The closest I’ve come to working in a coal mine is helping my mother sort tweezers and mines rescue props in her nurses station, climb all over the giant mining equipment, probably sat the lap of a few operators and helped drive a haul truck or a drag line, and planted trees on the reclaim. This was all as a child of course. Sitting on operators laps would certainly be frowned upon these days.
But though I have no personal experience, people I love, men that I love, do.
And through these men, and women, I’ve come to know the value of a good Tradesman.
Back in the old days, an apprenticeship was a golden ticket.
It was the aspiration of every young man in town. And it wasn’t about money. It was about experience, & learning.
Thrown in the deep end like a kid starting pre-school. Uniform too big. Helmet looking all wobbly on your teenage head. Getting tsk-ed at by 4th years, and given the shit jobs by supervisors & formen.
Having your locker glued shut, or stuffed with snakes or feral cats (happened), and just generally having the piss taken out of you on a regular basis.
The first stages of apprenticeships are tough.
But then, out of the coal dusty distance appears your Tradesman.
Tradesmen of yesterday were something else.
They start out a regular tradey for sure, teaching you everything you need to know. Letting you make mistakes to learn, & having your back when the shit went down.
Then next thing you know, they morph into a Tradesfriend.
You meet up with them for beers, most likely rums, most likely in jam jars.
Your learning from them at work, and getting to know them in town.
Tradesfriend becomes Tradesmate.
Your going for BBQ’s at their house, and playing golf with the Snakes.
You know their kids well enough to get a hug when you go round, & he and his wife know the full ins & outs of your social & love life. And tease you like only mates can.
Learning still, at work & play.
Tradesmate become a Tradesfather.
His family are your family, and his wife is giving you and your scared to death girlfriend life advice on starting your family.
Tradesfather is there to help wet your new babies head, and his wife there to take care of your drunken arse, and let your girlfriend know how & where you are.
His babies are taking turns carrying around your baby.
Still teaching you everything at work.
Your Tradesman, turned Tradesfriend, Tradesmate & Tradesfather, probably has no idea, that he is teaching you so very much about life.
The apprenticeship is eventually over.
Work comrades are now forever family.
You change jobs & move towns, move on, but never lose touch.
Every day on the job, you use tricks & skills he taught you, try to be a Tradey like him, to have the kind of influence he had.
Every day at home you aspire to be the type of man he is.
You and your wife fully acknowledge, and often toast to the fact that your Tradey, and his family have very much shaped your lives as they are today.
Now that’s a Tradesman.
Karl, I wish that I had let you know just how much of an influence you have been on our lives. You were an amazing Tradey for Dan, turned into an amazing mate. I know we wouldn’t be here today without you. You gave Dan the foot in the door needed for his first permanent gig. And you as a person, were someone we both looked up to so much.
You were like a Dad when I needed one, always so free with support and love.
And your family is what I have always aspired for our family to be like. Our kids have a lot to thank you for.
I know you know we love you.
I just wish we’d told you thank you.