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Left: Hank, a 55lb labrador is Michelle’s “best friend.” Center (Up L-R) Michelle’s siblings: Jerry Cunningham (6), Clyde Cunningham (3), Joe Cunningham (8),Timmy Cunningham (7), Billy Bob Cunningham (4), Ricky Cunningham (5), (Bottom L-R): Michelle Taylor (11), Joy Griffi n (1), Kim Frazier (12), Tammy Riley (9),Tommy Cun- ningham (2), not pictured, Jeff Cunningham (10). Right: Michelle receives her journeyman lineman certifi cate in 1998 from Steve Lyons, manager of line operations (now retired). Photos courtesy of Michelle Taylor.


POWER Continued from page 19


as best she could and she was thankful her hair was down, shielding her neck area. She managed to get in a truck and drive approximately three quar- ters of a mile before she could get to an ambulance and be taken to a hospital in Wichita Falls, TX.


“I remember I asked my co-worker Travis Romero to throw cold water on me. When we were inside of the car, some of the bees began to leave,” she said.


She was treated at the hospital for two days and was released to go home. Later, Michelle discovered these were not ordinary bees. They were Af- ricanized honeybees better known as “killer bees” because of their aggressive nature.


After receiving the doctor’s release, Michelle still had to go back to the hospital later to take care of some swelling and take rounds of shots. But the fact is, she never allowed a life-threatening situation to slow her down, not even a bit. In fact – believe it or not – she was back to work just two


days after the attack. Earned Respect


Several Cotton Electric members are amazed when they see Michelle up on a pole, she said. One member specifi - cally told her that when she started as a lineman he never thought she would last. However, he said, she proved ev- eryone wrong.


“I can do anything I set my mind to,” she said with a grin.


To her co-workers, she is more than the average lineman. Guffey recalls one day he went with three other trained observers to conduct a Rural Electric Safety Accreditation Program (RESAP) inspection on Michelle’s crew. That day, Michelle was doing the bucket work and changed a three- phase pole while it was energized. “She handled all the hot wires, and she did a great job,” Guffey said. “It was unique. You don’t see a lot of women in this business, and for her to do that when there were four sets of eyes inspecting her… They could have chosen a simpler job for that day, but they didn’t.”


In addition, Guffey said during an- nual training when the linemen have


to perform pole-top or bucket res- cue demonstrations – which means simulating a person getting hurt and getting the wounded person to the ground – Michelle has always been able to complete it within the time frame given.


“She doesn’t shy away from the re- sponsibility of doing anything,” he said. “She is an impressive young lady.” In her spare time, Michelle likes to spend time at her lake house at Lake Texoma where she plans to enjoy re- tirement someday. She enjoys taking care of trees, hanging out with friends, and although she has no children of her own, she has 44 nephews and niec- es. She also enjoys spending time with her special friend, Hank, a 55-pound black labrador that has quite a person- ality, she said.


Does she have any special words of wisdom for other women who may be the minority in the workplace? “Don’t let anybody tell you can’t do it,” she said. “If you want to do it, then do it!”


She walked away from the interview and began drilling a new pole. There was still a lot of work ahead for the day.


Overview of a Lineman’s career phases:


✓ Attend a Power Transmission & Distribution program offered by either a community college or a Vo-tech school


✓ Become an intern at a local electric cooperative or local power provider


✓ Perform well in an internship for higher chances of receiving a job offer


✓ Start a career as an Apprentice Lineman upon graduation


✓ Receive a Journeyman Lineman designation after completing all necessary schools and working in every level of line operations


✓ Work harder to become a lead lineman, also known as a crew foreman OL


20 OKLAHOMA LIVING


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