another would be getting off. We’ll be geytting a new captailn
    again when we go through Detroit

    . This is the third captain since I’ve been here.
    Last night at Cedarville the weahter forecasdt was for frost and 25. I know
    it got a little cool since I worked until midnight. The sky was crystal clear
    with millions of bright stars. It’s pretty had to beat the cool, clean air of
    the U.P. A place with a big sky and lots of room, what more could a person

    Love Tom

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