If there is such a thing as a celebrity lineman, it would have to be Curtis "The Bull Grunt" Helms. His hilarious safety videos are favorites of the lineman community and if you have ever been to an event with him, chances are you won't make it more than four or five steps without someone wanting to say hello or get a photo taken.
He is funny and friendly but takes his job very seriously. He has been building powerline for more than 18 years and while his videos are always humorous, there is a very clear message...Be Safe!
How did you become a lineman?
Answer: Following in the footsteps of my dad.
What does the life of a lineman look like, work and home?
Answer: Constant change. We try to plan our next day out but if a car hits a pole, you have to constantly rearrange the day. You work in bad conditions. Ice storms are the worst. Climbing up a pole beating ice with a claw hammer. Right now, I work eight days on and six days off. The longest I’ve been away from my family is four months.
If there is a hurricane or disaster somewhere, I have to pack up and go there. I’ve learned that when I do spend time with my family, it’s not the quantity of time you spend but it is the quality of time. You make the most of the time when you can. You have to have a family that backs you.
Recently my five-year-old was riding in my truck. I had to remind him not to step on Daddy’s gloves because it they get a hole in them, I could get hurt. When I’m gone, my wife has to take care of everything so it is hard on the families as well.
Do you have a good job-related story?
Answer: I was electrocuted February 8, 2004. The operator rotated the boom tip digger truck into the primary and I got caught in the fault current. It locked me up. My back touched the truck. 7620 volts went in my shoulder and out my knee. I hurt for a month but never missed a day. You gotta be tough. You have to ask yourself am I gonna keep doing this or am I gonna give up.
Any advice for a prospective lineman?
Answer: Don’t do some much talking. Listen. Everyone has your best interests at heart so don’t get your feelings hurt if they are hard on you. we want to make sure you make it home safely. It is a hard life. If you mess up, you don’t get a second chance. You can get killed on the ground just as easy as you can in the air. If you are thinking about how much you miss your family or how dangerous the work is, then you aren’t thinking about what you should be doing.
Any final thoughts?
Answer: I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love building power line. It is a career, it is a passion. We do something that only about two percent of the population knows how to do. Every lineman is a brother. I’d do anything for them and they would do the same for me.