Sophie Says: Right guys for the right job

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A Winters Express opinion column

Gramps Says
The old almond orchard is gone and in its place are 52 graded lots and sidewalks, curbs and gutters. Of course, there are differing opinions on whether this is an improvement in the use of that land, but that is a moot point with these 10 acres. The deed is done.

Living on a street adjacent to the construction is most convenient for observing the progress of the development. In truth, I enjoy the movement of the large earth movers and the growl of their engines. The exactness of the grades they plane is to be admired.

After the initial grading is completed the ditch diggers move in and all of the underground piping is installed, with inlets and outlets set to specific and exact locations and elevations. Then the road and sidewalk sub-base is put in place and everything is finely graded to such exactness that very little adjustment is necessary to set the forms for concrete work. In its own way, it’s kind of miraculous.

At this stage of the development, I have been able to walk through the project with Terri secured on a leash and observe in detail the installation of the concrete sidewalks, curbs and gutters. Most of this work is done by hand and the crew numbers from 12 to 18 men, who set forms and steel rebar and place and finish the concrete.

This work is also done with exactness, but the other element in play is artistry. There is no practical way to form the dips where driveways enter the lots and these are hand sculptured. The final finish must be done at just the right time and is an art unto itself.

It has been my observation that there are very few Caucasian cement finishers anymore. I have witnessed this phenomenon not only on this project but at many other jobs and locations. Like the Italian terrazzo experts in San Francisco, the Spanish-speaking men seem to dominate cement finishing and the reason is not that they work cheaper. The men who work the orchard job receive good-paying union wages. I have heard of local companies that in desperation will pay a skilled concrete finisher far in excess of union wages on a temporary daily basis.

I’ll leave it up to the Social Scientists and Social Statisticians to explain the demographics of the workforce. What I see is more and more California Contractors have License numbers on Hispanic-owned pickup trucks. When I last took a California Contractors License test, ten or so years ago, there were many bilingual applicants. I see this as a good thing and a credit to these hardworking men and women.

Sophie Says
The nuances of the labor force are lost on Terri, who is a short-haired German Pointer. I don’t mean to be judgmental, but that breed is almost as obtuse as Labradors. However, in all fairness, they are both energetic and good-natured members of the canine family.

I would have enjoyed the walk with Gramps, but it’s a bit too far and at my age, Gramps would probably have to carry me home. In my own backyard, I monitored a Spanish-speaking crew install our patio and walks. I observed the same with the neighbor’s driveway this week. Does that qualify me as a Social Statistician?

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