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One morning several years ago, Ted Kisselovich, my former quality control manager, and I were reviewing a file on a job we had just completed with a large contractor. It was the same old story. The owner's testing laboratory was trying to blame our concrete mix for some low 28-day compressive strength breaks.

We were caught in the middle yet again. Instead of investing some money in the job and buying a water reducing agent for ease of placement, the finisher's foreman just added 20-plus gallons of water to each load.

While we were discussing the easiest way to present the owner the delivery tickets signed by his superintendent, we were interrupted by the noise of laughter in the batch room. A couple of the mixer operators and one of the dispatchers were on the radio sharing stories of some personal happenings the previous night.

This early morning banter on the radio clearly wasn't exactly meant for the ears of children. After laughing for a few minutes and almost spilling his coffee, Ted said, “This business is like to a soap opera. There's always something going on.”

I replied, “You're right, and we ought to write a book about all this stuff and call it As the Drum Turns.”

Adding some fun

The idea wasn't exactly out of the blue. For 25 years, I'd been keeping notes on unusual happenings in this wonderful business of ours. Starting out as a dispatcher and working my way up the totem pole, I had the great opportunity to have been involved in just about every aspect of this business. I've met lots of great people, some very smart, and some dumber than a box of aggregate.

Anyway, a few days later I called Rick Yelton, THE CONCRETE PRODUCER's editor in chief, and pitched the idea. “There isn't much in the magazine about our everyday lives,” I explained. I didn't want to hurt his feelings, so I told him while everyone enjoys his articles on technical information and the ads for plants and equipment, people also would like to know about the lighter side of the business.

He said he'd think about it and asked me to send him a sample of my ideas. I thought he was just humoring me and that I would never hear from him again. A couple of weeks later he called and we talked for an hour about the idea.

I agreed to write the column for a few months, and if the readers liked it, I would continue the next year.

So I've been writing in this space for a little more than half of TCP's 10 years. We've traveled many miles together. We visited Bear and Charlie, a couple of retired ready-mix truck drivers as they fished for catfish using a concrete block for an anchor in the Tennessee River. We went to a NASCAR race with a couple of concrete finishers, and gave out pencils and scratch pads from the back of a motorcycle. We've poked fun at some vendors. And we've said goodbye to some good friends who have ridden the golden conveyor to the great concrete plant in the sky.

My dad, Slim

And the column I enjoyed writing the most was the tribute to my dad, Slim, as his friends, customers, and co-workers called him. He drove a ready-mix truck for 37 years.

And none if this wild ride would have been possible without you, my readers. As Thank you for your support and keep all of those e-mails—the good, the bad, and the ugly—coming. Hopefully, the Drum will keep turning for a few more years.

jimambrose@aol.com