My dad is 94 now. When I go back to Gage County, Nebraska, to visit him, we always take a couple drives around the countryside. We drive by the farmsteads of various ancestors, drive to Pleasant View Cemetery, drive around a couple little towns to see how they’re doing, drive by places we lived, drive around looking at the crops ... and checking out substations and power lines.

“Boy, look at that ... they replaced a bunch of poles on this line ... and they’re nice quality poles, too.” That’s the kind of thing my dad, a retired lineman, will say.

One time that I can remember, we got a little lost. He’s still pretty sharp about where we’re at – he drove all over every rural road in a half dozen counties, working for Nebraska Public Power District. 

 This one time, we’d pulled in to check out Rock Creek Station, an old stage and Pony Express station (where Wild Bill Hickok started his gunslinger career by killing David McCanles over some problem or other). We entered one way and exited another and as we were pulling out of the state park, I asked him which way to turn. He wasn’t sure. We sat there a second, then Dad looked up and recognized the power lines. “Oh... I know where we’re at. Turn left.”

I was always proud of my dad – that was a hard job. And it was scary when we were kids and he’d have to go to work because of a storm. There are incredible, booming thunderstorms back there. It will be a calm and sultry summer day, then in the late afternoon the thunderheads will appear on the horizon and then the wind comes up and the storms move in, arcing lightning every which way, blowing hard, the thunder shaking everything.

Somewhere in his district the power would go off during every serious storm (and there were a lot). He’d roll out and go to work. It couldn’t wait until daylight – hundreds of dairy farmers would have herds of cows aching to be milked ... not having electricity was serious.

It’s not just those overtime nights. Don’t tell his bosses, but I got to ride along in the big truck once in a while. I watched him meticulously go through procedures, as he was approaching a downed line or a busted pole, to stay safe.

And I saw him working hard; manhandling situations. I saw him climb poles with a belt and shanks ... I’ve tried that. It ain’t easy.

He worked hard and we were also conscious of the fact that there was always some risk, working with electricity. He was very careful and he was the one to chide the younger crew members about following procedure. But you always worried a little bit about your dad doing that job.

The point? 

Why in the heck would people take their frustrations over Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and power shutoffs on linemen? They’re among those who should be thanked. They’re out there, earning a wage, in bad weather and dealing with high voltage ... trying to keep the system working. When shutoffs are mandated by their higher-ups, they’re still out scouting and doing repairs as necessary.

We’ve taken our turn complaining about and criticizing PGE – the corporate entity – and the Public Utilities Commission. 

But workers? They’re the best. Please be nice to them.

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Thumbs Up: Here’s a welcome to the delegation from our Yuba City sister city, Toride City, Japan. It’s the 30th such visit since we became sister cities in 1989 to promote friendship and understanding.

Arriving Tuesday will be 20 students, from 13 to 16 years old, and six adults, along with the mayor of Toride City and members of the city’s board of education and city hall.

Here’s hoping they enjoy their stay.

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Ugh: In honor of the rock ‘n’ roll casino about to open, rock ‘n’ roll jokes:

– What did Steven Tyler call his cook book? “Wok this Way.”

– How do you get a guitarist off your front porch? Pay him for the pizza.

– My friend and I started a band called “Duvet.” We’re a cover band.

– Whats the difference between a rock musician and a 14-inch pizza? The pizza can feed a family of four.

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