While I was a repair technician for the phone company working out of a garage in south Independence, Missouri, I had the good fortune of working with this guy named Roger. He was one of the "older guys" who, I believe, hired on as a lineman in south Missouri about the time I was entering third grade. Roger had lots of stories, and he had a funny turn of phrase for many a situation. For example, one rainy day I returned to the garage after working on a buried pedestal, and so I had mud all over the front of my pantlegs. Roger saw that, grinned, and said "I see you've been out working on your old prayer-bones."
Possibly you had to be there. But he was an accomplished phone man, the casual, politically incorrect gender specific title these guys gave themselves. Me too, really. It was 1988, and certain demographics hadn't quite caught on yet. We got there eventually, but that's another boring story.
But Roger was the guy that ran across this weird scenario. As he tells it, he got a trouble report assigned to him that said the phone wires in the house were smoking. When he arrived and checked the line where it entered the house, at the side, he saw next to the phone company's lightning/surge protector that a Cable TV tech, apparently, was just there to install their equipment. Needing to attach a ground wire to a ground somewhere, he apparently decided to attach his wire clamp to the phone company's ground rod. This was understandable because a ground rod was about six feet long and had to pounded all the way into the ground with a sledge hammer, and no one wants to do that if there's already one there.
Trouble was, the Cable TV guy had to pull up on the rod in order to expose enough of it at ground level so he could get his clamp around it. In doing so, he inadvertently rammed the top of the rod up into the electric power meter.
Several weird things happened at once. First, the ground rod touched one side of the power inside the meter, effectively putting 110 volts onto the ground rod. The AC current then traveled along the phone company's ground wire all the way to the lightning surge protector. There, the sudden surge of current tripped the fuses in the protector. In our system, the "protector's" job was to ground the line in case of a surge of power, NOT to open it up. So, doing what it's supposed to do, the protector blew, and now the 110 volts is flowing through it and onto the phone line. Meaning it flowed onto the wires going inside the house. This is why the phone jacks were smoking.
The reason this happened so easily is that we were experiencing a drought, and the ground rod was sitting in dry dirt, and so wasn't doing much grounding and the current went all over the place instead of down the ground rod and out, as it was supposed to. This 110v AC current also flowed along the metal sheath around the drop wire, which was buried, and to the green metal pedestal in the back of the lot. It probably also flowed up and down the cable run, down the street, on the ground wires and cable sheaths. Someone could have gotten hurt. Luckily no one did, and just as luckily, the house didn't burn down.
Roger thought only of alleviating this mess. The grass and the yard was bone dry, as I said, so he put on the heavy duty rubber gloves we were all issued, and without much risk, grabbed the ground rod and yanked it down so it was no longer touching the 100 volt lug in the power meter. Problem solved.
By this time, our supervisor was in on it, because the customer was already escalating the whole thing since their wiring was damaged, and this was, obviously, not their fault. So, we learned, Roger got reprimanded for a safety violation by yanking on the ground rod, even though by doing that he pretty much saved the day. The BSP ("Bell System Practice,") would have been to call the electric company, which then would have dispatched someone out to essentially do the same thing Roger did, only with a few more steps.
So, what about the school bus, I hear you asking. The next day in the garage we were all ribbing Roger about his adventure in high-tech circuit field modifications of the previous day. This was partly because he got in trouble for it, but that reminded Roger of the time back in '57 or '58 he and some guys were driving a big line truck, towing a telephone pole somewhere in south Missouri and encountered a school bus lying on its side in a shallow ditch at the side of the road.
They stopped to see if anyone needed help. It had just happened a minute before, and the bus was full of kids. No one was hurt, but they couldn't get out because the bus was lying on its right side, and the door wouldn't open.
Roger and the guys wrapped a big chain around the frame on the underside of the bus, attached it to their own line truck, and by driving away at a right angle, they righted the bus so it plopped back up on its four wheels. "And the kids weren't hurt?" I asked, somewhat upset about this story. Roger said, "Oh no, just a few bumps and scratches."
I wanted to shrug and ask him if he got any mud on the old prayer bones while removing the chain from the bus.