Don’t look down!
David Brayboy scrambled up a utility pole, the thin spikes on his shoes clicking into the wood as he pulled himself forward with a strap. He reached the top in less than 30 seconds, wrapped the strap around himself and leaned back so he could begin working on the pole.
Far below, his teammates from New Bern cheered him on and hoisted up equipment through a pulley system. A judge, distinguished by his white shirt, stood to the side holding a stopwatch and a clipboard.
The high-in-the-sky exercise was all part of the North Carolina Association of Municipal Electric Systems Lineman Rodeo, featuring competitors from 12 towns. This year, day two of three of the competition was held at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute’s pole yard, where the students in the college’s electric lineman classes practice. At any given time, three to five linemen were dangling from straps and spikes on electrical poles, “rescuing” mannequins, changing equipment atop the poles and participating in other timed events.
“These are the guys that keep the lights on,” Edward Terry, public information officer for CCC&TI, said.
Terry said that not only does the competition bring a spotlight to the college, it also improves the pole yard because the association brought in additional poles, which CCC&TI gets to keep.
John Webb, who graduated from CCC&TI’s program a few years ago and now works for Duke Energy, said he came to watch the competition for fun. Sitting in a chair while watching competitors climb, he recalled when he started climbing for class.
“At first, I just felt awkward,” he said. “Now, it’s like I could be up there like sitting in this chair. It’s the same.”
Webb said he can shimmy up a pole in 39 seconds.
“I’ve seen some of them,” he said, pointing over at the competitors. “They look like they’re faster than me. Some companies don’t use fall(-prevention) equipment and they can go faster, like 15 seconds. But if they mess up, they hit the dirt.”