This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
In honor of Electrical Safety Month


A 22 WWW.OK-LIVING.COOP


crackle of lightning streaks white hot against the night sky. The first drops from the leading edge of mountainous, boiling gray clouds pitter-patter on the ground, unor- ganized at first but quickly forming a rhythmic cadence before bursting into a deluge of furry and sound.


A thunderstorm is sweeping across Oklahoma. For most, inclement weather signals the end of the day’s activities. Windows are closed. Shades


are drawn, if not occasionally peaked through. Mother Nature’s outpourings evoke an irrepressible response to hole up. However, lightning serves as a starting gun for the thousands of linemen, who power Oklahoma’s


30 electric co-ops and serve hundreds of thousands of member-owners. (So do snow, ice and sleet.) Inclement weather signals the beginning of the most treacherous moments of their work, because they must head into the elements. Theirs is a story of danger and courage, of sacrifice and teamwork. It is a story that deserves to


be told time and again. But there is a second chapter to this story, one of the spouses whom they kiss goodbye as they walk out the door, one of the children who are often left confused and scared. This is their story. This is a story about living on the lines.


Christmas in a lineman’s house


Norvin and Ashlee Graham, both 31, have carved out a picturesque life in the rolling green hills of southeast Oklahoma’s hamlet of Valliant. The high school sweethearts manage 200 acres of family land just a stone’s throw from the Red River. He works the line; she teaches fourth grade at the local school. Together they raise their three children—Kyleigh, 6, Kasen, 3, and Kynzleigh, 2— alongside cattle and horses.


On a bright spring Sunday afternoon, the pair talked about the family behind the lineman. The


two youngest children have lain down for a man- datory nap while Kyleigh, who is now exempt from such requirements, plays quietly with a friend. Norvin’s career with Hugo, Okla.-based


Choctaw Electric Cooperative began in 2010. He admits today that he was scared of heights and electricity, but the opportunity to work for the co-op and earn a steady paycheck pushed him through the fear. Norvin spends his days changing out bad poles, building new spans of line or converting old wires and conductors, all while keeping more than


14,000 volts flowing through the very lines he’s working on.


An average day usually includes him spending hours in “the bucket” wearing rubber gloves so stiff he can’t bend his fingers, enduring summer’s heat and winter’s bite. Ashlee loves average days. Then the weather arrives and Norvin exits, leav- ing her with three small children. “It can be overwhelming,” she said. “In that moment, you need him the most and he has to go. You try not to dwell on it and put it in the Lord’s hands.”


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