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Yes, I'm as gen-u-wine a blue-collar as they come, from blue-collar parents, as were theirs, and theirs before, with 25 years on the deck plates, overhauling fishing boats and air-craft carriers, another 10 as an open-hearth/electric furnace steelworker, and 6 summers as an agricultural worker (80-100/hour weeks in the Salinas valley, at $1/hour, all of it straight-time.) But I've also got a decent education, as you might surmise from looking at my profile and the alphabet soup of schools I've attended/graduated from, at a couple of which I briefly taught. So, yes, I'm an anomaly for straddling two worlds, but less an anomaly than you'd suspect, as someone like Ray Bradbury knew well, or Studs Terkel, or Eric Hoffman.

Thank you for your kind remarks, but there is no need to humble yourself over your surprise that skills and tools white-collars think exclusively theirs are accessible and owned by blue-collars as well. The average shipyard worker isn't as well read as me, [and few people write as well, not because they can't, but because they don't put in the time] but I'm certainly no smarter, and they are certainly no less skilled at management –-generally we have to mange upwards rather the easier downwards --than their office counter-parts, and maybe especially so in the marine trades, where so much of our work is one-off, so that we are less electricians, mechanics, fitters, riggers, welders, than general-purpose problem solvers, constantly having to make on-the-spot decisions about time/materials/personnel to accomplish our minor miracles. Working smart is working smart whatever the field, and common sense, talent, and achievement are where you find it.

Some of the short-sighted choices my co-workers make --and the grief they cause themselves-- drives me crazy, but I've also seen the shrewd, brave choices they make, too, and benefited time and again from their fundamental decency, which is why Jim's death saddens me. He was a good man, and his fore-shortened life didn't have to happen as it did. Against Jim's life it is possible to measure our own, which is maybe why his story touches us, and maybe why in grieving for Jim, we are really grieving for ourselves.

Spring and Fall: to a young child

MÁRGARÉT, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves, líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Áh! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow's spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

(Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1918)

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