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Loving Line Work

While
it seems as though computers are taking over everything, keeping
the electricity flowing still means climbing poles, braving bitter
weather, and working with electric current that can kill instantly
with one wrong move.

"You’ve got to love it,
or you couldn’t do it at all," says Dennis Yates, a senior
line technician with Nolin Rural Electric Cooperative, based in
Elizabethtown. "If you’re a lineman, it’s in your blood. This
is what God intended me to do."

Dennis was one of three
lineworkers I talked with at Nolin, a co-op that serves 26,000
homes and businesses in nine counties, and employs 23 lineworkers.
I went to the co-op for the interview to learn about these guys
who seem to thrive in conditions the rest of us try to avoid.

"There’s something about
being a lineman that’s a proud situation to be in," says Jim
Helm, a senior service technician at Nolin. "People look up
to linemen as doing something special."

All three of the lineworkers
trace their interest back to childhood. As a teenager Dennis tore
apart a TV and a toaster to see how they worked. Jim remembers
helping his father, an electrician, by climbing a pole to replace
bulbs during a demolition derby at the county fair.

The third worker, line
technician Diana Hawkins-Sullivan, stands out for being a woman in
an almost exclusively male occupation. She remembers helping with
electrical work around the house while she was growing up, and
she’s always loved being outdoors.

A recurring theme in our
discussion was keeping up with new technology, as computers and
electronics replace maps and mechanical switches. Nolin President
and CEO Mickey Miller says that today, "Line work is not just
manual labor. These days we won’t consider hiring someone unless
they have some college."

Although keeping up with
technical changes is crucial, safety dominates the thinking of the
lineworkers.

"You have to stay focused all the time,"
says Diana. "You can’t ever let your guard down."

Paul Wesslund

Editor

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