When I was 13 or 14 years old, I’m not sure which, I lived with my mother on my grandparents farm in far western NSW – Outback Australia.
A new local TV tower had been installed about 5 km away and so we could now watch Australia’s equivalent to the BBC without watching it through a blue plastic screen to cut back the snow. That also meant that the 100′ high tower above the homestead holding up the TV antenna was no longer needed.
The bigger boys – my mums’ brothers and her dad – took down the mast and it’s guy wires over the course of a few days and stored away the steel pipe (later to be used in building new stock yards and fences I recall).
But they left the last 3 feet of pipe and the large buried concrete base the pipe was embedded in.
One day I decided to take it out. 🙂
From early morning until well into the afternoon I toiled, using crow bar, breaking bar, shovels (post hole and flat) and lots of water to loosen and remove the earth from around the concrete plinth.
The task seemed beyond me. My hands were raw with blisters – they had formed and broken many hours previously. But I had to rest – beside, Gran had arrived with lunch! I sat down on the grass and looked at the mamoth mass of concrete and pondered.
What is going on? Am I doing this the right way? This how you always take out something like this: you dig and dig until it falls over. But it doesn’t seem right. Besides it’s taking too long!
The process was working – hitting it on the side I could see that it was moving every so slightly. This was going to take days!
Then I realised: I don’t want to get this thing across, I want to get it up and then out.
What I need is to lift it….
An idea formed.
I went out the back to the large workshop we had and looked around.
There was always lots of stuff to choose from. 😉
I found what I was after: two very sturdy short pieces of I beam – each piece weighing much more than me! I struggled, shoved, dragged and coheresed each steel section to either side of the massive hole I had dug – concrete massif sitting smugly in the center.
I then carried across a long length of 4″ x 4″ SHS, and placed a 5 or 10 tonne hydraulic jacks on top in the middle of the SHS (one of those big ones you can use on a truck – not a car one).
Getting the picture?
I then found some heavy duty steel link chain and using the same connection method that the mast used before, connected the chain to the pipe protruding out of the concrete.
Wrapping the chain over the lifting piston of the jack and tying it off on itself, I was ready.
I insterted the lifting lever into the jack, and with two fingers (I remember how funny I felt exerting as little effort as I could) watched this massive concrete rise up out of the water and mud.
In a few short moments it was done.
I adjusted the chain once or twice I recall, but once the connection with the ground was broken the concrete was mine!
I tied the mass of concrete to my mum’s car and dragged it off into the scrub behind some gum trees. It’s still there to this day I believe.
The lesson I have remembered every since: work smarter not harder.
Even today when I’m head down and focused on a problem, that feeling of “hang on, there’s an easier way” starts knocking and pretty soon, I’ll stop, reassess and find myself an alternative – my present day hydraulic jack and I beam solution.
There you have it. Work smarter, not harder.
PS, here’s a Google Maps link that will take you straight to the homestead!