We were all hustling, so no one really had time to go look at it. I
did layout with a hand level. Lopat did sewers. Junior Palumbo did ev-
erything else, mostly pushing Lopat and Ryan to finish their work so
he could take over with the paving spread. We supposed that Brown &
Lambrecht was in the same spot we were—watching October slip away
and with it the good roadbuilding weather, eager to pave, sign and stripe,
backfill the roadside, and finish. But Junior Palumbo’s eyes fixed on that
big blur due south of us, and his voice came over the radio, “Thirty-one,
what are you doing?”
I responded that I was laying out noise wall.
“What’s that thing?” he said. There was no need to describe it. I knew
what he meant. We all knew. He meant the boulder. We could all see it
from far off. “A rock,” I replied.
“Where are you? Come here.”
I found him by Voukon’s old driveway, where 63rd and Hobson used
to cross each other, where the 63rd Street bridge stood now, and the tri-
ple box culvert where Prentiss Creek flowed after O’Malley and I put it
though the box last November on one of those early mornings when you
see your breath in your truck’s headlights trying to get the equipment
Junior Palumbo drove a Crown Vic dirtier than a manhole. Paving
hadn’t even started, and it was already full of mud from him walking the
grade whatever the weather was, checking string lines where they could
be put up, slogging through the mess at the batch plant Johnny I had
helped him put up just north of Maple on a vacant piece of land the Tollway said we could use because they owned it and nobody else wanted it.
“Let’s go for a ride,” he told me.
The subgrade here was firm and smooth between the pair of string
lines set up for the trimmer and paving rig on the northbound lanes.
Junior drove fast, not just to get there quickly but probably to satisfy
himself that the trimmer had done a good job getting the clay ready for
base course and eventually the concrete pavement. We got out of Junior’s
car to study the boulder, looking south past where it sat to see if the
other contractor, Brown & Lambrecht, had anything going on nearby.
The new subgrade for I-355 was in a trough between rows of houses sitting up high where their backyards could watch the progress of the new
roadway. Right now, the only thing they could see was us. The roadway
was rough graded, sewers and utilities installed, waiting for the contractor’s fine-grade crew to come get it ready.