When a man starts working as a Construction Inspector, there are many contractors who see him as a possible ally. They try to educate him, teach him how things work, tell war stories, and generally speaking, they develop a relationship built on mutual respect and a quest for a better product is formed.
Hairy Larry and I did not have that sort of relationship. He was one of those construction foremen who saw inspectors as the enemy, and he meant to confound me as often as possible. There were two men working for the same company named Larry, and I was the one who tagged Larry as Hairy Larry. The man looked like a cross between a Skid Row bum and a Sasquatch. He worked without a shirt, and who could blame him? He didn’t have hair on his back, he had a pelt.
He did not like the nickname.
But Larry was one of those guys who liked to mess with people but got mad when they dished it back at him. I got him busted for missing one bar in a bridge deck and his boss made him put it in. It took three hours to remove the steel and put that bar in, and Larry was pissed.
We all took the same road to the project, US 84 east out of Valdosta, and he loved to ride on my bumper, all the way to the project at the Lanier County line, if he got behind me. One day I watched in the rearview mirror and as soon as he looked away I slammed on brakes. Larry’s crew screamed like hell, and he had to lock them down to keep from hitting me.
That got him in trouble because a steel bucket that held their hand tools crashed into the back windshield and cracked it. The crew thought it was hysterical and told anyone who would listen what had happened. Larry got written up for following me too close, and he got sat down and told to back off, in more ways than one.
When it came to bridge decks, Larry did them better than most, and I admired him for that. Other than that one bar missing in that one deck, (and that burned him like a slow fire in a pit), Hairy Larry did good work. More than once, we clashed on details, but I trusted Larry to produce as good as he could, and there were times he admitted I had helped made the bridge better by staying on him.
Larry made some parking lot markers out of spare concrete, and there’s always some left over after a deck pour. His boss showed up and wanted to know what the hell he was doing, and I stepped in and told his boss they were for me. I think he knew I was lying, but I also think he knew I was trying to stop the war, and he allowed it to pass. Larry wasn’t overly grateful, but he did see it as a path to peace. We shook hands after the last concrete pour on that project and he called me, “Cuz.” Larry called everyone Cuz. If you didn’t know him as Hairy Larry, you knew him as Cuz.
A week ago today, Larry died of COVID. He had gone to the ER complaining of feeling terrible, left because he was there too long, went back the next day in worse shape, and was put on a ventilator almost immediately. He died three days later.
Mike writes regularly at his site: The Hickory Head Hermit.
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.