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Linemen show off their skills at rodeo

Matt Masters • Jul 2, 2018 at 12:01 PM

The Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corp. played host to the 21st annual Tennessee Valley Lineman Rodeo on Friday and Saturday at the Tennessee Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro.

Hundreds of linemen and apprentice linemen, including one from the Lebanon office, competed in various events to showcase their skills and knowledge in the field of utility work. The rodeo had in attendance crews from across Tennessee with some from as far away as Colorado.

In the past two months, the large grassy area in front of the Tennessee Miller Coliseum was transformed into a forest of wooden power line poles to simulate those serviced by linemen each day.

More than 100 utility poles and other structures were planted in the ground and used to train and compete on in various challenges. Competitors were judged on safety, work practices, neatness, ability, equipment handling and timely completion of each task.

Arguably the most important of the challenges was the Hurtman in which a lineman ascends a utility pole, which has an orange stuffed dummy that represents a wounded lineman.The lineman must safely secure and bring down the dummy to rest inside a white circle at the base of the pole.

One of the competitors, Rusty George, of Alexandria, is an eight-year Middle Tennessee Electric lineman in Lebanon. George has competed in the Lineman Rodeo for four years and learned valuable lessons to hone his skills with each competition.

“It’s a good trade to get into. It’s not for everyone though…It’s hot; it storms; you’ve got lightning; you’ve got to fight the elements, but it’s a good trade,” George said. “It’s rewarding.”

George, 37, supports his family and helps his community maintain power and a way of life, but he, like every lineman, understands that teamwork is the key to success.

While they all compete against each other, it’s friendly and supportive, regardless of which cooperative to which each lineman belongs.

“It’s good comradery. You get to meet a bunch of people. I’ve met some good guys. We’ve become close friends over the years, which if I had never competed I would have never met these guys,” George said. “Once you meet them here, it’s a lifelong bond,” George said. “You’re like brothers.”

Thomas Suggs, Middle Tennessee Electric chief operating officer, spoke about the work ethic and dedication of linemen and the value of the competitions.

“These teams train hard. They work hard at this, and they know each other from the other power systems around, so it’s competition,” Suggs said. “It’s friendly competition, but it’s competition.”

On Saturday, the gathering concluded with an awards ceremony where the competitors were recognized for their skills and professionalism.

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