My first summer after graduating from high school I got a job with a company that built road beds (subsoil) to be paved. The job was “running blue tops”. After the roadway had been cleared of brush and trees, clay would be brought in to help build the road. Then a surveyor would check the lay of the road bed and set stakes in the ground that we used as a guide to cut the road to the right level and angle with a motor grader. The top of the stakes were painted blue, so they were called blue tops. We ran when the clay that was cut from the subsoil was being pushed over the blue tops. Marking each blue topped stake was a piece of board stuck in the ground beside it. We had to pull the rough stake out of the ground so the dirt could be push over the top of the blue top. Then we had to find and uncover the surveyors stake; marking it again with the rough stake. After that, we would have to run ahead and be ready to do the same for the next blue top.
We started work at day break and worked until what the boss called “dark thirty.” When we got there in the mornings we ran until the day started to heat up. My shirt would get wet with sweat immediately and even when we quit running it would stay wet because the sun would be up and hot. Someone brought a thermometer one day and it reached 126 degrees working amid all the heavy equipment. As the day started to cool we went back to the work that was part running, so I was still wet. At the end of the day when it was turning dark and most of the crew had left, we would have to start shoveling sand. It would be dark before we left the job site; dark thirty.
The four of us that worked together had a three gallon water cooler. In the morning we put a block of ice into it and filled it with water. Crushed ice would not last until night. Through the day we would refill the cooler two more times. At the end of the day the block of ice would be melted and the water if not completely gone would be almost gone. Four of us would drink a three gallon cooler dry three times a day. Of course part of the time it had ice in it.
The first day of work on the road crew taught me why the old farmers at the country stores wore long sleeved khaki shirts. I had worn a short sleeved, light weight shirt. From my shirt sleeves down my arms were cooked. My upper arms and back had bad sun burn through the shirt. If I had worn a long sleeved, medium weight shirt, I would have been protected from the sun. Also, I would have stayed cooler because the heavier material would have held more sweat longer. I had worn a hat so my face and neck were protected somewhat.
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