Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Heater Man




PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: The heater man is the first of five. It takes five men to run the extruder. Nobody sees the heater man. He's back, behind ovens and conveyors, behind the yellow rail, watching graphs and temperatures, maintaining his equipment, waiting in a narrow passage against the back wall where there's barely pacing space. His equipment is noticeably newer than elsewhere in the factory, but he's all alone. When a block is hot, from somewhere behind the ovens, the heater man pushes a button, and 300 lbs of hot copper moves down the track, appears and stops, a glowing, orange beacon in front of the system operator.

I have not yet captured a good photo of Miguel, the heater man, but his title has provoked the following bit of nonsense, perhaps inspiration for a future portrait.

Song of the Heater Man
(to be accompanied by steam puffs, clanking steel and the sultry whine of the straining extruder)

Heater man,
where does he stand?
watching the graphs
watching the heat

Behind the ovens,
watching, waiting,
no pacing space
for the heater man.

When he pushes the button
the hot block rolls
but nobody sees
the heater man.

Nobody sees
the heater man,
meter man,
watching the heat.