A Pain Killing Story
By: Harvey Cappel PE, author “True Story I Swear It-Maybe”
Many of you know me as a professional engineer and some know me as a story teller. The two make for a not-so-great (for marriage) combination according to my wife. Her advice is to never marry an engineer that is a story teller; the engineer thinks he knows everything and the story teller never shuts up. That’s me.
So here today is one of the stories from my book “True Story I Swear It-Maybe”.
This is a true story about my first job just out of Marine Corps full time active duty. I was married and had plans to work full time and try to go to college part time. Like all good days in life, someone helps. In this case a friend of a friend helped me get a job working for the Highway Department in Port Neches. Today we call it TEX-DOT but not then.
The Highway Department was building a new freeway type road around the south west side of Beaumont. Today the road is called Cardinal Drive; it connects Hwy. 347 to IH-10. Then it was a marsh full of tall weeds, small wild animals and snakes and some said alligators. My job was to be an inspector that watched the contractor to see that the work was done in accordance with the design drawings and the “Green Book” code.
The first contract was for about one mile of the road. The work included clearing the land, installing a drainage system (pipes etc.) and finally a concrete paved road. The drainage system started in the middle with small pipes then large pipes then larger concrete underground boxes going both ways and ending at a large drainage canal on each end.
This meant daily shooing away (often killing) the small animals, snakes and some said alligators. This long (about one mile) underground drainage system had to be constructed without leaks or flaws. Obviously this meant that at some point someone had to inspect it from the inside.
You thinking what I’m thinking? You’re right; the low man on the totem pole gets this job. Actually they asked two of us to do it, me and Kenneth Seagrest a big guy. So we suited up; short wading boots, flashlights, some long sticks to kill snakes with and a .22 caliber pistol (mine) for just in case. The last thing I wanted to do was shoot a gun inside a pipe that had square concrete inlet boxes about every 300 feet. I could see the bullet going down the pipe bouncing off the round walls till it hit the square box walls and then coming back down the pipe to us. So I’m not going to shoot the pistol inside the pipe.
We started where the pipe was only 36 inches in diameter where we inspected behind us with a flashlight and crawled forward to the larger pipes. No problem for two young dudes, one fresh out of Marine Corps advanced infantry training the other a big bully. As the pipes got bigger there was water on the bottom a few inches deep. And then it happened we saw a snake. No problem; we just killed it with our big sticks. And then we saw another and another and then the water got deeper. It got difficult to kill a snake swimming in water with a stick. And then the real problem started; the snakes we couldn’t kill were under the water we had to wade thru.
We got to get out of here. This is too dangerous. So at the next square inlet box we tried to get out. Even the big guy could not get the iron drain grate to open, so we hollered for help but no one came. Remember we are underground in a half mile long drainage systems with two outlets; one behind us with some live snakes that were really mad at us for hitting them with a stick and the other end at least a quarter mile away full of snakes and some say alligators.
Remember what I said about shooting the pistol as a last resort, well it’s now about choosing snake bites or dodging bouncing bullets. Lucky for us I am a Marine Corps trophy and medal winning good shot with a rifle (number 2 out of about 200) and not bad with a pistol so I can hit a snake close up. And I did. I started shooting the snakes and killing um dead. Next problem, the pistol only holds 9 rounds and I did not bring any extra ammunition for a last resort use, so we still used the big sticks when we could; big snakes are easier to kill swimming than small snakes.
Finally we get almost to the end; we can see daylight but we’re not there yet and only one bullet left, honest. Remember me saying, some say alligators, well guess what? Between us and the exit canal we see two large eyes floating in the water. The concrete box at this point is about ten foot wide but not, in my mind, wide enough to wade, in two foot deep water, around an alligator.
One bullet left; can I hit that sucker and will it kill it? What other choice did I have? I shot it, it did not move; I killed it dead in one shot, thank goodness.
We cautiously walked to where the, assumed to be dead, alligator was and proceeded to raise its tail out of the water with our big sticks. It had no tail. We could clearly see its eyes and the front of its head but no tail behind it.
Finally I put the stick directly under its head to lift it that way. I did, saw it was in reality a very large frog with big eyes so I took it home and ate it.
Needless to say the Highway Department did not pay enough for us to go thru the other pipe and no one else ever did either.
If you read this and thought about your problems, while doing so, you really do have problems. Might call for an in office visit; as soon as I get a license for such I will let you know. If you liked this, my book has 82 more stories. (harveycappel.com)