Saturday, March 19, 2011

Another Koos Memory

On Friday, February 4, 2011, Larry Gutowski died at age 54. Larry, nicknamed Ziggy, was a co-worker of mine at legendary Koos, Inc. In memory of him I posted a blog titled, “R.I.P. Ziggy”. On Tuesday, March 15, 2011, Gary Hopkins passed away. Gary also worked with me at Koos Inc. In fact, he continued working there (it’s now North American Salt Company) until his recent retirement. He was 55 years old. While it saddens me to see another of the Koos alumni pass on, it makes me smile when I think of the good times with Gary.

Gary was one of the most devout professional wrestling fans that I ever knew. Having had the pleasure of attending several wrestling shows with him, I knew that it wasn’t a good idea to tell him that pro wrestling wasn’t real. I didn’t want to get dropkicked.

Yes, Gary loved his wrasslin’. Not only did he know all of the wrestlers, he also knew all of the moves. That’s what almost got us both in trouble at Koos Inc. on a cold winter afternoon.

It was 2:00, which meant it was break time. I was chatting with Chuckie Haubrich when Gary plopped himself down on top of a pallet of 50 lbs. bags of Safe Step® Ice Melter.

I shot a quick grin to Chuckie and when he nodded back, we pounced on the unexpecting Hopkins. In a flash, he squirmed out from under us. This was no small accomplishment for the wiry forklift operator. He was probably 5’10” and 150 lbs. soaking wet, while Chuckie and I were considerably larger. Considerably.

Chuckie was 6’4” and went about 250 lbs. and I was a tad over 6’1” and significantly more than 250 lbs. Significantly more.

The size differential didn’t matter to the feisty Hopkins, he was more than happy to return the favor. He quickly applied several well-placed elbow drops to his much larger assailants and was loving it. Unfortunately his comeback didn’t last very long.

Chuckie and I recovered and soon we had Gary on his back again. I had just applied the sleeper hold on Gary when I noticed Chuckie had dashed out the door and down the ladder to his front-end loader.

Before I could ask him where he was going, I noticed the reason for his quick departure. Koos Superintendent Ed Appling had entered the plant and was heading our way. His eyes widened when he saw what was going on.

Thanks for the heads-up, Chuckie.

As I released my hold on Gary, Appling paused a moment before continuing through the plant on his way toward the warehouse. The very warehouse where Plant Manager Arnie Danielson was, going over shipping orders.

Gary and I were in deep doo-doo.

When our break had ended, we went back to work, Gary driving forklift while I sealed bags. It wasn’t long before Arnie walked into the production area. He called the two of us over to the side. Here it comes.

Or so we thought.

When Gary and I got over to a very solemn Arnie, he told us, “Ed Appling just spoke with me and he was very upset. He said that Vagnoni and Hopkins were wrestling on a pallet of bags.” Gary and I were prepared for the worst.

Then it happened.

Arnie broke into a wide grin and said, “I told him, bet I know who was winning!” He then said that he showed Appling the production numbers we had been putting up and that we were just blowing off some steam. Arnie had baled us out. Relieved, we thanked him and went back to work.

Gary loved wrestling and was a good guy. Although I hadn’t seen him in many years, I will miss certainly him. By the way, the graphic I used for this blog is a photo used for the Crusher’s obituary in 2005. I think Gary would have liked that.

Hopefully I won’t have to write any more blogs like this for a while. Until next time…from the booth.


Anonymous said...

Hey Paul,
Thought of you guys, when I read the obituary. Lot's of just plain old good hard-working fellows moving on, nowadays. Everybody hits that wall, sooner or later. Even Smitty.

Kool Papa

4 weeks, give or take, until the first game at the Moose. Time to get the wing loosened up.

Paul E. Vagnoni said...

But Papa, when are you gonna hit the wall? Smitty wants to know, Just sayin'…

sue said...

Anoher Koos story. Can just picture you all having a wrestle and getting caught out. Just a shame the story was written to remember the passing of someone. RIP Gary.

Paul E. Vagnoni said...

It is a shame, Sue. Koos was a dirty place to work, but there are many wonderful memories.

Anonymous said...

I'll hit that goddamn wall when I'm good and ready. And that ain't yet! Okay, I'll hit that wall when when the big ump in the sky says I will, and I hope it's not right around the corner, but if it is, I'm going down swinging. Well, if the music is playing, maybe I'm going down dancing, or if the tapper is open, maybe I'm going down guzzling. Anyway, in the end, you don't get to call your shot, unless you choose to eat your gun, or face a thousand federales. I'm not going either one of those routes, so I guess I'll just keep swinging until I hit the canvas. Wait, what's that I hear in the distance? I believe it's another Spotted Cow, calling me to the pasture. Gotta go.

Kool Papa

Paul E. Vagnoni said...

Papa, although we don't get to call our shot, it's nice to work on having a good place to land…

J. Kwiatkowski-Schuler said...

Thanks for sharing another great story. Sorry for the loss of your comrade.

Paul E. Vagnoni said...

Thank you, Julie.

Anonymous said...

very good

Paul E. Vagnoni said...

Thanks, Bev!