Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Thanksgiving Story by Klecko

Many years ago I was working at a bread plant in small town, and my start time was 3 a.m. When I'd show up the mixer had 1000# doughs spinning for pan breads. The other guy who would be there was the bread machine specialist whose name was Trugnut.

Trugnut was a big biker looking dude, who would take the dough and place it into a huge hopper (he had an automated hoist which would assist him in this) and the dough would run through a machine that was as big as a McDonald's restaurant.

The whole process was automated.... dough scaled, rounded,run through a Ferris Wheel looking contraption, so the bread would relax and become more pliable, then it was run through a series of rollers, formed and panned.

Trugnut stood at the end (which he called the butthole)and this is where these finished loaves would get "pooped" out.

Trug was probably 6'2" and easily 300#'s, but when that bread came firing down the line that big man moved like a ballerina.

I was a bench hand "Roll Mole" at the time, so while the higher paid people did important things, I carmeled - Carmel roll pans, ran folds in the Danish and croissant slabs, or tied knots out of 1 1/2 ounce burger dough pieces.

One morning at about 4:30 Trugnut started screaming, at first I thought he got his hands caught in the rollers or something, but as I got closer I could make out his voice over the droning of all the machines in the bakery

"Dude-owwww-owwww-owwww get over here, I got to go take a s***! I was drinking rum last night!!!!"
The place we worked at was huge. The bathroom was about 2 blocks from where he was standing.

So I jumped in and started panning. I had messed with this machine before, but always at a much slower setting. When Trut broke away, I told him to reduce the speed setting, but he just turned his back and B-lined towards the toilets.

Within seconds loaves started stock piling on the bread panning tray, and I must have looked like a bad out take from the I LOVE LUCY show.

Super White Velvet loaves were bunching up, getting caught in the delivery shoot, falling on the floor. As embarrassed as I was, the sole fact that brought me any solace was that only the Mixer, Trugnut and I were in the plant.

There was nobody of significant stature to witness my shame.

When the run had expired, I did my best to straighten up the mess. Just about the time when I had completed this task, Trug came marching in with a grin on his face "You haven't finished yet huh?" before I could offer any excuse or explanation he was quick to show his gratitude by sharing

"Well, I wouldn't worry about that at all. I'm the one who should be embarrassed. I s*** myself before I even made it to the crapper. It took me so long because I had to switch uniforms."

Dude laughed as he shared this horrible confession.

It was at that point that I came to the realization that certain people are done trying to be cool. Middle aged folks seemed a lot more forgiving of themselves than my twenty something demographic.

Next, a guy named Snuffy came in. They called him that because he looked like the Snuffy Smith, that hillbilly cartoon character. Snuffy was easily in his 50's, but unlike Trugnut, he really thought he was cool. He wore a black motor cycle jacket and used Vitalis hair tonic to grease his hair back into what he called a duck a**.

He also wore tight T-shirts that were somewhere between white and gray, and his little pot belly would pop out. Since the bottom of the shirt seldom touched his belt line, Snuffy was often guilty of sporting severe plumbers crack.

I'll never forget the day Trug stumbled into him (and while doing so lodged a quarter into his butt crack) and whenever the Snuffy walked by somebody they say

"Play me a song Snuffy" or "Don't play B-17. It was our song, it was his song, but its over".

The old man was just too cool to ask in on the joke, but working in a bakery as long as he had, he knew he was the victim of something. It actually took a couple hours, but when Snuffy finally realized the source of attention....Holy Mary - Mother of God was he pissed.

We all had him in are peripheral, so when he stormed Trugnut we saved him from an a** kicking. one embarrassment for the day was enough.

Nobody liked Snuffy, but no one really hated him either, so a 1/2 dozen of us ended up holding him back as he made threats against Trug. I seriously doubt the threats were not meant to be taken literally, dude was just trying to save face, kinda like when a wide receiver drops an EZ touchdown pass. Instead of popping up and rushing back to the huddle, they almost always lay in the end zone clutching an ankle to make us think that this alleged injury was the answer to their failure.

But I digress, back to the dealio. Me-Trug and the mixer are by ourselves at the plant. It is Thanksgiving Eve and now Snuffy pops in. He has oven mitts hanging off his wrists and doesn't say a word to any of us.

Instead of helping me with prep like he usually did each morning (before the dough was ready in the proof box), he walked over to 6 - 55 gallon drums that were filled with pecans. He opened them all, dumped them onto sheet pans and placed them into a couple of roasting ovens (this process is usually 325 degrees for 10-12 minutes) When the last pan was in....he ran outside to have a cigarette, and worse yet, he didn't tell anybody.

Shop protocol is to scream out "Mixer is taking a crap" or "Ovens out -1 cigarette" or even "Ovens out -2 cigarettes" and that way if some bizarre Incident occurs where you can't get back, a teammate can assist you, but for whatever reason Ol' Snuffy ended up staying out too long and when he came back.......he was greeted by an oven load of burnt pecans.

Now I know that Christ raised Lazarus from the dead, but I'm willing to bet that even the Messiah would agree that once a nut is scorched....there is no resurrecting it.

Snuffy had a sick look on his face and quietly he dumped the burnt pieces back into the drum. Jeff the Mixer came over and did his best to offer kind words, but Snuffy was just sick about it. Most people in the Food Show take pride in what they do, and in Snuffys case he just fumbled on the goal line.....during the Super Bowl.

The only question remaining was would he get fired....and we had just entered the holidays. they wouldn't dismiss a family man at this time of year, would they?

Boss man wouldn't be in for about another 90 minutes so everybody just worked in silence. when he finally entered the shop, he smelled the foul odor immediately.

The scent stuck out like a French whore in a tree fort. Boss man waddled his little pudgy torso over to Snuffy, blasphemed Christ, and then fired him loud enough for all of us to hear, and then he turned back around and left Snuffy standing alone on a warehouse floor....all alone, in a space that was the size of 5 or 6 football fields.

A couple other bakers had just come in so they, Jeff and Trugnut went over and shook hands and said stuff, but I was so far away that i couldn't hear anything.

I didn't go over because I was the "Shop Kid",so i figured that it wasn't really my place to issue anything to an elder,and to be truthful, I didn't really care for the guy that much, but when all that was finished, Snuffy walked all the way over to me (which was in the opposite direction of the way he would eventually leave) and he reached out his hand.

When I shook it he said "Listen kid, you are really doing a great job. I know you don't get to hear that very often as a new guy, but I've really enjoyed working with you. Learn a lesson from my mess up today. an oven man just has to stay alert, that was my bad this morning, and there's no excuse for it. I cost the company a lot of money, but I'm sure I'll work with you again somewhere down the road. Take care and have a great Thanksgiving with your family."

I just stood there in shock and I am certain I felt worse for the opinions I had been holding about Snuffy, a guy that nobody liked, but nobody hated.

I never saw him again.


  1. Klecko,
    These are amazing stories! Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Thank you Jan. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Love Klecko

  3. I think you have been blessed with two gifts. Your a wonderful baker and have a way of telling a story that is amazing. Loved this Danny , loved it.

  4. friend - i particularly enjoyed this story.
    have a wonderful holiday.