2008.08.13 Rubber Dump roadkill

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

I’m wondering this morning if John Hanawalt thinks I’m nuts. Well sure he does, along with a lot of other people, but I mean specifically because of what I said to him Saturday.

I was at the Morenci Sportsman’s Club to take photos at the annual Kids’ Day event. The Wildlife Encounters show had just ended and a few people were trading stories while the speaker packed up her gear. I can’t remember which of her animals she was talking about when she mentioned something about road kill.

I turned to John and said, “You’re a specialist when it comes to road kill, aren’t you, John?”

I don’t know how he responded, but he didn’t deny the statement.

I reminded him about the time that dead raccoons and possum were collected and hidden under someone’s front porch.

I’m not proud to say I was a participant, but I was there in the collection-and-delivery vehicle, traveling some local roads in search of stench.

I’m going too far back in history to get the details right.

The year must have been 1968: out of high school and making money at a summer job before heading to college in the fall. It was the Rubber Dump, as many employees fondly called Morenci Rubber Products. I was good friends with the Bryners and plant manager Doc Bryner hired me to work on the press line.

I can still recall the nostril-piercing smell of hot rubber and the incredible heat of the press line on a stifling summer day.

I remember the searing hot metal molds when they came out of the press, but the scars have all disappeared from my wrist burns.

It was a miserable job and always somewhat of a mystery. How were these strange sheets of rubber used, anyway?  It always seemed like we were creating hundreds of door mats that wouldn’t really function well as door mats.

Near the time clock was a list of job openings. One day there was a vacancy in the mixing department and someone convinced me to go ahead and bid on it. It was a ticket off the press line and it even paid a little more.

How could a rookie summer kid work his way up so fast? Maybe other people knew better.

My father told me that Doc had some reservations about giving me that job. He just wanted me to be very careful and pay attention to what I was doing.

I went to work on a mixing machine where materials were added to raw rubber. A certain formula of additives created a particular grade of rubber. The product was formed as it passed between two huge rollers and the danger existed of losing an arm if the rubber, as it was cut, wrapped around the operator’s arm and pulled him in.

There was a safety bar overhead to pull down and halt the operation, but I imagined that I would have to somehow activate it with my feet as I was pulled in. Help me, OSHA! It makes me squirm to think back on this job, but I mastered it and mixed some good rubber before leaving for school with both arms intact.

I’m sure John Hanawalt was there the evening I took off running across the front lawn of the factory. It was dinner break at the picnic table and I made some smart remark. Soon someone was chasing me, but all in good fun.

Then came the “ummph!” feeling of getting the wind knocked out of you. There was a wire cable around the edge of the property. It was nearly dark on the second shift break and I ran into that wire while traveling at a pretty good clip.

John must have been there to watch my sudden halt and of course he was present when I had to be one of the boys and say, “Sure, I want to go collect dead coons to put under Pete’s porch.”

Saturday, when I reminded John about that incident, when I accused him of being a road kill connoisseur, I even told him where the house was located and asked him, “Don’t you remember?”

He seemed a little confused about the event and now I know why.

He couldn’t have been there, could he? He had just finished his sophomore year in high school and he certainly wasn’t working in the Rubber Plant mixing room.

So tell me, John, how do you know so much about road kill?

  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Front.sculpta
    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
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    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • Shadow.salon
    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
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    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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