Life on the line

Paulding Putnam Electric Cooperative linemen Russell Rager and Jeff Ferris celebrated 30 years with the co-op this year. When asked what their best memories were, it’s ironic — they both answered first with the derecho of 2012 that took out most of PPEC’s electric plant and left members without power for 10 days.

“That storm was brutal,” Ferris said. “We were working long hours in 100-degree temps, but it was most memorable because it’s during disasters that you see the true colors of people. Members and community members rallied behind us with support, and many even brought us food.”

Rager added that it was impressive seeing outside crews from all over the country come to the cooperative’s aid.

Thirty years is a long time to be in one industry, but Rager has always been interested in electricity. “When I was a young boy, I tried to improve my folks’ house by adding receptacles and lights in my bedroom,” he recalled. “It’s a wonder I didn’t burn the house down.”

Ferris said he has always really enjoyed this line of work, but he didn’t know what he was getting into when he first started. “I took this job because I knew it was stable and a great career to raise a family,” Ferris said. “Believe it or not, I didn’t even realize how dangerous this job was, when I first started! But you learn quickly. On this job, you need to be focused on the ground and in the air at all times.”

Both Rager and Ferris will be retiring in two years, and they’ve both been focusing on transferring their knowledge to the younger linemen. “I hope when I leave, I’ve made an impact on the younger linemen and shared knowledge that keeps them safe,” Ferris said. “If that continues, I know my job is done.”

Rager commented that no job is too big or complicated if you take it one step at a time. “It’s also important to make sure younger linemen know there isn’t a stupid question,” Rager said. “Communication is key along a person’s way in life and at home, too.”

Both men agreed they wouldn’t turn back time and trade being a lineman for another career. “It has always been great working for PPEC,” Rager said. “The other employees always treat me like family, and that means a lot.”

Ferris grinned. “I’ve worked with Russ for 30 years…Yeah, we’ve exchanged a few words, but at PPEC, we are a family. I’d do anything for that man and the others I work with…It’s just the co-op way!”

April 9 is National Lineworker Appreciation Day! If you see one of our lineworkers, make sure to say thank you!