Viewpoint
Rawhide!

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Exec. Editor

 

Richard Johnstone

Through rain and wind and weather, modern-day cowboys keep the power rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ across the landscape. On May 19 and 20, you can see some of the very best in action at Meadow Event Park north of Richmond.

As a small boy back in the early 1960s, I had several favorite TV shows, most of them Saturday morning cartoons. With nighttime TV viewing restricted by chores, homework and early bedtime, I nonetheless had a primetime favorite I was allowed to watch: “Rawhide.”

This show absolutely had it all. Let’s start with characters that a 19-inch screen could barely contain: tough but fair trail boss Gil Favor ... hard-charging Rowdy Yates (played by a very young Clint Eastwood) ... and cranky cook Wishbone, his wagon seemingly filled to overflowing with every ingredient and implement of cookery needed to feed dozens of hungry trail hands, three times a day for weeks on end.

Then there were the great stories told week after week, with dashes of high drama, splashes of low comedy, generous stretches of suspense, and lots of lively gunplay.

There was also the show’s stark cinematography, serving up Western landscapes of mountains and mesas, flatlands and rivers, deserts and dust, and lots and lots of cattle: an ocean of horns and hooves bobbing toward the horizon, a dramatic tableau of flickering black-and-white images, bathing the eager eyeballs of my 6-year-old self.

Then there was the show’s calling card, the signature song by Frankie Laine. “Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’, though the streams are swollen, keep them doggies rollin’, Rawhide! Through rain and wind and weather, hell-bent for leather. ...”

The show is now a distant-albeit-pleasant memory, but the spirit of Rawhide lives on. In your community. In your neighborhood. In fact, at your electric cooperative. Specifically, in the guise of the line-crew members who keep the lights on for you and 1.3 million other Virginians who receive their electricity from one of the state’s 13 member-owned electric cooperatives.

When you think about it, there’s a lot in common between a trail hand and a lineworker. There’s a love of the outdoors. There’s work that is physically and mentally demanding. There’s the need to get the job done through “rain and wind and weather,” and, for that matter, through hurricanes and ice storms and blizzards, too.

And most sobering, the work is unforgiving and dangerous, where even one small mistake could leave you maimed, or dead.

Later this month, on May 19 and 20, over 150 lineworkers from several states in our region will gather at Meadow Event Park north of Richmond, and take part in the friendly competition of a “lineman’s rodeo.” The lines atop the 40-foot poles won’t be energized, of course, but the lineworkers will be, excited to demonstrate their tremendous skills and safe work practices in front of hundreds of cheering family members, friends, co-workers and members of the public.

As they take part in timed events that simulate some of the challenges they face on the job, these modern-day cowboys will demonstrate a few of the key skills a lineworker must have, from climbing poles, to changing out cross-arms, to rescuing an injured “colleague,” in this case a mannequin.

Though the events are timed, the most important “S” word is not Speed; it’s Safety. Since every move could be your last, lineworkers focus first on safety, for themselves, their crew mates, and the members of the public they serve. And they do so every second of every minute of every hour they’re on the job, day or night, good weather or bad.

So if you’d like to see some of today’s best “high-flying cowboys,” join us on May 19 and 20 at Meadow Event Park, as electric cooperatives from Virginia, Maryland and Delaware proudly host the 15th annual Gaff-n-Go Lineman’s Rodeo.

Details are available at www.gaff-n-go.com.

 

 

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