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Not my first rodeo, little buckaroo: Duke’s daring local linemen hope to head to international rodeo this fall

The Reporter spoke with Duke Energy linemen Ethan McCammon, Tyler Adrian, Collin Boschert, Jason Washburn, Andrew Hall ahead of an upcoming linesman's rodeo. (Provided Photo/The Reporter)

PLAINFIELD, Ind. (The REPORTER) — Apprentice and journeyman line workers from Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky will compete to earn the right to advance to the International Lineman’s Rodeo in Kansas this fall, and it all comes down to Saturday morning’s competition in Plainfield, Ind.

Line workers are often the face of any electric company, and Duke Energy’s linemen are no different. These are the people you see out in the community building, repairing and upgrading the electrical infrastructure to keep your lights on, your electronics running, your refrigerated food cool, and all the other things we could not accomplish without reliable electricity.

At Duke, these skills are taught through years of apprenticeship, leading to journeyman certifications with more responsibilities.

Linemen work in extreme heat and cold, in wind and rain, night and day to ensure, among countless other things, that this newspaper can be produced and thus you can read it.

The lineman rodeo is a chance to not only test the skills needed in their jobs, but also to share knowledge and techniques with others in their field.

The Reporter spoke with five local linemen who will show their stuff this weekend to find out who is good enough to make the cut.

Saturday’s lineman rodeo will involve four tests of skill: the hurt man rescue, the speed climb, and two mystery events that are not announced until the day of the rodeo.

The speed climb involves climbing an electric pole as fast and safely as possible. At the top, each climber will detach a bag from the top of the pole containing an egg, drop the bag to the ground, then put the egg in his mouth and climb back down. If the egg breaks, the climber is disqualified.

And no, we don’t have any idea what the egg has to do with it.

Jason Washburn, Noblesville, has been with Duke for seven years and this is not his first rodeo.

“This will be my third rodeo,” Washburn said. “One of my takeaways from the rodeo is the opportunity to work with other guys from other districts to build teams and build friendships. We have a chance to learn to work together and have fun with it.”

Andrew Hall, Carmel, has a total of 15 years with Duke, five of those in Carmel. Not only is he also competing in his third rodeo, but Washburn is one of his teammates.

“A lineman rodeo is an opportunity for line specialists and lineman in training or apprentices to kind of show their skills, test themselves, and become a better person in our field as far as we learn more tricks and kind of get some out of the box thinking,” Hall said. “We get tested in speed and craftsmanship as well as if we’re doing the job basically in the right order or the right procedures.”

Hall is the third generation in his family to compete in lineman rodeos. Not only did his grandfather compete in them decades ago, but his father made it to internationals in Kansas several times.

“The bar is set high, but competition’s a lot tougher today,” Hall said. “There’s a lot more linemen that do it. Anymore it’s not just about speed, it’s about technique. I’m just excited to be involved and to compete. I just want to do the best I can.”

Ethan McCammon, Carmel, is a second-year apprentice who also competed in last year’s rodeo.

“Something that’s definitely helped us out is our hurt man rescue,” McCammon said. “We do train this every single year at Duke Energy, but doing the rodeo, you get in so many more reps, and it’s a lot more practice to be proficient, and something that can actually help you with your job.”

Tyler Adrian, also a second-year apprentice, competed in last year’s rodeo and went to internationals.

“In our experience, specifically internationals last year, seeing different things that we may not do in our area of Duke or our type of work that we do was a big help,” Adrian said. “There’s differences in transmission and distribution. Talking to some of the other guys that do different things a different way and seeing how they do it compared to how I do it, maybe that made me better in a specific aspect has definitely helped.”

For Collin Boschert, a fourth-year apprentice who will become a journeyman lineman in October, this is in fact his first rodeo.

(Editor’s note: yes, Collin, that makes you the little buckaroo mentioned in today’s headline.)

“I am looking forward to just seeing the different ways people go about the same task, because even learning in the last four years, you learn that there’s a million different ways to go about one simple task,” Boschert said. “Everybody has a different way of thinking and a different way of doing things depending on where they’re from and who they’ve learned from. So, I’m just looking forward to learning more, I guess, tricks of the trade and just kind of get a better understanding of line work itself.”

The Reporter spoke with Duke Energy linemen Ethan McCammon, Tyler Adrian, Collin Boschert, Jason Washburn, and Andrew Hall.