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Fall/Winter 2017



J.T. Knoll

HOD CARRIER

Summers in college I worked as a hod carrier for Oheme Brothers Masonry, hauling brick and block, building scaffold and shoveling mortar. Roagie, the laborer foreman, knew my dad, chain-smoked Chesterfields, called me “Lefty’s kid.” One blistering June afternoon, when I’d sweated my jeans and t-shirt soggy, I asked him if he had any salt tablets. “HAW!” he exclaimed in a glee so loud all the bricklayers on the scaffold turned in unison. “SALT TABLETS? WHY NO, I DON’T THINK SO, SON!! SAY, DO ANY OF YOU BRICKLAYERS UP THERE HAVE ANY SALT TABLETS FOR THIS LABORER. HE’S FEELING A LITTLE POORLY?” This set off a flurry of activity on the line as Muse, Rocky, Joe, Claude and Dog Man mumbled about salt tablets as they rummaged through their tool bags. One by one they called back, “Sorry, I took my last one,” “Nope, none here,” “Can’t find mine,” “I’ll bring you some tomorrow.” All summer I worked alongside the men, smiling at whatever good-natured salt tablet razz came my way. Returning to school in September, I found the classrooms hollow, some days driving to their work site after my last class to park a little ways off and watch, not wanting to lose touch with the part of me that was one of them.


J. T. Knoll, a native of the Republic of Frontenac, Kansas, is a counselor, prize-winning newspaper columnist, poet and speaker. “Ghost Sign,” his recent collaboration with three other Southeast Kansas poets, was selected as a 2017 Kansas Notable Book. He lives in Pittsburg on Euclid’s Curve, with his wife, Linda, and dog, Arlo the Labradorian.

 


 

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