I was a construction cowboy
I joined construction in the late 60’s, I was a high school dropout, I had hair down past my shoulders and was more or less disenfranchised with the establishment. Jobs were hard to come by and my lack of experience and political leanings ensured a difficult situation as far as gainful employment went.
But I did get hired to be a masons tender, specifically a mud boy for a group of malodorous Italian criminals who were waiting for their fake ID’s which would soon allow them to go to their real job, hijacking tractor trailers of merchandise heading for the mean streets and docks of NYC.
My day consisted of:
All day long I was subjected to the monkeys up on the scaffolds yelling “MUD” and “ACGUA” while dodging brick chunks and dried mortar pieces which were skillfully thrown by the banana eaters up on the scaffolds. An intelligent conversation was out of the question but the eminent use of profanity did not disappoint,Â most communication consisted of insults directed at my birth parents and the obliqueness of my tormentors never waned. This was city work and commercial building, not Yale University for construction workers. But I liked my job.
Our industry has always had its cowboys, indeed it was a lure for me to join the ranks of the sure and proud skilled craftsman who were united only in their surliness, riding the college boys and questioning the manliness of white collar workers was a team sport enjoyed by an obtuse group of practitioners, and therein lied the problem, I loved my job, I wanted to be good at it and I was eager to learn, even when it meant working 10 and 12 hour days and going to night school, which is exactly what I did.
Educational opportunities abounded and the public library gave me the boost I needed and the confidence I lacked to enroll in a technical college, my lack of a high school diploma was never mentioned and they never asked and I went on to receive my first certification in a professional capacity, I was now an estimator. Using this science I found a better job and became a public adjuster and a sales professional and still learned carpentry skills, my first prideful skills would not be left behind and to this day I consider myself a carpenter first.
Much has changed over the years and it is time to consolidate our industry, its time to raise the bar and set standards that are recognized nationally and internationally, cowboy construction has seen its day and this is a profession, not just a job. We need standards, we need solidarity and the old man against the world attitude has proven to be a myth, building is a science and must be treated as such.
Groups must put aside their differences and unite to offer education with merit, we need standards and we need to protect our investment of time and money spent on being a better than average participant.
Cowboys need to learn that breaking the rules and doing work with unproven methods is a false pride, an insecure esteem builder.
Being resistant to change, especially change that benefits our clients and the planet is not being independent, its being selfish and insecure.
We need to talk.