Laborers give new meaning to 'hard work'



SELMA — How tough is your job?

Could it possibly involve staying balanced on a tin roof high above a pavement in mid-August with the heat index slowly climbing into the triple digits?

Or, how about walking across a high school roof that’s covered with wet tar slowly seeping into your work boots?

James Carter and Donald Witcher are in their 60s and they’ve had experience with such things, so they are enjoying this holiday off from replacing roof shingles.

They’ve proved time and again that they can hold their own with younger roofers who try to keep up with them, but often head for shade when the sun’s at its highest.

Together, they have 45 years of experience on rooftops across Selma and surrounding communities.

The two men work for Fancher Fabrication Inc. in Selma and spend their days replacing shingles, vents and other damaged sections of roofs.

Many men that age might be looking forward to retirement, but not these two reliable roofers.

“You got to get started as early as you can in the summer because the heat can flat wear you out if you’re not ready,” Witcher said. “I know, I’ve been doing this for 36 years.”

He once was employed at a steel fabrication business that worked with metal, not wood or brick, and it made standard roof work look easy.

“I can remember the times temperatures would get up to 120 degrees on metal roofs,” he said. “When that happens, you work a bit and then come down to rest.”

Preparation is important for roofing work during the summer. That means light, white clothes, gloves, knee pads, towels and whatever else that can help meet the challenge.

“The glare off of metal roofs can really blister you if you’re not ready for it,” Witcher said.

Hydration, of course, is the most important preparation for summer roof work because body temperatures can become dangerously high during hot, humid days aloft.

“When it’s really hot, we take a cooler filled with ice so we can drink up on the roof instead of coming down,” Carter said. “We drink as much water as we can, but I also like tomato juice because it’s got vitamins and salt in it.”

A sure danger sign for roofers is lack of perspiration. When they stop sweating, it could be stroke time, reason enough to seek some shade, drink plenty of liquids and look for a shady spot to rest awhile.

Roofers are a special breed and not everybody can take it or make it. The best way to beat the heat is to start early, usually just as the sun starts its upward climb each morning.

“When I was younger I went down to Louisiana to work off the coast on one of those oil rigs,” Carter said. “That was hard work, but I don’t think it could match roof repairs in the summer.”

Asked how he’d feel working in an air-conditioned building instead of laboring atop a roof, Carter started to laugh.

“Wouldn’t it be sweet?” he said. “If I had gone longer to school, I might have a job like that, but I don’t mind.”

In a way, his job does include air conditioning, but it’s the wilting kind that can test the resolve of the fittest of men up on those roofs.

Carter and Witcher fit that description and, and on this Labor Day, they deserve all the praise possible for what they do.

The two men work for the Fancher family, a tight-knit group of men and women who epitomize the meaning of hard work and responsibility.

What worries Bobby Fancher, who runs the operation, is the negative view of roofing by those who turn thumbs down when asked if they’d like to climb up on a roof to repair shingles.

“They don’t want to be here in hot weather,” said Bobby, a former diesel mechanic who supervises 10 employees. “That’s what worries me about the future of our business.”

He said roofers can easily make $15 or more an hour “and there’s plenty of work to stay busy.”

Melinda Fancher, Bobby’s wife, and Ashley Fancher, his daughter-in-law, provide the administrative backbone for the family business.

Robert Fancher, one of Bobby’s sons, won’t soon forget the day he and others walked across a roof at Prattville High School several years ago.

He said their job was to “mop down” icky tar trying to stick to their work boots when temperatures soared, and they wondered what in the world they were doing up there.

Bobby’s son has a solid sense of humor in his line of work and when asked about that roofing experience, said: “We were a bit taller every time we walked across the tar that kept popping above the surface.”

From The Montgomery Adviser

Trenton H. Cotney
Florida Bar Certified Construction Lawyer
Trent Cotney, P.A. 
407 N. Howard Avenue
Suite 100
Tampa, FL 33606

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