Writing Exercise This Is Me.

James Huffaker
9 min readMay 17, 2022

James “Pete” Huffaker

Moving ahead like an old tractor

Just a summary to review what I have done with my life and see if it is interesting:

We can’t presume I remember being born, only to being alone. Not knowing that I was very premature and in an incubator like we later did to the chickens. There did not seem to be contact with other people at least nothing memorable.

I went home to a house on Jefferson Street in Monte Vista. Mom and dad both worked somewhere but had a caretaker and housecleaner named Verna Stubbs.

When my siblings tried teaching me to write we discovered that I must be left handed. Not that it mattered to me, both hands seemed to be in mischief all the time.

I remember kindergarten, the teacher was highly motivated that I was not going to use my left hand to write. She brought in a mirror and writing my letters with my right hand into the mirror (because apparently they were backward right to left) eventually made my right hand just readable. It is still about the same today.

Not being one of the children accustomed to a nap, the teacher used me to take the little red wagon to the cafeteria and get the number of milk for the class. My brother tells me he often got one on the way, we didn’t seem to have much to eat in those days. There was usually difficulty to get the 25 cents a day for lunches. I remember arguments over that expense.

On the street I was one of the younger kids, but would not be left behind. We climbed trees, fireplace chimneys, garages and generally jumped off the same as a way down. I remember being a little tough, the kids I was found with were fighters mostly and several from abusive hard families.

One time a boy from out of our neighborhood caught me on the sidewalk and was going to punch me in the stomach. He hit me as hard as he could and I knew from playing with the big kids to suck in as he hit me and barely felt any impact. He looked at me really funny I remember and I said, “now my turn” and he ran. The big kids would put me on the seat of whatever crazy go cart they had worked up with an old gas motor on it. It really took two people, one to control the throttle, brake and shut off and one to steer. I rode the carts alone after they started the motor, crashed to stop often and never once went to the hospital.

I did go to the hospital once, which I have written about other places. A nasty bloody accident off of a swing set. I still have trauma from that trip.

When I was seven we moved to the farm. There were chickens, pigs, some cows and several geese that didn’t like me very much. I didn’t know we were struggling to get by. We worked 16 acres of alfalfa with water that came when it wanted and we had to use or lose. Shoveling tarps into the water to stop it and move it into the field. More here, less there, more shoveling. Always more shoveling.

The drafty old house, a two story, stucco of uncertain parentage, only had a single kerosene heater in the dining room. That was tied to a barrel of kerosene outside by a small copper tube. To light it, you opened the valve and threw a lit wooden match into the bottom, then closed the door and adjusted the flame with the valve. On cold mornings, if you stood touching the stove you could get warm, but it would not heat the house.

My brother and I had to get up in the dark every morning and build a fire in a huge cast iron caldron to fill up water and grains for the pigs. Pigs can’t eat ice and it was usually below zero at that time of the morning. Then once boiling, we hauled it in five gallon buckets between us to the pigs and poured it over the fence. I am certain it was the hard way to do it, but that was all we knew. We then could go in the house, try to warm up and maybe get cold cereal if there was any before walking a quarter mile up the dirt road to catch the school bus.

Dad brought home a small printing press, hand operated. Taught me how to use it, set type (lead type by the way) and started getting me printing jobs for business cards, envelopes, letterheads and more. Soon I was printing a couple hours a week, when we were not working the cows, pigs, chickens, alfalfa or being chased by the geese.

It seemed like the printing was easy work by comparison, I was also selling personalized paper to kids at school for five cents a sheet.

My brother got in the business, we bought a larger hand press and several variations of offset printing presses over the next years.

By the time my brother went into the Army, we were running a full on printing business from a couple large rooms at dad’s book-keeping office.

It worked out for my brother, he got a job in the Army printing in Germany.

I always wanted more challenge, I started bringing home broken televisions from the tv shop and parting them out to components, which I would check and reuse. My goal then was to become an amateur radio operator, which I eventually did, but that was several years later.

I had a clipping from the Heathkit Catalog next to my bed, it was a kit Amateur Radio Transceiver and it was $12.97. It might as well have been $1,000,000 because it was unobtainable.

I made it out of high school working at a grocery store, which my dad had recently bought. That is a story in itself, maybe later.

National Radio Institute NRI if they are still around, had a master color television technician course, which I started right out of high school on the payment plan. I excelled in the course.

In the meantime, my wife’s dad, did I mention that I got married two weeks out of high school before I turned 18? Anyway, her dad was a “hard rock miner” or “tramp miner” as some called him. He worked at most mines in Colorado and Arizona over his lifetime and he was a big man. The mine he worked at needed some labor and he had me go apply. It was actually just show up to work. I had about an hour worth of safety training, here’s your hat, light, boots belt and wrench, you are a supply runner. Here is how the trains work, don’t get hurt.

One thing about mining, it brings out the man in you real quick or you are not there anymore. Physically, emotionally and mentally you grow up.

I used my electronic and electrical training to work with the mine electric department and obtained extensive experience in all phases of electric power. (mine pun)

Hauling boxed Dynamite into miners work area (Stopes) with blasting caps and other supplies involved grabbing a fifty pound box of explosives in each hand and walking a distance in two to four inches of mine mud, put the dynamite away and repeat. I was there for some time, it paid better than the two jobs I had worked at the television repair shops in town. The best pay was $1.15 and the mine started me at $3.25 that was a big difference.

That ‘don’t get hurt’ catch was the problem, I had been there some time when a laborer pried a twenty foot piece of track off his cart and directly on my foot. After doctor and cast and healing I went back for surface light duty in the machine shop for a short time, but partly due to my earliest foot trauma, I just could not go back. So back to the grocery store.

I was repairing Televisions, installing CB radios, putting up television antennas. Then I trained in commercial refrigeration at the vocational school. The commercial refrigeration turned out to be where the money was at the time, but it was also time consuming. I was only one of three repair persons for six small towns in 500 square miles.

One day after a long day of fixing stuff and not seeing any real future in being a medium size fish in a small tank, I asked a friend if I could pump gas at his station for the day while I thought about some things.

Starting my own refrigeration/television repair business in 1974–1975, maintaining medium sized grocery store cold rooms, freezers, meat cases and bar ice machines repairing televisions in between. There was demand and I was working all over the area.

An opportunity presented itself to contract putting in a bakery, some of the work involved large gas pipes to the ovens. The main parts of the contract were the freezers and cold rooms for the bakery. A business who wanted to compete against me told the City inspector that I was not qualified for the gas installation. I inquired about an examination and subsequently obtained a licensed gas fitter permit from the City.

I decided that I wanted to work in electronics instead of refrigeration and the small town was not going to pay enough to feed my family, we had a son in 1974 and he was growing up fast.

Finally burned out working 6 1/2 days a week and moved to Pueblo, Colorado to work in Radio/TV.

Since I was trained in electronics, completed vocational and college level electronic programs, I tested and obtained my Journeyman Certified Electronic Technician Certification.

Daily worked electronics, night classes in computers and microcomputers at local college. Installed business systems using 8” floppy drives and tape loaders/backup.

Death of my parents precipitated a move to Bagdad, Arizona where my wife’s family now lived and started work at the Bagdad Copper Corp., Mine.

I have/can operate a 270 ton haul truck,

Bucyrus Erie and P&H ore shovels,

Small truck mounted cranes,

Forklifts, misc. heavy equipment,

Trained and experienced in electronic/ electric systems on both types of ore shovels which needed constant maintenance due to the environment 140 degree ambient day 50 degree by night.

Experience in maintaining/repairing 12,000 volt substations with vacuum and mechanical disconnects.

Safely use a ‘hot stick’ to connect / disconnect 12k/4k and 1.2k overheads

Learned to splice and patch 2300 volt industrial cable used to power the ore shovels.

Attended Delco Battery School, BE electronic school, Marion Dresser Electronic maintenance school, several others, it seemed I worked a couple months and spent a month in school for six years. It worked, I moved into the newly founded electronics department. By this time I was a MSHA certified electrician.

Trained on Rockwell Microwave Systems used to control and monitor the water pumping system for the mine across 60 miles of desert.

Trained on Motorola two-way radio systems.

Did other neat stuff! Too much to write or remember.

Left the mine due to global economic pressures and threat of lay-offs.

Computer Land in Prescott, Arizona as two or three jobs .. As James Huffaker I was the computer service technician, trained in several systems including Compaq, Apple and others that no longer exist.

As Pete Huffaker, I was a salesman and trained salespeople in the new systems. We had storefronts in Prescott and Flagstaff, Arizona.

The company where I worked became over-extended and it was time to leave. I was hired on-presentation at Global Navigation manufacturing facility located at the Prescott Airport. As a board tester, we certified computer systems for fighter aircraft and private jets.

While looking for work, I had responded to a small ad in the Phoenix paper for a microwave/electronic technician in California. They called me while I was working at Global Navigation. I rented a car and drove all day to make the interview, held near Desert Center, CA.

During the interview, it felt like I had written the questions. This was exactly what I was trained and experienced to do all this time!

It took a few weeks, but I received the job offer and the next 25 years are history. At least it is another lengthy story with some highlights.

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James Huffaker

aka Ben Moreland, retired. Interested in science, technology and future of earthlings. Sometimes I see things a bit different.