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Left: Michelle Taylor installs a transformer with lineman Evan Hayes from her construction crew. Center (L-R) Evan Hayes, apprentice lineman; T.J. James, journeyman lineman; Michelle Taylor, lead lineman; Robert Martinez, crew leader; and Chuck Ballard, heavy equipment operator. Right: Michelle Taylor has been a lineman for 20 years. She is the only female lineman working for an electric cooperative in Oklahoma. Left and Center photos by Anna Politano. Right photo courtesy of Michelle Taylor.


lineman was also known as a “helper,” Michelle said. She knew of no other woman that was a lineworker at that time and, up to today, has not met an- other one.


Michelle knew that being a lineman


would require arduous physical work such as the ability to lift 80-pound ob- jects and load them in a truck or operate specifi c trade tools such as a sledgeham- mer or a chain saw. But none of these factors led her to shy away. On the con- trary, Michelle went from working on the underground crew to construction and then to maintenance – the three lev- els of line operations. In 1998, Michelle became a journey- man lineman, an accomplishment she described as “awesome.”


According to Kenny Guffey, director of safety & loss control for the Okla- homa Association of Electric Coopera- tives (OAEC), receiving a journeyman lineman designation means that you “can do anything that’s asked of you in the business.”


And not only she can do anything, she


is also very respected by her co-workers. “There is nothing she can’t handle – she can do it all,” said Bryan Jones, op- erations superintendent at Cotton Elec-


tric, a cooperative with 30 lineworkers currently working on its crews. “She is a lineman just like anybody else in the crew.”


Michelle did not stop as a journey- man lineman – in 2005 she earned the title of lead lineman, which means she can be in charge of a crew.


“She doesn’t back away from any- thing,” said Robert Martinez, crew lead- er. “If I send her down the road with a crew, I know everyone will come back safe.”


Martinez said when he is gone Mi- chelle takes over as head of the con- struction crew. A few years back, she was in charge of a district south of Walters, answering trouble calls, outages, pull- ing maintenance, and conducting tree cutting, among other tasks. But when asked what level of line operations work she likes the most, she put on a big smile and said “construction.” She sleeps better at night knowing that her hard work benefi ts the community she is a part of.


“I enjoy looking back at the end of the day and seeing what we have done to help others,” she said. Michelle has attended several schools for the trade including Hotlines schools,


Meter schools, and Bucket schools, among others.


Building Life Memories


During the past 20 years, Michelle has accumulated many memories. One of the most endearing to her was be- coming a journeyman lineman in 1998. She recalled, “I wasn’t a journeyman yet, we got to the warehouse at the end of the day and Buck Calfy, our supervisor then, had written on the marker board in the time room ‘Michelle Taylor jour- ney lineman;’ I will always remember that!”


She also experienced a life-threaten- ing event when she and her construc- tion crew were replacing a pole south- west of Grandfi eld six years ago. A larger digger truck was coming down a narrow trail when it hit a well house and dis- turbed a beehive. Michelle was between the truck and the pole and was instantly attacked by the bees.


“I couldn’t see anything. There were


well over 1,000 bees,” she said. “My thought was ‘They’re going to sting me to death.’”


Michelle said she had previously read that bees were attracted to what you breathe, so she tried to protect her nose


Continued on Page 20


Cotton Electric poles near Addington in Jefferson County. Photo courtesy of Karen Kaley/Cotton Electric Co-op


OCTOBER 2011 19


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