Gary Reeder
I forgot about that. Working at the radio station I
Wednesday, September 12, 2018, 20:52

decided to keep my job (I was always getting in trouble for stunts on the air) I needed to make myself a bit more desirable. At that time every radio station had to have a 1st Class licensed man (chief engineer) on duty or on call. So I made a deal with the owner. He paid for me my normal salary and to take the CIE course in Dallas (8 weeks) to get my chief engineer's license and I would sign a 3 year contract with him. It was good for us both.

But, part of the agreement was when the radio tower got hit by lightning, which happened a lot in Tennessee, some dumb ass had to climb it and repair it or hopefully just change the lightbulbs. The tower at our station was fairly short, only 360 feet tall, so I did that 3 or 4 times each summer. Then word got out that there was this dumb ass that would climb towers for a fee. So I ended up climbing towers 7 or 8 times each summer. Our competitor station's tower was a bit over 1000 feet tall, actually about 1200 feet tall if I remember right. There are no(or weren't back then) ladder type rungs to climb. One has to reach up and grab the 4" diameter strut and pull himself up to the next one.

I had a belt to keep me from falling but I couldn't hook on until I got all the way to the top as the belt would loop in and out of the top bars and back onto the D ring in my belt. The tower was probably 12 foot square at the bottom and maybe 18" square at the top. The worst thing and really the only time I was really scared shitless was when I would hook on at the top. The belt was about 4 feet long so after hooking on I had to lean back into the belt and let go. It was only about a 1 foot drop back but that feeling of not knowing and not having control always puckered me up big time.

I carried a burlap sack behind me with the bulbs, each of which were about 2 feet long, plus the small bulbs for every 100 feet. The top of the tower was like a capsule that opened in the middle by a couple of wing nuts. Then the top half folded back over the bottom half and in most cases the 2 bulbs inside, each facing each other, were shattered and burnt from the lightning, which meant I had to dig the base of the bulb out with long needle nose pliers and heavy rubber gloves. Normally when I got to the top of the tower and opened the capsule, there would be a big wasp nest in there or it would be filled with spiders. Why they felt they had to build a nest 1200 feet in the air I never figured out but after the first time I carried a can of compressed air that when shaken turned ice cold and I froze the little bastards out.

I was doing a lot of groundhog hunting with Larry Farley back then and he would give me hell about the tower climbing all the time. But it was good money, usually $400 to $600 according to which tower and how tall. It took me about 3 hours to get to the top of the tall tower and maybe 2 hours to get to the top of our station's tower. Then usually an hour to fix the problem and about half the time getting back down.

Summer time wasn't so bad. With rubber soled shoes and gloves it was no big deal. But every once in a while, maybe twice a year I had to climb in the winter and usually after an ice storm. That was hard as I never really felt I had a good hold on the slippery steel bars. My wife at the time always knew when I had been up on one of the towers as when I got home she would look at me and ask if I climbed that damn tower again. Being the straight arrow that I am I told her no, why. She said I was white as a sheet when I got home. I would tell that it was from the gravity and being so high up. She would counter that with "bull, you were just scared shitless". No comment there.

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