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‘This Is Amazing’: World’s Best Linemen Put Their Skills to the Test at International Competition

The following article, 'This Is Amazing': World's Best Linemen Put Their Skills to the Test at International Competition, was first published on Flag And Cross.

Have a long power outage, and you’ll soon have some new super heroes.

They don’t wear capes. Instead, they’re decked out with hardhats and toolbelts, and they ride boom trucks. They’re the guys who maintain power lines.

Some call them “electric cowboys.” And they’re heroes, going to work in the whatever — snow, sleet, rain, heat, floods, and wildfires.

And like traditional cowboys, they have a rodeo. This year it was the 39th Annual International Rodeo and Expo, held earlier this month in Bonner Springs, Kansas.

There the best electric cowboys compete in climbing, rescuing pretend shock victims, and ascending and descending utility poles protecting an egg.

More than 1,300 linemen and apprentices, including some from Canada and Brazil, made up 732 teams to compete.

“Our career, we’ve actually made a sport out of it,” said Aaron Haderle, who is a manager at a Florida utility and who chairs the executive rodeo committee of the American Public Power Association, according to The Wall Street Journal.

For linemen’s rodeo competitors, the emphasis is speed and — as is mandatory in this trade of heights and high voltage — safety, safety, safety. Participants not only have to practice physical techniques to compete, but have to study rulebooks.

Linemen have a sense of community, not only among the linemen themselves but in the care they have for the localities where they build, maintain, and restore the vital power grid.

It’s no wonder that years ago, when the linemen finally got near our rural Arkansas house after weeks of no power due to an ice storm, my wife was blowing them kisses. I think she made them baked goods, too.

And it’s not only sufferers of power failures admiring linemen. Kids at the rodeo were awestruck, and the cry of “Daddy!” could repeatedly be heard, The Wall Street Journal said.

“In the eyes of children, these participants are somewhat heroic,” according to Steve Harmon, CEO of a Virginia electric cooperative. He’s also chair of a similar event in his state, the Gaff-n-Go Lineworker Rodeo.

The competition also gives linemen a unique satisfaction. “My family doesn’t get to see it, but now I have the opportunity to do it and showcase my abilities,”said Brock Baker, who works for of Xcel Energy in Amarillo, Texas.

Mike Rowe of TV’s “Dirty Jobs” fame, who promotes people entering the trades, posted on Facebook: “This is amazing. … This is what the trades need to do across the board – celebrate the skill that makes the underlying vocation cool.”

Among activities at the linemen’s rodeo was a timed climbing of a 40-foot pole to rescue “Rodeo Joe,” a mannequin portraying a shock victim.

In another competition, a lineman placed an egg in a bag, carried it up the pole, then carried it down in his mouth.

Perhaps no golfer studies a green for a difficult putt like a lineman examining the cartons of Best Choice Large Grade A eggs in order to find what Florida’s Clay Baxter of Duke Energy called “my perfect egg.”

And there are mystery challenges revealed just before the contest begins. This year one mystery feat was changing a utility pole crossarm; another was to replace jumpers on a pole.

But the real world awaits.

After a rodeo like this, no doubt the weather and normal breakdowns of their giant electrical systems will have these guys (and a few women) back on their trucks and out making things right.

So if your lights go out some stormy night, think about more than finding your flashlight or candles.

Somebody is out there working hard around the high voltage to put things back together. Probably in the rain, too.

So think about them, and thank them when you can, the electric cowboys.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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