While waiting to take pictures of the Homecoming court. I was talking to Coach Dutton, (who preformed double duties tonight, coaching the team and escorting his beautiful daughter at halftime), I asked him "could we win the game?" He was straight up with me. He said he had "watched a lot of film", and it was going to be tough. But it "was do-able." Then he added, "It will take a special kind of night."
Well that's what we had.
A Special kind of Night.
Congratulations to Coach Dutton and the Red Devils on their 42-20 Homecoming win. Congratulations to all the lovely young ladies on the Homecoming Court and especially to our beautiful Homecoming Queen 2016, Miss Taylor Lemay.
photographing the LCHS Senior Who's Who, all the clubs and organizations, Class Officers, Mr and Miss LCHS, the LCHS JROTC teams, the Track Team, and some LCHS Softball game action shots. I've certainly enjoyed myself.
I got to meet and work with the LCHS Band Monday. A great bunch of kids that played so well Friday night, and performed well. I was really impressed. The Red Hots are amazing. I love the LCHS Band. Have a great season.
It's so good to be home and at work with the Class of 2016. Here are just a few of my favorites from this weekend. I look forward to working with all the guys this week. It's going to be a great season of senior portraits.
I took a ride up to Atmore, Alabama Saturday night to see Mike "Tut" Turrentine put his Camaro back on the track at the Atmore Dragway, his first time on the track since we made the transfer to Pensacola from Courtland. He split the money in the finals. Good job.
I don’t know much about the
boilers, and I’m not as emotionally attached to the boilers as the paper
machines. But I do know, (and the operators on the boilers will remind you
right quick), that you can’t run a paper machine without steam.
On November 24th
I went over and talked with boiler operator Tony Evans about the shut down of
the #2 Recovery Boiler. Shutting down a boiler is not like a paper machine
where there’s a siren and the sheet breaks and the dryer cans come to a halt.
There’s a lot more involved in shutting down a boiler.
Tony has worked on the
boilers since 1990. He showed me on the reports when the first liqour gun was
taken out at 11:20pm on the 23rd, then the second, the third, and then the last
liqour gun was removed at 12:03 am on November 24th, (that was 12:03
on the 23rd in papermill time. The new day starts at 6am).
Tony explained, after the
liqour guns are removed, the boiler is fed natural gas until the bed burns out.
Then the gas guns are pulled out one by one,the last was pulled at 8am on Sunday the 24th. The boiler was
officailly “off-line”. Tony showed me a trend graph on the computer where a
green line fell straight to zero. It was no longer producing steam. It was in
The #2 recovery boiler was
first fired on Oct 4th 1979. I heard a great story while talking to
Tony on Nov 25th 2013, I heard that when the #2 Recovery Boiler was
to start up, the ignitors wouldn’t fire, so the gas guns were turned on and a
mop was set on fire and threw into the boiler and “Whoosh”! A dragon was born.
While early on in my career
I learned paper machines were refered to as ladies, like ships, boilers were
generally refered to as “Dragons”. Living , lava spewing, sulfer spitting,
For a lot of years, after
starting at the mill, I just heard the word ‘Powerhouse”. I didn’t know what
that meant. When our machine was forced to shut down unexpectantly, I heard the
old hands say “the powerhouse shut us down” or, as I remember one day,standing in the control room of the #31
machine I heard someone ask our machine manager LaRue Amos, “Why can’t we start
up Abe?”, and he pointed at the red phone on the wall (a direct hotline to the
powerhouse) and impatiently screamed, “I’ma waiting on ‘em to give me some
In 2000, when IP announced
the shut down of the #31 machine and that all of us the #31 department would be
displaced and have to “bump” to other departments, somebody said we needed to
try and go to the powerhouse, “they made more money.”. So I went with a friend
“across the tracks” and checked it out one night. As we entered the building,
the walls were literally shaking, and ground was rumbling. We walked up the
stairs to the second floor and watched workers dressed in full flame retardent
gear dodge smelt flung from thespouts
with a vengence. Sulfer burned our noses. Somebody said, if you feel something
drip on you, that’s green liqour and it will eat you up, wash it off with
I left that night and
thought “I don’t care how much they pay them, it’s not enough.”
While talking to Tony on
November 24th I heard another story from one of the original #2
start up team members Morris Williams, he told, ‘Hell, they nearly burnt this
boiler down before it ever started up.” He said, “well, while it was still
under construction, they had a turpentine leak and it was leaking into the
drain system. A contractor lit a acetylene torch and threw his match into the
drain. And it all went “Whoosh”. He pointed to the ceiling and said, “Donnie
Garth was on the 13th floor and was trapped.There was so much black smoke billowing up he
couldn’t get down.A crane operator ran
his headache ball up there and Donnie jumped on it like a flea on a dog and
rode it all the way to the ground.”
I had to follow up on that
story, so I called Donnie up on the phone. I said, “Donnie, I want to hear the
real story about this fire and you riding that headache ball down.”
Donnie laughed for a full
30seconds. He said, “man, I always tell
everybody that I jumped out on that ball and waved at the people on the ground
as I was riding down. But to tell the truth. Man they sent a basket up there,
about 2 foot wide, and it was swinging around and I was afriad to grab on to
it. They Finally lowered it back down and then sent it up with a guy in it and
he grabbed on to the beams and told me to get in.” He laughed some more, he
said, “Brooks, I latched onto that thing so tight my knuckles were white and when
that operator dropped it my eyes were squinced so tight that when we got to the
ground I didn’t even know it. They was saying ‘let go Donnie, you on the ground
now. Let go’.”
We laughed across the phone
connection together. He said, “man that was back in ‘bout 78 I think.”
Tony told me that the #2
Recovery was a “sweet” running boiler. (If there is such a thing). “As long as
you kept it clean, it would sit here and make 450 pound steam all day, day in
and day out.” He added, “a boiler is just like a human, it’s got to have air to
He showed me on the computer
screens that day where they were in the process of a “water-wash”, and he told me it
would be pumped full of a mixture of water and a perservative. “
I asked him, “what are we
perserving it for?”
Tony just shook his head no,
he didn’t know. But we both knew this dragon would never breathe fire again.
The #3 Recovery boiler
The #3 Recovery boiler was
first fired in 1991, it was about the tallest building on the mill site, and it
was in essence, alive. The first time I
ever entered the building was in 2008 when I went to work in the High Pressure
Powerhouse Maintenance crew.
The first day I was assigned
a job in the building, myself and a couple of other maintenance workers approached
the building, and the walls were violently shaking. Somebody said it was “alittle
upset”. I could feel the ground rumbling underneath my steel-toe workboots. It
sounded like a war was going on inside. Explosions boomed one right after the
other. I asked my co workers if it was safe to go in there. One of them pointed
at a red beacon on the wall and told me if that light started flashing and a
bunch of sirens went off to get the hell out and run as fast as I could. I ask
him which way I should run and he said, just AWAY, any direction would be good.
The second floor of the #3
Recovery boiler, (where the smelt spouts ooze melted lava into the
dissolvingtank) is the only place in
the whole paper mill where I saw grown men scream like little girls and run
blind through sulfer smoke for the exits.
One day me and Grassy were
on the top of the recovery boiler and I was welding down some grating on a
catwalk. I stopped my weld and raised my hood and told him“its awful hard to weld on something that’s
moving.” The whole building was swaying. We could hear and feel the explosions
He pointed out across the
bluish green Tennesse river and said, “Brooks, they say if this thing blows up,
it would take a week for the river to fill up the hole it’sgonna leave.”
I looked up and followed the
steam vapors from the stacks into the blue sky, “Reckon where that would put
He held on to his hardhat
and leaned his head back, craning his neck as far as it would go and said,
“well, they say the stratosphere starts about 5 miles up,” he lowered his head
and brushed some ash off his sleeve, “ I figure whats left of us would end up
somewhere up there.”
I lowered my hood and tried to weave my weld back and forth
with the buildings sway.
I worked in the High Pressure crew for 3 years and noticed
that almost every worker in the powerhouse crews carried a visible burn scar,
whether it be on an arm, neck or face, that somewhere in the past, a glob of
fire had somehow found its way behind a face shield or through a gap in
protective clothing, or simply burned its way through to find flesh. .
As I sit and write this now, I know each one of those brave
men and women in the powerhouse crews bears a new scar, one that’s not visible
on the outside, its located right in the
middle of their hearts.
On Feb 4th, 2014 at 9:35 am the #3 Recovery
boiler went off line for good. Its high pressure steam no longer needed in a
mill with 5 dead paper machines..
It’s quite there now. A dragon sleeps.
To all those that have tended these boilers all the years,
my hat’s off to you. You were a brave, determined and dedicated employee to
come in everyday and do what you did for a living. There can never be enough thank yous said.
Back a long time ago, when I was just starting out, there was a little skinny outfielder named Denton Bowling that played for the LCHS Red Devils Baseball team. His momma said, "If he gets in the game, take his picture for me."
Now Denton is all grown up and is the Head Coach of the 2014 LCHS Red Devils Baseball team.
Last Saturday we enjoyed a nice warm day and I took the team portraits and shot some of the Red vs White game. Good luck Denton and the LCHS Red Devils. Have a great season.
It was nice and warm, but windy. Which made it tuff to photograph the lovely but long haired LCHS Diamond Dolls. But we got it done. Have a fun year ladies.
I was visited today by 4 of my former LCHS Seniors, All in the US Navy now!
Caitlin and Cassie Currier, Skyler Bennett and Brittany Rutherford. Caitlin is in for the holidays from Virginia, Cassie from Pensacola, Skyler from Hawaii and Brittany from San Diego.
Cassie and Skyler are married now, and Caitlin is engaged to Thomas Talbot, who is from Virginia. I asked Brittany if she was engaged or married and she said, "I'm working on it."
I told them all how proud I was of them. "Moulton's own little Navy division." God Bless ya'll. Thank you for serving our country.
Also visiting this week from Virginia is Stephen Williams. He is a senior at Forest Park HS in Virginia. His mom, LCHS graudate Tammy Steele Williams brought him by for portraits this morning. What a fine looking young man he as grown to be.
Monday night was the first LCHS Basketball game I was able to cover this year and what a festive night it was! It was great to see all the LCHS Band, Red Hots, Cheerleaders, students decked out in Christmas attire, enjoying the Red Devils victories.
I kept waiting to hear the phones ring. A last minute call of reprieve, a pardon, somebody saying it was all a bad dream. But it never came, and at 7:01 this morning Machine Tender David Heron signaled the backtender he was about to blow the sheet down for the last time. We all looked on. There was nothing we could do to stop it.
A little piece of history torn off to treasure.
What we did.
David washes her down one last time, while the reel drum is stopped for eternity.
I saw the #33 Machine for the first time in 1982,when I was a 18 year old construction worker working for the Brown and Root constuction company, building the #34 machine, (which would sit right beside her), I poked my head through a hole in the wall one day and saw her sitting there, just a rolling away, making paper; that's what she did.
The #33 Machine started up in 1975, and ran wide open until November 19th 2013.
38 years, she did what she was designed to do.
Today, I watched and photographed it's final shutdown.
I'm not gonna lie, it made me cry.
6 years of my 30 year career at the mill, I spent working in the 33 complex.
I saw three friends and co-workers lose thier lives on the floors of this machine.