Snapping Shoals linemen take first at rodeo

By Johnny Jackson


Snapping Shoals Electric Membership Corporation recently honored several of its linemen for bringing home the top co-op prize at the 26th Annual International Lineman's Rodeo and Expo in Kansas City, Mo.

Snapping Shoals recognized linemen Chris Harper, Byron Burke, Melvin Brake, Keith Garner and Don Ritchey as being among the best linemen in the country, having won the annual rodeo.

The 2009 International Lineman's Rodeo and Expo brought together those who work power lines and switches for utilities companies from around the world to compete in timed events, which mirror the average workday for linemen.

Competitors climb poles, change insulators, reconfigure fiberglass arms and complete a simulated rescue of an injured co-worker.

"These are situations that [Snapping Shoals linemen] get into every day," said Victor Hurst, vice president of line services at Snapping Shoals. "[The events] require so much thinking on your feet that it helps us keep our standards high in every area."

The Snapping Shoals linemen earned their place in the competition this past May by winning statewide competition in Georgia. They raised money for their trip to the international rodeo by hosting a golf tournament and taking donations from co-workers.

The team of Chris Harper, Byron Burke and Melvin Brake won first place in the co-op division, out of 23 teams. It won second place overall among 153 teams, and took fourth place in a "mystery event" that involved replacing a bad lightning arrestor. Don Ritchey acted as the team's coach, and Keith Garner served as its judge.

The rodeo also included a conference-like gathering of the nation's top lineman, who discussed issues surrounding safety while working power lines.

"These competitions contribute to how well they're able to do their jobs," Hurst said. "They promote safety, efficiency, teamwork and quality standards."