Friday, April 13, 2012

Leanin' Wheel--The Man on the Grader

Daddy with the grader in town. Don't know who the little
boy is.
My father, Red McLaughlin, worked for the city for around forty years. When he first hired on to the city crew, it was a very small group of four to six men. They took care of everything. In an isolated little town of 2,000 people, this small crew had to cover multiple jobs. One day they might climb an electrical or light pole, another day might be checking the water system plant. My dad's primary job became street maintenance.

During my youngest years, the only paved streets in town were Main Street and the highways that bordered the main part of town, one running north/south on the east side of town, one running north/south on the west side of town, and one running east/west on the north side of town. The rest of the streets were maintained with the red shale that is so plentiful in our area. To keep these streets in decent condition Daddy operated the road grader. Up and down the streets, smoothing and leveling out the ruts and ridges, sometimes spreading fresh shale to keep down the mud.

It was a different world in the 1940s and 50s. It would never be allowed these days, but then Daddy could give kids rides in the grader as he worked their streets. I loved riding in the grader. It was too noisy for conversation, there was a lot of vibration, and watching the soil roll off the blade had a hypnotic effect, but it was a special time with my Daddy.

My Dad and my Uncle Bob had a habit of giving nicknames to people. Bob called Daddy "Leanin' Wheel", after the way the front wheels of the grader worked. In the photo above, it looks to me like those wheels are leaning.

After my Dad retired from the city, he began working part-time for the county, grading some of the county roads. He was regarded as an artist with that big machine. In 1973, when our daughter, Anne Marie, was four years old, we made a visit home and drove out to where Daddy was working. Anne Marie got to experience the fun of a grader ride with her Grandpa!


  1. Wow, I remember that ride...I can't believe I was only 4! Grandpa was the best. Tall tales (where's my BOOGER TOE!), letting us kids bum his root beer, and he was always good for a snuggle in his recliner.

  2. I love this post! I remember riding on the grader with him whenever we'd come to visit and I felt soooooo special! I also remember, when I was pretty little, going around town with him as he did errands and visited with some of his buddies. I remember thinking that everyone must really admire me because I was HIS grandaughter! I felt like a princess. One time he took me to the old drugstore and I got to sit on a stool while we had some rootbeer or something. I love that memory. Thanks for stirring up that pleasant little burst of memories!

  3. i love you sharing the pics and memories. i don't remember riding the grader. but i do remember Grandpa making me feel special.