When students returned from spring break this year, there was a new addition to Kenyon’s campus: a second crane being used for the West Quad project. Visible from nearly any spot on the Hill, the two cranes stand in stark contrast to the typically bucolic Kenyon campus; they have even become the subject of many memes and jokes circulating among the student body. Sitting 190 feet in the air, Christina Easton and McKenzie Dodd work together to operate and maintain Crane Two.
Both cranes are tower cranes, which means they are grounded to a particular location. Unlike crawler cranes, rough terrain cranes or excavators which can move around, tower cranes are primarily used to move and unload heavy material.
Perhaps the campus-wide fascination with the cranes arises from a lack of information about the contruction of the West Quad project which may be due to a lack of contact between students and construction workers. Easton says that workers generally keep their distance as a sign of “respect”: “We wanna show you [students] courtesy. This is your guys’ place … We’re coming in and making noises. It’s just out of a respect thing. It’s no different than any other job,” Easton said.
Easton is the main operator and has been working on cranes since 2010. After high school, she entered an environmental restoration program at Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio.
She spent most of her four years participating in an apprenticeship in which she worked with cranes and learned alongside construction crews. After completing her apprenticeship, Easton began working as a main crane operator. Since then she has worked on a number of different projects, including the Children’s Hospital in Columbus, the Thompson Library at the Ohio State University and more recently the Facebook Data Center in New Albany, Ohio.
Now Easton is helping to train Dodd, who is about to enter her second year of a four-year apprenticeship. Easton does most of the lifting and moving of materials — commonly referred to as “picks” — while Dodd works alongside her, oiling and greasing the crane as needed. Occasionally, Dodd operates the crane herself. Before joining construction, Dodd initially pursued a career as a personal trainer. Only after her father mentioned an apprenticeship program did she ever consider working with cranes. So far, she says, it’s been a perfect match. “I really love heights,” she said. “So, I’m excited about [working on a crane].”
A typical day for Easton and Dodd begins by climbing up the 190 feet to the crane trolley at 7 a.m., inspecting the crane as they climb. After making sure everything is working, they begin their work for the day, and do not climb down until 3 p.m. Currently, the pair is assisting in moving and placing rebars, which are metal bars that reinforce and strengthen concrete under pressure.
Though both Easton and Dodd enjoy what they do, they are concerned about the stigmas surrounding construction workers and encourage people to look beyond them. “Sometimes construction workers just get a bad rap,” said Easton. “Just because they’re dirty, that just means they’re working hard.” Despite this, Easton ultimately finds her work rewarding. “It’s my career … [you] get to see the job progress … you leave at the end of the day and you see something that you’ve done. When this project’s done … I’ll know I’m a part of it,” Easton said.