Oklahoma Lineman

by Abby Wendle


It’s easy to take electricity for granted – until a storm hits and the lights go out. In this segment, Michael Parrick shares his love for “lighting things up,” both on the football field and in his daily work, raising the lines that bring power to our homes and towns. In the 6 years he’s spent as an outside construction lineman, Parrick has helped turn the lights back on after the destruction caused by hurricanes Rita and Ike and, recently, the tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri.

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Abby Wendle: The title of this segment is “Labor Conquers All,” the Oklahoma State motto.  Are you familiar with it?

Michael Perrick: No ma’am.  No, I never heard of that, never.  But, you know, it was for all the hardworking guys out here that just try to get by.

My name is Michael Perrick.  I grew up in a small town, about 40 minutes southwest of Tulsa.  Several years ago I become an apprentice lineman.  We’re kind of the people everyone loved to see when they ain’t got power.  We’re right next to God almighty when they ain’t got power and then when they got power, we’re just totally the opposite because we’re messing up their yard or cutting their trees down.  You know, I think this is what I was meant to do.  But, nothing can make me happier than just lining someone up on the football field and – in high school, I mean, that was it.  I mean, that what I was known for.  I mean, that – you know, I could go anywhere because of playing football so I had summer scholarships to play ball.  And then my girlfriend at the time had come up pregnant and my grandmother just told me, “You know, you’re going to go get a job and raise – you know, get married and this kid.”  And she’s like the ruler of all.  If grandma says it, you know, I’d do it.  But I woke up every night just dreaming that for probably ten years of wanting to play ball again.

You know, electricity, you can’t see electricity coming.  Electricity is a basically something that’s there.  I mean you can’t run from it.  You can’t hide from it.  And when we travel around when storms or something hits and the power like the storm in Joplin or a hurricane like Rita, and Ike – and basically what we do is we go back in and restore the power, you know, re-pull wires, set new poles, run services to houses underground.  I mean we basically build the lines to feed power to people’s houses or towns.  The first day I did this, you know, I thought, “Man, I don’t know.”  But, you know, into a year and two or three years, I mean it’s just –it’s a love.  I mean it’s a passion and love that when a storm hits, you know, you’re ready to go.  I mean, not everyone can be up a 50-foot pole with 40-mile hour winds and 10 below zero; I mean that – it’s kind of a thrill.  I mean to me it’s a challenge and you just get to see a lot of things and meet a lot of people and you get to hear stories of people that was in their bathtub when the tornado hit and all you can see is their bathtub.  The walls are gone.  I mean but – you know, they lived.

All the people think that we’re down there helping them, you know.  And then they just praise us for all the help but, you know, to me we just kind of got a job and that’s where our job sends us and – I mean, I’d much rather play football and make millions but, hey if I can build power lines the rest of my life and, you know, not get hurt, I’ll be happy.