Pre 'Extreme Sports'

By Mike O'Loughlin; posted August 8, 2020

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Saint John's Church Bangor. Back in the 1970s, before they tore down Frazier St. and put in those coconut head looking apartments, and the handicap ramp, we punks would hang around and find stupid stuff to do. If you look closely, there is a channel that runs between the front buttress, and the spiral staircase turret. We'd dare each other to shimmy up the channel the highest. I only made it to touch the granite above first window that faces the buttress. Joey (probably his real name) shimmied all the way up, touched the copper roof of the turret, then came down to the second window, rested his feet on the sill as he leaned on the buttress, smoked a Marlboro, called us all pussies and flicked his cigarette butt at us before coming down. Joey became a roofer and aside from occasionally putting an extension ladder up upside down, pretty good at it. I remember looking down at the pavement that came right up to the building and thinking ' if I fall, I'm dead!' Needless to say, Joey would've made a better Pole climber than me. I did however give it a go about "statute of limitations plus two" years ago. I came across a spot where I could see glass in the air out in the boonies, and I had to know what was up there. I'd checked it all out, no live wires. Now to figure out how to get up those poles and my hands on some real hand picked by-me glass! So I read about how it's done, and figured I wasn't going to get a bucket truck down the tracks very far even if I could borrow one. I read about climbing spikes, but didn't want to be out in the middle of nowhere using a technique I'm not confident in. So I came up with a plan. I swear this is true. I bought a fire escape ladder, the kind that hooks over the window sill (or sturdy cross arm) and has light aluminum rungs on straps. Now, how to get it up there, and back down? -A window washing pole with a hook U on the end. So the day came, I got up early and blasted up the highway to my pristine treasure trove. I headed down the tracks with a back pack, fire escape ladder, window washing pole... I'm only admitting all this because it's funny...and because I have no pride. I had practiced placing the ladder, and taking it down with the pole by hanging it on my second floor railing. It was a little flimsy, but doable. I hadn't however, practiced climbing the ladder. I've climbed ladders before, or so I thought. Come to find out,.... climbing up and down a fire escape ladder that is just saying there in the breaze is an insanely huge amount harder than one might think. They are designed to kind of lean against the wall as a person climbs down them, but even with one hook on each side of the pole there is no 'stabilization'. I was swinging around like a worm having a seizure, and expending a crazy amount of energy. I got a few gems (at least that's the way I see them). I think I made it up about 8 poles before I was do exhausted that I didn't feel safe climbing another, so I started back. I was almost to the road when I saw a pole I must have missed on the way in. One of the insulators caught my eye. I couldn't quite tell if it was damaged, or had a big swirl. I was sour on my brilliant climbing plan that left me feeling like I'd been run over by a skidder (this is Maine), but I decided to give it one more shot before abandoning it forever. Turned out to be a Can Pac 143 with huge milk swirls one of my favorite insulators. But now I had reason to believe there were other gems out there waiting for me....the fire ladder was out. Now what? Spikes? Nope. Still not ready for that. Bought a "cheap" extension ladder, painted it up camo style. I'm relatively comfortable on a real ladder, it's that free wheeling strap ladder nonsense and free climbing up churches that gets me. So off I went. Back pack water, lunch, and a ladder. My plan was to leave the ladder in the woods, and eventually Carry it to the next crossing after hopefully hauling backpacks full of goodies out. (Funny side note: I later hunted that next crossing, and found a home made ladder there rotting in the woods...I posted it in hunts and finds...) So,.. with a jewel like a milk swirled 143 near the road, who knows what's a couple miles down the tracks? I carried that ladder 3 miles in, and as the bounty seemed to diminish exponentially, (I'm not psychic, but I was thinking: " this line has been picked before") I decided to carry it 3 miles out, with a back pack full of (common) 143s.... On the way out I heard a train whistle at the next crossing. I was on the tracks with back pack and ladder, on a causway like section of track with swamp on both sides. I decided to start jogging. I made the right choice. About two minutes later I was 1/4 mile down the tracks with back pack and ladder ducking behind a pile of ties as the train turned the corner behind me. I caught my breath as the train roared on by. It must have been going about 60mph. So, anyway, that's how a picture of St. John's church relates to insulator collecting.