Meet Mark & Rodney
Meet Rodney & Mark, who are still climbing after all these years
Rodney admits it was scary. Mark was thinking that "feet are made to be on the ground."
That was 33 and 25 years ago, respectively, when these two linemen were rookies, climbing power poles for the first time. Rodney and Mark now are line crew foremen for TNMP in Friendswood and still well-respected for their climbing skills.
Wider usage of bucket trucks in recent years changed their profession; bucket trucks are easier and faster than climbing. Thus, not everyone is as experienced climbing these days as are Rodney and Mark.
"We may have had one bucket truck," Rodney says of his early days, "and the foreman would still tell you to park the bucket and get your (climbing) tools on."
When the foremen were rookies
Mark admits he was afraid of heights when he was hired by the line department after working two years as a TNMP meter reader.
"I got hired on," he recalls, "and I got my tools. I went out to the job and the foreman says, 'Climb up there and help that guy.'
"I didn't get too high. I didn't want to get too high."
Rodney's early experiences came with a minor surprise: He was a natural.
"I was actually very good at it," he says. "It came out OK. I was young back then. I didn't have fears, really."
Learning from the veterans
That foreman who had Mark climbing on Day 1 is named Gary. He's still a foreman in Friendswood and is a bit of a legend among TNMP linemen.
"To me," Mark says of Gary, "his train of thought is, 'If you can't do (the job) off the pole, you can't do it out of the bucket.' Hats off to him."
Rodney says appreciating the input from experienced linemen, along with physical strength, is key to becoming a good climber.
"It's self-motivation, figuring out all the right things to do," he says. "And listening to older guys who tell you what to do and how to do it."
Tough guys of the rodeo
Mark and Rodney have been able to experience a tradition among power company linemen called a lineman's rodeo - competitions held within companies or between companies.
The competition includes efficiency in working on equipment that actually helps deliver power. But climbing is a big part of it, too, including what are called a hurt-man rescue and a speed climb.
"They call it a speed climb," Mark says, "but really, you climb up the pole with a basket with an egg in it. At the top, you put the egg in your mouth, hang up the basket and climb back down without breaking the egg."
Good linemen have to bring their best game to a big rodeo, especially when competing as teams against other companies.
"All the linemen are in one area and you're competing against each other," Rodney says. "The whole time you're there, it's intense. It's a lot of fun."