Apr 4, 2006

Gaff-n-Go puts it on the line

by Matt Warner
“These guys work 40 yards off the ground with a product that is as hot as the surface of the sun, invisible, and moves at the speed of light,” said Grey Kelley, Manager of Member Services at the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative, of the linemen competing in the fourth annual Gaff-n-Go rodeo, which was held at Liberty University over the weekend.

A lineman is exactly what the name implies, a man who works on a line, power lines to be specific – the product being high voltage electricity. 

Kelley said that linemen will wake up in the middle of the night, go up on a mountain in a driving rain storm and scale a pole using only special cleats strapped to their electric-proof boots and a strap to restore electricity to their customers. 

The fourth Annual Gaff-n-Go Rodeo, which was held to promote safety, drew over two dozen teams from six states who competed in five events and scored based on safe practices and safety infractions.
Speed of completion was used only as a tiebreaker. 

A popular event with the linemen was the hurt-man rescue, in which each team was required to safely bring down a 175-pound mannequin from the top of a pole. 

“It’s always good practice to have hurt-man rescue, you pray and hope you never need it, but in my mind it’s the most honorable thing you can do,” said journeyman lineman and Gaff-n-Go contestant Mark Greene, who has worked with the Owen Electric Cooperative in Northern Kentucky for 27 years. A journeyman lineman is the highest level of linemen and takes 48-66 months of training to achieve, in Greene’s Cooperative only Journeyman are permitted to perform solo emergency jobs at night. 

Greene said the most exciting event for the crowd was the egg climb, in which linemen must complete a pole climb with an egg in their mouth, without cracking it. 

Linemen are authentic “modern day cowboys,” said Kelley, referring to the ruggedness and individualism it takes to perform emergency maintenance on high-voltage wires in any weather, at any time, often working alone. 

Accompanying the rodeo was a tradeshow, bucket truck rides, a live-wire demonstration, and a chance for spectators to try their hand at scaling a power pole. 

The winning team received paid entry to the International Lineman Rodeo in Kansas City, which draws teams from Jamaica to Ireland. 

Kelley hopes to host future Gaff-n-Go Rodeos at Liberty as the event grows. 

For more information visit www.gaff-n-go.com. 

Contact Matt Warner at mjwarner@liberty.edu

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