In this episode, Dan Holohan reflects on the Dead Men who came before us and the legacy they left behind. Episode Transcript My earliest memory of school goes like this: ...
Dangerous Dan and the Hole in the Ground
In this episode, Dan Holohan tells you a tale that will keep you spellbound, of Dangerous Dan and the hole in the ground.
I’m going to tell you a true story by way of what I consider to be an epic poem. It’s not quite right up there with Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey, but for me, it’s close enough.
Another Dead Man tale goes along with this one; and you might want to listen to that one first. It’s right here in the collection.
I called it What Ray Taught Me, and it describes how I fell flat on my face while doing my first steam-heating seminars for a group of seasoned contractors.
It was, without question, the worst day of my professional life, and I am forever indebted to the late, great Ray Combs for teaching me this valuable lesson:
He said, “Dan, you should never again get up in front of an audience as a speaker until you know as much or more than the people in the room know. Now go study.”
So I took his words to heart and enrolled in the University of Hard Knocks for a bunch of years.
And when it was time for me to once again get up in front of a bunch of heating professionals and talk about steam heating, I always began my talk with this, my magnum opus, when it comes to poetry.
And every word of it is true. For me, it measured 9.9 on the Sphincter Scale?
I called it, Dangerous Dan and the Hole in the Ground It goes like this:
I’ll tell you a tale that will keep you spellbound,
Of Dangerous Dan and the Hole in the Ground.
It started out simply on a day just like this,
At a steam seminar I wanted no one to miss,
Especially Pete, who was a plumber by day,
And who wanted to come but his boss said, “No way!”
But I wanted him there for this was Pete’s dream.
You see, the plumber by day was a student of steam.
And at night he would sit ‘til the first crack of dawn,
With the books and the drawings of a Day Long Gone.
And he studied the steam and the work of Dead Men,
Who had come years before and who weren’t there then
To teach him the art he so wanted to know,
So when he heard of this class, well, he just had to go.
So I took up his fight and I spoke to Pete’s boss.
I said, “Look at this day as a gain, not a loss.
“How valuable Pete will be after that day!”
And Pete’s boss relented, and he said “Okay.”
“But have him back Friday or you’ll take the heat.
I’ve a steam job to do, and for that, I need Pete.”
“He’s the only one here who can or ever would
Tackle the steam. The others are no good."
“Sure they know hot-water, leaky pipes and clogged drains,
But for them, steam has always been too much of a strain."
So I promised sincerely that I’d have Pete back there,
But what I didn’t count on was Pete’s glassy stare.
Like a small kid at Christmas Pete was at our place,
And I should have known then by the look on his face,
That the very next morning, not giving a whit,
Pete would call up his boss and just simply quit.
“I’m striking out on my own!” Pete said with a scream,
“Now that I know all there is about steam!”
And as he hung up the phone the boss started to gag,
Because he was left there holding the proverbial bag.
So my phone rang that morning at nine.
“I’d kill you, you bum, if I just had the time!”
“But I don’t!” said the boss. “I’ve a steam job to do,
And no one to do it, thanks to you. Thanks to YOU!”
"You're dangerous," Dan, he said, losing control
So this is how Dangerous Dan dug his hole.
I offered to help. Oh yes, there on the job.
“I’ll bring my books. You send your mob."
“So what if you men don’t know what to do.
With my books and their tools, somehow we’ll get through.”
And as I hung up the phone I choked back a sob.
For up until then, I’d never been on a job.
But what was there to it? Why, I had this old book!
Hey, I’ll just go down there and take a good look.
But when I got to the job I stared, thunderstruck,
For there on the back of this blue pick-up truck,
And straining the tires down into the mud,
And hissing, and bellowing, and crying for blood,
Sat the meanest and heaviest shape known to man.
“What’s that?” I asked. “Why, that’s the boiler, Dan.”
In all of my days I’d never seen such a sight,
And I blinked with my eyes to make sure they saw right.
‘Twas a boiler for sure, but I was soon to find,
It was bigger than the one on page ninety-nine.
I’d flipped past that one many times with great ease,
But this beast would soon have me down on my knees.
Yes, we struggled an hour with that son-of-a-gun,
And just when I thought that the battle was won,
The man with the tools asked the kid with the book,
“Where do you want it?” So I took a good look.
And then in my very-most-confident voice,
I said, “Over there is the logical choice.”
So we struggled and grunted for ten minutes more,
‘Til the beast settled heavily down onto the floor.
And we sat back exhausted. And we all took a break.
As I thought of the decisions I’d soon have to make.
On supplies and returns, and the Hartford Loop, too
And I opened my book so I’d know what to do.
And I walked to the boiler. And I laid my book down,
When just then my ears heard this crumbling sound.
“Twas the book that had done it. The very last straw!
And that boiler went CRASHING right down through the floor.
Down in the hole the three of us fell,
The boiler, and me, and my textbook as well.
It seems a washing machine, piped into the ground
Had undermined the floor and made it unsound,
And try as I might for the rest of that day,
I could find nothing in my book that would say
What to when a job takes an unfortunate hitch,
So I decided to “pit” that son-of-a-bitch.
“Look here,” I said, in a confident voice.
“This, after all, is the logical choice.
“With the waterline difference of an inch or two,
The boiler belongs in a pit. It’s true!”
And the men gathered ‘round me, and they stared at my book,
And each had his turn to take a good look.
And they all started nodding and they laughed with delight,
For they saw by the book that the hook-up was right!
And once they got over their initial alarm,
They piped in that boiler, and it worked like a charm.
And Dangerous Dan was a hero that day.
And the boss called me up, ‘cause he wanted to say
That experience shows, and this really proves it
For he never would have thought of digging that pit.
Well, I learned me a lesson from my day in the hole,
A lesson that went to the depths of my soul.
There comes a point in your life where you put the books down,
And you learn all the rest from a hole in the ground.
I hope you enjoyed that poem. And if you did, please share it with your friends. And if you haven’t already, please subscribe to this podcast. I have lots more Dead Men Tales to share with you, and I’m really enjoying our time together, and I hope you are, too. Thanks for being here.
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