Jim worked as a laborer for a gas utility in Winnipeg, Manitoba. When the opportunity came to apply for a backhoe/front-end-loader operator job, he was excited. Three people applied. To select the one who would get the job, the company asked each of them to go out and actually work on the backhoe for a day. Jim felt his chance for the job disappear because he had never even driven a tractor, let alone used a backhoe. When he went out, he did not know how to start the tractor. One of the other backhoe operators had to show him. He managed through the day, and to his surprise, did better than the others. He was given the job. On his first day at the new job, one of the other backhoe operators showed him where to check the hydraulic fluid and said, “These old Masseys are foolproof. You will be okay.” Jim taught himself how to dig a hole by trial and error. He initially believed that the best way was to fill the bucket as much as possible before lifting it out of the hole and emptying it. He would wiggle the bucket back and forth until it was submerged and then curl it. When it came out of the hole, the earth would be falling off the sides. This job was not so difficult after all, he thought. He cut through his first water line about two weeks after starting his new job. Going into a deep, muddy hole did not make the crew happy. After Jim cut through his third water line, the crew chief pulled him aside and said, “You are taking too much earth out with each bucket, so you don’t feel the bucket hitting the water line; ease up a bit.” Water lines were usually six to eight feet down, so Jim would dig until about four feet and then try to be more careful. It was then that he pulled up some telephone lines that were only about three feet deep. Realizing that more was involved in operating a backhoe than he first had thought, he sought out Bill Granger, who was known to have broken a water line only twice in his 15 years. It was said that he was so good that...
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