Friday, March 7, 2014

Friday, in a Flash

You guys today have it soft. In may day when we made steel, we faced steel. Hot, molten steel. Nowadays somebody sits in a booth watching a computer screen and bragging about making steel. He ain't making steel; he's watching steel being made.

You make steel with fire. You make steel with sweat. And blood. Sometimes too much blood. Men have been hurt; hurt bad making steel. Killed too. And a horrible death it is, made more horrible by the knowledge that you can't do anything but watch a good man die. And pray with his widow over the few ashes they found to bury.

But we built a country with that steel. Bridges and ships and cars and buildings. We didn't face down the Devil himself twice a day for nothing. We had a job to do and risks to take to get it done. We didn't punch a clock and a few buttons. We made steel.

And that Steel made the world. Some was hard steel; fighting steel. Our steel made battleships and aircraft carriers. And bombs. And guns; millions and millions of guns. And tanks, trucks, helmets and Jeeps. We won wars on two continents with that steel, and then threw it back in in Korea, and won there too. Vietnam was fought with our steel as well.

And then we started to slow down. Other places started making steel cheaper. They started to make it with more computers and less blood. Which was a good thing I guess. Except for the men who made the steel.

Some stayed with it. Some retired instead of taking other work. Others moved on to different industries, different jobs, different careers. But they were never the same men. After you've made steel doing anything else is just a job; a way to put food on the table and a roof over your head. But it doesn't put a fire in your belly.

I tried other jobs; I know. But first I was one of the ones who thought the Mill would be back. They can't make steel without me I said. They can't build the world with out me I said. They'll be back for me I said.

Well, I found out. They made steel, built a world and never thought a lick about me. I watched the Mill fall apart for a few years, and then disappear altogether. I watched them build a shopping mall- A SHOPPING MALL- where I made steel. The grandkids sit on the spot where I stood and watched Bobby Johnson breathe his last and sip cold Cokes.

I tried other jobs. Jobs I hated; jobs I detested, jobs I despised. Then I tried retirement; that I didn't hate.

But it wasn't making steel.

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