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Looting Copper Wire from a PowerStation

Aug 11, 2006

I was listening to the local news tonight when I heard a story that took me back in time.  The news described some local thieves/looters that had clipped a major power cable to a power station, which subsequently knocked out power to 5000 people in the Atlanta area. 

"Why did they cut the power line?" you might ask.

They cut the power line such that they could loot the copper cable to the power plant and some other copper components as well.  Copper has rissen to its highest levels ever this year and as the value increases, so does the scrap value and thus a wire hanging from a line, starts to look like a gold chain unguarded to looters.  (Think of certain Iraqi's that went and looted key facilities for parts, and scraps of whatever they could find.  Unguarded stuff is free stuff in the minds of looters.)

So why did this news report take me back in time and my memories?

Years ago in the 80's when I was a teenager, I met a kid a couple years younger than myself (I think I was 17 and he was 15).  He and some of his buddies (some of them later became friends as well) used to go to the local abandoned insane asylum called Zeller in Peoria, IL.  This great big sprawling complex was located on the outside of town just on the far end of the airport runway where a plane might have dropped from the sky to put Zeller patients out of their misery years earlier (Zeller didn't have the reputation of being a nice place.)


Now below the complex, there were a number of underground tunnels which are required by federal statute to be built under insane asylums to make them creepier.  These tunnels among other things held conduits which were packed with pipes and 'copper' cables.  So this new friend of mine at the time, used to sneak down into the tunnels at night with his friends.  They would bring a Come-along, which is not some perverted thing, but basically a hand wench, which is not some perverted thing either.  They would break into the conduit and strap the end of the Come-along to a section of copper wire and then they would run down the tunnel and break into the conduit and cut the cable at that end.  They would then start to wench the copper cable out of the conduit, ratcheting in a looters hall of copper.

They would take the copper down to the recylcing place along with some beer cans and they would exchange their 'loot' for cash and that cash was rapidly turned into beer money, which starts to explain my friendship with them. 

Now these were some decent guys, they were skaters as was I and we partied it up quite a bit at the local party house (someone over 18 would rent a house to 'go to college' at Bradley University, and then we'd move in and throw keggers to pay the rent).

Now unfortunately my friend with his copper salvage business ran into trouble with the law.  He didn't get caught salvaging unsanctioned bails of copper wire.  Instead he got in trouble for violating his probation.  One night he was drinking and possibly taking a few other mood altering chemicals, and he stole his grandmothers car(its called stealing when you are under 16 or else Grandma would be in trouble too!).  He proceeded to drive the car down town in to Peoria and headed straight for the Police Station.

It seems he was some what aggravated in his unclear concious state of mind, and therefore he had become upset with the Police for whom he blamed his probationary status.  Therefore, he took his grandmothers car and rammed it into a parked Police Car outside the police station.  He was apprehended.

Now, I would not want to leave this story without describing the reason for his probationary status in the first place.  One evening in Peoria, he (probably encouraged by some friends, I'm not sure it was before I met the fellow) decided that he wanted to take a bulldozer for a joy ride (Some people would say that a pattern may have been initiated with this urge).  Unlike many of us that experience the urge to joy ride in a bull dozer, my friend acted on his urge and was successful.

He was able to get the bull dozer moving.  Now the bull dozer had been parked in a construction site downtown.  Downtown Peoria is not as crowded as some larger cities but it does share a common trait of any city. 

It has lots of buildings everywhere.

Now, as you might guess, a 15 year old young man joy riding in a bull dozer without any practical bull dozing experience can be a danger to himself, those around him and any buildings that happen to be in his way.  Unfortunately for my friend, the building that happened to be in his way, was a Shriner's Building.  My friend drove the bulldozer right through the wall of a Shriner's Building at which point he either figured out how to stop it or the building figured out how to stop it.  So this event led him to be placed in a probationary status for which his resentment grew and he later attacked a police car with his grandmothers car.

There is no moral to this story.  I will not preach that stealing cars or joy riding in cars or joy riding bull dozers through a Shriner's Building is good or bad.  All of these things are obvious to adults.  However, for teenage boys the brain is a strange place where reality does not always meet the eye, and so it went for my friend and for myself the teenager who befriended this troubled soul.  Today almost two decades later, I'm reminded of my friendship and the things that seemed all important when I was a teenager. . .

WooHoo ed by Brett Bumeter at 5:25 PM  


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