Frein’s supporters — calling themselves “Stever’s Believers” — whooped it up as he kicked off the first round by hooking a 55-gallon, water-filled metal drum and using the towering crane’s controls to carefully weave the hulking metal behemoth in a serpentine pattern around other barrels. If the drum knocked into anything, he’d be penalized, the same if he raised the crane too high or too low.
He was a little rusty; it’s been 12 years since the teacher has done that type of work regularly. But Frein and the other competitors — pros from around the Pacific Northwest — were up for the task. Cranes are their livelihood, after all.
“Teaching is just not the same,” said Frein’s wife, Janet, who passed the time by knitting. “He’s all pumped up about doing this.”
But Frein wasn’t thrilled when he stepped down from the machine.
“I think I looked pretty bad, I’ll tell you the truth,” he said as Janet wrapped her arms around him. “But it was fun,” he added, punctuated by a hearty “Ha!”
“We would be proud of him no matter what,” said Frein’s son Nate, a graduate student studying biology at Washington State University Vancouver. Nate’s 3-year-old Iasem was nearby, following his grandfather’s lead by picking up rocks and placing them in orange plastic safety cones. “Can cranes reach higher than people?” he asked.