MacTuc – Let it roll…

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    In 2003 I left the classroom for the allure of technology.  Yes, it was a mistake to leave the kids in favor of the promised electronic panacea that has become the bane of quality education across the globe. Technology has its place, but it’s not the lead instrument in a classroom.

    On the plus side, the retirement pay after moving to the “dark side” as my friends and I often called administration can’t be argued with.


    Before I took the plunge into central administration and a year-round contract, summers were a time to get back to my roots as a farm boy, construction worker, and carpenter.

    My brother (not by birth, but by choice) Tad MacMillan and I started a partnership called MacTuc Environmental in the 1990s. 

    Tad and I took a HAZMAT class offered by the Natrona County Fire Department and earned our 40-hour HAZWOPPER certification. Most of the guys in the class were firemen, truckers, or oilfield workers and needed the training to meet company guidelines.

    As teachers, Tad and I were odd men out, but we got along famously with the other guys that entire week.


    After the class, we offered our own HAZMAT training at the James H. Moore Career Center. Part of that training was to get students in a Level A, SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) suit and have them do a few rudimentary tasks inside the claustrophobic “moon suit.”

    During the suit training, Riverton High School was holding a cheerleading clinic in the commons area of the Career Center. We spent our time in Tad’s classroom and shop in the back, and yes, you guessed it, we turned into teenagers early one afternoon.

    With one of the guys in the Level A suit holding a device that tested for poisonous gas, we interrupted the cheerleading session with the ominous words, “Nothing to see here, this is just a training, continue with your clinic.”


    As you might imagine the girls and their sponsors were less than thrilled to see something out of sci-fi horror flick walking through their workshop.

    It was a great break in the training.

    Though we were called MacTuc Environmental and did testing and sampling, most of our work was construction.


    We poured concrete, built decks, shops, garages, and houses, and did a little metal roofing as well.

    Tad had a rental north of Riverton. It was a trailer hooked to water, power, and septic system on a small section of ground. For anyone who has ever been a landlord, there are always problems.

    This problem came when the woman called Tad one afternoon and said her toilet wouldn’t flush. A simple problem most of the time turned into a lot more when he arrived at the site. It wasn’t the typical blockage you can clear with a plunger, this one was serious.

    Tad had the septic tank pumped and it didn’t solve the problem. He asked me to come out with him to evaluate the situation. As we crawled under the mobile home, the problem became obvious. The four-inch sewer drain was so packed with fecal material and other niceties that the pipe was sagging under the weight. There was a block in the line.

    A plumber’s snake was futile, so it was time to drop into the septic tank.

    This was an oversized septic tank, about six feet high and eight feet wide and long. We lifted the oversized manway and shined a light inside. There was just an inch or two of water on the bottom after the vacuum truck had cleaned out the sewage.

    Tad looked at me, I looked back and said, “It’s your rental.” Meaning he was the one going into the tank.

    I dropped a wood pallet on the floor of the tank so he wouldn’t have to stand in the water and lowered him in.

    Tad located the inlet, saw that it was blocked, and reached inside to pull the plug. As he did, a loud gurgling sound began to rumble in the line. Tad reached up to me and I jerked him out of the tank just before a deluge of fecal material shot into the tank. Problem solved.

    The guys at the church meeting we attended a few minutes later sat on the opposite side of us, I’m not sure why.

    That was just one of our many adventures.

    My favorite story took place at Gary Jennings’s farm.

    Gary hired us to strip the shingles off the roof of his main shop and replace them with metal. We had other projects, so we hired cousins Dustin and Chris Kennedy to strip the roof, load the shingles in a trailer and haul them to the landfill.

    When the boys were finished, Tad and I added new metal roofing to Gary’s shop.

    Chris and Dustin did a great job stripping the roof. There weren’t any nails left exposed and the bare 1×8, and 1x10s were ready for tar paper prior to screwing on the 28-foot steel panels.

    A problem quickly arose.

    Tar paper works best rolled lengthways on a roof starting at the bottom and overlapping each layer so any water that might seep through rolls over the top of the paper. The wind was the problem. No matter how many staples we drove into the long runs of 90-weight roofing felt (the proper term) the wind would catch it and rip it loose.

    Our solution was to roll the paper down the peak to the edge a couple of runs at a time, then cover it with metal before repeating the process.

    I was the bigger guy, so I carried the heavy rolls to the roof and Tad waited at the bottom.

    He had the worse job by far.

    Tad stood on a 2×10 plank laid across the sides of his trailer with just his chest and shoulders exposed above the edge of the roof.

    I pulled out a few feet of the felt and asked Tad if he was ready and he gave me that telltale look usually reserved for bull or bronc riders just before the chute is opened.

    With a deep breath and a quick shake of his head, he indicated I should roll the paper toward him.

    If you understand gravity, you understand acceleration and the roll picked up speed quickly before smacking him at full speed.

    To Tad’s credit, it never knocked him down, but it did deliver a wallop.

    Yes, I laughed each time we did it because of the look on his face, that’s what friends do.

    We finished the roof in a couple of days, and it still stands without any leaks or wear and tear two decades later.

    The adventures of a couple of teachers trying to make an extra buck. You just can’t make this stuff up.


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