The word has a ubiquitous presence in our vernacular: pole beans and pole cats rank right alongside tad poles, pole dancers and pole vaulting. Utility poles are perhaps the ugliest blight along streets and highways, exceeded only in aesthetic revulsion by monk fish. If you’ve been spared seeing this still alive sea creature just before being sliced into overpriced filets, avoid it at all costs.
After days of being in the dark and hearing everything that is wrong blamed on Irma and beautiful trees, I did my own very unscientific observation, and still find myself unable to shed a tear for utility poles with power lines hanging down like dead, rotting serpents. The fallen oaks and pines in my little world, are to be mourned.
|Curley Burnell: Jackie Gleason's Twin?|
Once young pine saplings are matured on “pole farms” the straightest ones are cut, stripped bare, “cured” in creosote (few things outside a sewage treatment plant rival the stench) en route to subdivision streets and city sidewalks to be planted by what looks like the world’s biggest corkscrew, a preparatory ritual of planting before being adorned with power lines and an assortment of other conduits. The lower 10 feet are popular places for concert festival posters, strange upcoming events low budget political candidates lacking the funds for TV ads. “Ask me how I lost 100 pounds,” or “Bother Love’s Rockin’ Away Sin Revival” resonate on mounted pole placards.
Ever met a pole farmer? Curley Burnell, a retired high school football coach, maintains a pole tree farm in some hardscrabble land passed along through inheritance since the Civil War. Ebullient Burnell, with a countenance that invokes images of Jackie Gleason’s Sheriff Buford T. Justice in “Smokey and the Bandit,” loves what he does.
“Utility poles don’t hurt anyone,” he proclaims. “The economic benefits are obvious. How the hell are you ever going to deliver vital energy and communications by going underground?” he asks. What other see as blight, Burnell sees as paradise. “Straight up, reaching towards heaven, just doing what nature intended.”
|Ugly and More Ugly|
What about downed lines from winds, ice and falling trees? “We’re working on growing taller pine trees much quicker,” Burnell says. “If we can do a mission to Mars, we can grown poles faster and bigger. Count on it.”
Overflowing with information about this otherwise overlooked news story, Burnell believes that something he describes as “virtual current” is on the horizon. “Works like the Bitcoins,” he revealed. “You get it at home on your laptop, pay for it directly, and use what you need when you want it.” What about the poles? Why would you need them if this ever caught on? “Poles will be around as long as we have developers and local governments. Many places in the country still don’t have internet access and not everyone can afford a fancy computer.”
Coach Curley, as he likes to be called, is very likable and totally self-assured. I only wish that Lewis Grizzard was around to ask him the location of good barbecue joints.
Poles have a fan base. Poles make good cash flow. Some may think they have a more exalted place in popular culture than trees and public safety. For those who think they can change anything at the ballot box, or by lobbying or protests, Coach Curley Burnell is waiting on you. He is very formidable and says the Burnell coat of arms warns that his family loves a good fight. “Without our pole farm, we’d have to look at opening a hazardous waste dump. That’s not what we want to do.”