I know some folks believe that work can’t be fun. If you don’t enjoy your vocation you need to find something else to work at that you will enjoy. Life must be miserable if you dread going to work. Now don’t misunderstand doing masonry can have its tough days. I have felt the bear’s breath on the back of my neck plenty of times and actually got caught more than once. If you don’t know what getting “bear caught” means ask an older bricklayer or tender. I’m sure they will share the meaning with you.
Heck, if you are not scared of work, they may help you discover it on your own. Yes, there are times masonry work, while rewarding, is just plain tough. I remember many years ago building manholes. Some were as short as 4’-0” but some could be 20’-0” or more. The temperature could get into the upper 90’s and with water seeping out of the ground everywhere the humidity would be 100% and feel much higher. When everyone started using precast manholes, I never shed a tear. Because I was very slim years ago, unbelievable right, I would draw the very tight sites or have to walk the 12” CMU foundations up and out of the ditch.
What kept things going was humor, or rather funny things being said or done. Not all that long ago several of us were on an email chain discussing some beautiful masonry on one of our alma maters. For three of us, the conversation soon turned to sports and what our mascots could and would do to the others. Our state association executive director got a little concerned with his perception of what was being said. Please do not believe that him being from New England had anything to do with it. Our ED called someone else that had been in the chain early on and asked them to check on us to make sure we were OK with each other as we were using threatening language. When I got the call I explained that when you get three old brickies on the line together we will have fun. That’s exactly what it was. A whole bunch fun as we sat in our on offices laughing at what was said and making up more. It was and is the humor created by the workers on the job site.
One of the things that happened were a lot of nicknames were assigned to new employees. Way back in the day nicknames could originate from their heritage such as Irish, Italian or Spanish. Some might be based on where you were from such as Hillbilly. Some might be based on their actions such as Fly or Chicken Neck. Then some needed no explanation such as 3 Fingers, Moon or Half Moon. I’ll just leave those alone. This was before political correctness, perceived bigotry or hatefulness. None of that was allowed in our masonry crew. If someone had a problem with animosity to others it was soon corrected or that someone was gone. It was like a family where we will fight amongst ourselves but no one else can pick on our crew. That always was another type of fun. The competition between crafts. But again, hatefulness was not tolerated. Oh, by the way, did I tell what a carpenter really is? They are just bricklayers with their brains knocked out. Of course, carpenters will reverse that and say the same thing about bricklayers.
I hoped everyone continues to enjoy building masonry buildings and having fun while doing it. Sometime in future columns, I’ll share some of the jokes we used to play on each other. Remember to laugh and enjoy bricklaying as the #1 craft. Just make sure you leave out the meanness or hatefulness. If you have any unique nicknames send them to me at MCAA and we will share them in later columns.
Well, I gotta go. Someone screwed up the bond. Hey Kid, go get me the block stretcher out of the bottom of my toolbox. Shhhhh, I hope my rubber snake doesn’t scare him.
Raise the line and come on around the corner.