The pros who've been at it a while make an excavator look like an extension of themselves. With a gentle nudge, an aggressive grab and an exact placing of a hook, it is as if the machine became Seattle's Frank Shields.
"It's a skill that can be graceful,"said Excavators Northwest owner Frank Shields."You want it to be graceful, as an owner."
Though it would cost hundreds of thousands to replace, Shields was somehow okay and strangely relaxed with the idea of letting Reporter Michael King take the machine for a spin.
"Okay, let's go get 'em,"Shields said. "It's child's play."
"I've put children in the seat and [taught] them how to do it,"Shields said."I don't tolerate kids just gettin on and rammin around. I give em the talk right off the bat."
So King attempted to be like Shields and place one of the thirty-six-hundred-pound blocks on top of another.
The following is King's account of what happened next.
"Oh! Now you broke it,"Shields said. It was the very first knob I touched. There were two joysticks, one for each hand with buttons on top.
"Now you can do the horn,"said Shields.
It sounded like a Volkswagen. Shields patiently let me get a feel for the machine. He showed me how to close the thumb on the bucket and lift. But the real challenge was to keep hold of the block.
"Oh, there you go,"Shields said. "Down. Left down. There you go. Now out right. Yeah you got it now," he said.
"Think I got it?"I said.
And I finally had it. Shields then gave me a sense of balance.
"We'll wanna stay in this range. Cuz the block will, it'll tip the machine forward or over,"said Shields.
Also, his truck was dangerously close and within range.
"I keep forgetting which…"I began.
"See we're at that point right now where,"said Shields as I reached the block's destination.
"You okay there Frank, you all right?"I said.
"I'm good,"he said.
I was sufficiently scared, but it was time for my skill test.
"So we're gonna finish that puzzle," Shields said."We're gonna put the fourth block into place."
"You sure you don't wanna move your truck Frank?"I said.
"Oh no it's fine," he replied. I nailed it.
"Do you wanna hire me?" I said.
"Uhhh…. No," he replied.
1111 NW 53rd St
Seattle, WA 98107