As I said earlier, the building site in winter time was usually a quagmire, which meant that if you were being paid to operate a telescopic as I was, just to move from point A to point B you kept the machine permanently in four wheel drive and four wheel steering mode.
The temporary route across the site ran past the partially constructed rows of houses on the other side of a large pile of topsoil. Most sites are covered with dumps of varying grades of soil and broken rock or shingle, for use by the contracted ground workers. This occurs because they may be operating on more than one site at a time in a particular area. In our case, we were the dumping ground for about four other sites.
As the brickies worked their way around the site, I tried to keep ahead of them by transporting packs of bricks and blocks across the site, leaving them beside or on the next set of ‘oversites’ to save time and space.
The ‘360’ was tirelessly working from the top of the largest pile of topsoil filling the endless number of trucks arriving to take the soil away to wherever Nigel and his lads needed it next.
Inevitably because the watertable was close to the surface in this particular area, the temporary road beside the pile was fast becoming completely waterlogged. Each time one of the heavily laden trucks left, the depression where each truck stood while being loaded got deeper and softer. Keith told me to dump some of the broken building blocks and bricks into the growing muddy mess to try and fix the problem, which I did. It worked for the trucks, but not for my big ‘Jake’!
I was travelling a couple of packs of blocks along the road, skirting the edge of the now filled hole, when the ground beneath her right hand wheels gave way under the combined weight of vehicle and load and they lost their grip, causing her to slid sideways into a deep muddy lake. She sat at a precarious angle with her engine running, belly down. The only thing stopping her from sinking any further was the submerged tangle of blocks with all four wheels spinning wildly and doing nothing in the watery quagmire.
I dumped the load and despite repeated attempts to drive her out she just got bogged even more. So I went to find one of the JCB drivers to give me a hand to get out of the hole. Of course I was subjected to the good natured jeers and cheers from my workmates. Like I said earlier there’s never a dull moment on a building site. Unfortunately both JCB drivers were working elsewhere on our other sites, so my ‘Jake’ had to spend the night in her muddy bed.
The next day when I arrived at work, I grabbed the keys and went over to see if she had sunk any further. Fortunately she hadn’t, but the kids from the neighbouring council estate, who were constantly playing and causing havoc on site after working hours, had forced their way into her locked cab and turned on every switch, draining her battery! So before we could even begin ‘operation extraction’, the battery had to be jumped to get her going.
Eventually after the contracted maintenance mechanic had arrived and done the job, one of the JCB boys turned up to lend a hand.
Exactly how do you extract twelve tonnes of vehicle from deep mud? Not by trying to pull it out with a JCB, because despite its versatile nature it was too light for the job. It was time for plan B.
I extended the boom to its fullest extent of seventeen metres, raising it slightly as it went, until its weight took over and the rear wheels of the ‘Jake’ began to lift. Then the JCB’s big bucket could be inserted beneath ‘Jake’s’ counter weight to hold her rear while the pair of us piled blocks under her large exposed all terrain wheels.
Then with the JCB safely backed out of the way, it was time for hydraulic pressure to work its magic. Retracting the boom, I tipped the forks down towards the firm dirt in front of the muddy pond and dug them in. Then putting her into reverse and applying a bit of throttle, while the massive hydraulic cylinders began extending her boom, she pushed herself backwards onto dry land once more.
A few days later, the hole was filled in properly and the situation never occurred again for me or anyone else. God how I love hydraulic pressure. It saved my beloved ‘Jake’ from sinking without a trace that day.
Like most site agents worth their salt, my mate Keith was constantly on the prowl around the site, checking on progress and sorting out a multitude of problems. He was in the wrong business. Why? Simply because he didn’t like getting dirty! He used to strut about like a dandy in his bright yellow safety coat, spotless white safety hat, and neatly pressed black trousers tucked into his shiny tan coloured leather riggers boots, telling everybody in his good natured way to either,“shuddup” or “p… off”, with one finger in the air, a broad smile, and a generous helping of his loud laughter.
On one occasion during that first winter on the muddy site for the pair of us, he needed to cross to the other side. As usual I was busy travelling packets of bricks from the stack to where they were needed. I saw him gingerly stepping on the least muddy bits of ground and offered him a lift. He duly climbed on board and away we went.
In his inimitable fashion Keith started to give me a hard time. So I deliberately drove through all the deepest muddiest areas of the site, splashing him along the way. When we got to where he wanted to be, he was covered from head to foot. I smiled as he got down from the vehicle. “Bloody hell Eason, look at me, look what you’ve done!” I could see him in my rear vision mirrors as I slowly drove away, trying to wipe off the mud while smiling and giving me the finger.