A Photo for Friday

Down the Line

“Down the Line”

July 12, 2020

Pike Road, AL

FILED UNDER: Photo for Friday, Photography
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. de stijl says:

    That is a great set of clouds caught well underlit by the setting sun.

    The powerline framing works well.

    I feel that lone pole in the distance.

  2. Mister Bluster says:

    I spent 35 years climbing utility poles just like this. It is a “joint use” pole. The bottom strand is almost always landline telephone cable. CATV facilities are above the phone lines and electric power wires should be several feet above any communications facilities.

  3. de stijl says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    I love insider knowledge like this.

    Why are so many poles still wooden? Inertia?

  4. Michael Cain says:

    @Mister Bluster: Six feet minimum spacing from the power conductors every place I’ve lived and worked. Utility poles are a slowly vanishing thing here. None of the municipalities in the metro area have allowed new poles except as repair for more than 40 years. Almost any time there’s major work in an area, they require the existing aerial plant to be buried.

  5. @Mister Bluster: Cool to know and yes, these are multi-use.

    @Michael Cain: They are common and an ongoing item here, although not universal. The poles in question are just outside my house on a street that is 18 years old.

  6. de stijl says:

    Was I Walk The Line about a dude who worked poles? I always assumed it was.

  7. Michael Cain says:

    @de stijl:

    Why are so many poles still wooden? Inertia?

    The initial price is low, they’re strong, an electrical insulator, easy to attach wires to, and in a pinch can be climbed with just a pair of climbing spikes and a belt. That’s a really hard combination to beat.

  8. Michael Cain says:

    @de stijl:

    Was I Walk The Line about a dude who worked poles? I always assumed it was.

    Nope. Newly married Johnny Cash making a promise to his wife.

    Back in the days when the Bell System dominated the US telephone system, they took advantage of any opportunity to use the famous Spirit of Service painting showing one of a group of linemen who walked the line during the Great Blizzard of 1888, repairing any downed lines they found.

  9. de stijl says:

    @Michael Cain:


    I was looking out the window just this week and wondered why.

    Why not metal or perhaps recycled plastic?

    I know metal poles can have break away fasteners in case of a full collision that wooden poles cannot.

    I assume the method is to replace wooden with metal poles where practical.

  10. de stijl says:

    @Michael Cain:

    I had always assumed I Walk The Line was either autobiographical or songwriting roleplaying.

    Cash was a god damn bad-ass in any analysis. I would not liked to have been inner circle when he was an addict and an alky, but he was a bad-ass at his job.

    Iowa just this week enacted a law granting released felons full voting rights. Johnny Cash sorta made that happen both in words and deeds.

  11. Mister Bluster says:

    Before I worked in the land line telephone industry I had to go to pole climbing school. If you can’t climb a pole with a belt and hooks you can’t work telephone lines because the lines are at the top of the pole. Some poles have steps on them but not very many. You can get a ladder to some poles but not all of them.
    In class they taught you to push yourself away from the pole if you start to fall.
    Ha! I know from experience that when I started to fall the first time I hugged the pole. By the time I realized my mistake I was already on the ground full of creosote and splinters the size of #2 pencils.
    I guess that’s why it’s called “burning the pole”.

    The Spirit of Service picture shows open wire circuits that were still in use to provide eight and ten party line service in rural exchanges when I started in 1973. One of the first jobs I had was to install terminals on new telephone cable that had been placed on the pole sometimes right in the middle of two crossarms. No matter how careful I was it was impossible to do the job without touching across a circuit and getting shocked. If the line was ringing the voltage seemed to jump out at you when I was sweating on a hot summer day.
    Even with all that and hanging off a pole at midnight during the winter in Wisconsin or in the Texas heat in the summer I would still not trade working outside all the time for anything.

  12. de stijl says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    You walked the line.

  13. Mister Bluster says:

    I did ride the Main Line of Mid-America pre Amtrak between Chicago and Carbondale IL many times when I was allegedly in college. Some of the best parties I’ve ever been to were on that train. Usually the southbound run after Christmas and before New Years. Six hours if it was on time.
    It was hardly ever on time. Usually at least an hour or two late.