Wednesday, August 6, 2008
A close friend and mentor of mine passed on to better places last week. Don Masters was a one of a kind fellow and they definitely broke the mold after his creation. I spent 4 construction seasons working with Don and I learned a life time of lessons in those few years. He appeared to many as a gruff and tough man who spoke his mind whether you wanted to hear it or not. In reality Don was a soft hearted gracious person who looked after all those under his watch, as long as your work ethic was acceptable. Don disliked lazy people with a passion and "deadbeats" (as he put it) didn't fair well or long with him. My 2ND work season with Don was marred by his initial battle with cancer. He came to work every day, having chemotherapy on Friday afternoon, sick all weekend and then back to work on Monday. Don always laughed because the company we worked for thought he was a goner (16 years ago) and went as far to clean out his pickup when he went in to have his cancerous bladder removed. "I'll show those assholes " he said. And he did. He went on for another 15 years before he finally threw in the towel. I'm sure he was tired and said to hell with it, enough is enough.
One time I was with Don in West Yellowstone MT. on a project. We had driven up to a road construction site and the Flagger girl took one look at Don and came through the window hugging and kissing at him like he was a long lost Dad. She greeted him and was so glad to see him. After we drove on I asked him what the hell that was all about? A few years before Don was driving by a competing companies office and saw a long line of people waiting interviews for 4 Flagging job openings they had advertised in the paper. At the end of the line was a cute young gal who was crying and very sad. Don stopped and asked her what was the matter? She said she was a single mom and needed this job so bad, but with all the people ahead of her she had little or no chance. Don told her "get in the truck". She did and Don hauled her out to the competing companies job site, handed her a flagging vest and a hard hat and told her to report to the supervisor. She did and they put her to work thinking the office had sent her. By the end of the day they figured out what had happened but she they figured if she wanted the job that bad, they would keep her on. 3 years later and she was still working....
The first day on another big project I was the number 1 man under Don. He told me " We are going to have a lot of fun this summer, You may wish you had never been born, but you will have fun." Some of Dons' favorite sayings: "What R you assholes doing?", " I am surrounded by assholes". " I am the only guy who can reach into a barrel full of pussies and still pull out an asshole."
Don expected 110% from everyone under his watch, in return you were rewarded with a lot of hours of work
(too many usually), respect, and a work environment which was full of mostly elite co workers who were the best of the best. Don found Humor in every situation no matter how miserable. Working 80,-100 hours a week was not uncommon during the heat of the season. Don told us we could eat and sleep in the winter cause summer was the time to work. There are not too many of the old school Superintendents around anymore. Definitely a dying breed. I will never forget Don and I tell stories of his escapades all the time. All of us who worked with and for him are a kind of Veteran, as you can't really explain it unless you experienced it. Adios Don, You left impressions (and scars ) on many folks who thought highly of you.