Here’s something that doesn’t happen very often to an old ironworker (or any ironworker for that matter).

I live and work in the San Francisco area and recently I was at Laguna Honda Hospital and the contractor, Turner, was letting Timberland , the shoe and clothing company, do a photo shoot for their new line of boots. One of the assistant superintendents for Turner, a guy named Cory, asked me if he could borrow some tools and a couple of dirty and worn-looking vests for their models to look authentic. So I gave them my tools and some stinky old vests.

A little while later me and another guy that used to be an ironworker, Steve Croft (he’s now a superintendent for Turner) were watching the two “ironworkers” climbing some walls trying to make it look like they knew what they were doing (ha ha).We were exchanging war stories from bygone years when during one of the breaks, which were frequent (they would take pictures for 15 minutes, then take a break for 10), I told Cory for the guys’ safety sake how to climb the walls and how to hook off properly.

Cory went back and told them about it and they went back to taking pictures again with guys climbing the walls and fumbling around trying to tie wire on the bars. During the next break Cory came back over to where we were and we were just talking about the camera crew. The crew had brought its own dirt make-up (why would you bring dirt makeup when got a whole job full and you still gotta wash it off?). And about how they use a spray bottle of water to make it look like they were sweating.

As we were talking the guy in charge of the shooting came over. Cory introduced me to Tom and told Tom that I was the ironworker superintendent. Tom said he liked the way I looked (Who me?) and wanted to know if I wanted to be part of the photo shoot, to show the guys how it was done and to make it look more realistic. I didn’t really say anything, and then Steve says for a few dollars I’d probably do it. Tom just said that wouldn’t be problem and he would pay me.

So I thought about it for a second and thought, “might as well (hopefully my tool belt fits and I can still remember how to tie and not make fool out of myself).” So I got my tools back from one of the guys and got another set of tools from one of my guys for the models (one white dude and one black dude). Tom wanted to show us climbing walls with rebar so I went over and started to grab some bars we had close by. The bars were No. 6 bars, 11 feet long and I took them over the wall where they were shooting. One of the models had gone over to grab some bars also but tripped and almost fell down with the bars in his hands, so I grabbed the bars from his hands before he fell.

Then they said to take a break.

After break I showed one of the models (who was actually in construction but did custom homes, so he wasn’t used to climbing around like this) how to make a tie and climb the wall with rebar properly. We took up four bars in our laps, got up to about 12 feet, which I think was high enough for him, and I was trying to show him how to tie while 3 guys are trying to take our pictures from different angles. I looked over at his tool belt and it was a leather belt, which is no good to hang on. (All I needed was for his belt to break while showing him how to climb the wall properly and what’s worse the safety guy from Turner was watching us the whole time.)

Then it was time for another break.

After break I showed the other model (who had the proper tool belt on) how to climb and tie, so we climbed the wall again and made it look like we knew what we were doing. This lasted for a few minutes and then they called us down (another break) for me to put on their boots. So I changed boots and then we went up again carrying some bars again and we tied up a few bars for a few minutes and they had us come down (another break). Then they wanted me to get the boots dirty, so I went over to a mud puddle and got dirt all over them, and they looked just like my Redwing boots.

When I came back they were so impressed with my dirty boots they wanted me take the first model over to get his boots muddy, too. When we came back they said they were done with me. So I changed boots went over to the production staff’s motor home and they gave me a rolled-up bundle of twenty dollar bills. I stuck it in my pocket ’til I got back to my office and then looked at how much it was. Two hundred bucks wasn’t too bad for 45 minutes of my time.

The next day I went to pick up our tools from Cory and he asked what size boot I wore. They had given him a pair of boots that didn’t fit him

They were just my size.

Jerry Patchin is an ironworker superintendent who works for Harris Rebar in the San Francisco area. His photo slide show of the new Bay Bridge, Through the Eyes of a Rodbuster, can be seen in the multimedia section on