Sunday, December 15, 2013

Crawford and me

Crawford was a hard luck guy who almost made it in the world of road construction. Coulda been up there with Cox and that obnoxious guy who ran Atlantic Paving.

By the way, that obnoxious guy who ran Atlantic Paving still owes me a steak dinner, on account of a bet we made way back in the 80's. He'd bought a farm way out the country end of Paisley Road, thinking he'd be growing subdivisions within a year or two.

I knew enough about the business that I knew he was full of shit, so I told him he was full of shit.

So he gets all huffy and says to me, "Neumann, mark my words, I'll bet you a steak dinner that in two years we couldn't stand here because the cars will be running us over."

At the time, we were standing in a corn field at the corner of Paisley Road and County Rd. 32.

It's still a corn field 35 years later, so where's my steak dinner?

Real estate speculation isn't always the slam dunk you think it's gonna be.

But back to Crawford.

Way before he and me crossed paths he had a major gravel operation going on up Durham way. Used to supply gravel to road-building projects all over south Ontario. Then one day disaster struck.

According to Crawford, and he told me this story many times, the very day that his insurance agent had come round and assured him he was insured for everything, one of his drivers backed into the support pillar for one of his gravel hoppers, causing a chain reaction that took out about a million dollars worth of equipment.

This would have been back in the 1950's, when a million dollars was a million dollars.

I saw enough family photos from Crawford's wife Jean that I knew they'd been real close to grabbing the brass ring before that happened. Had the nice house and the new Cadillac and the whole nine yards.

Long story short, Crawford turned up in my world twenty years later. My dear daddy had bought a Supertest gas station on the edge of Guelph, purportedly so that I could get a part-time job, as I was in high school at the time.

Obviously his thinking at the time was that I was too retarded to find my own part-time job.

In hindsight, he was right.

So Pop buys this Supertest station from this old Polish guy, hires Crawford to run it, but makes him hire me as his gas-pump guy. At least after school and weekends.

Crawford had by then midwifed several unsuccessful careers in the lee of the great gravel pit tragedy. The irony of that episode was that the one calamity that neither Crawford or his insurance agent had foreseen was one of Crawford's own trucks taking out his own operation on his own property.

He was covered for everything, but he wasn't covered for that.

By the time me and Crawford worked together he was pretty much a hard-core alcoholic. One day I was up on the roof of John's Supertest, fixing up the waterproofing on a skylight, when I saw a hand reach up over the eve...

It waved around a bit, and then started running up and down the eve trough. I was transfixed... and then the hand miraculously pulled a pint of whiskey out of the eve!

That's where Crawford stashed his fix!

In hindsight, I think I should have showed the man a bit more respect. As it was, I made a game of hiding the booze he was hiding. Find his fix, take a snort, and replace it five feet down the eve...

Old Crawford would go into a panic...

I'm about the age now that Crawford was then, and I can finally appreciate how unfunny that funny stuff was.

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