A day in the life of a lead yard equipment operator

Shawn Rupert, Laramie River Station

Shawn Rupert, Laramie River Station lead yard equipment operator.

He used to get pushed around a bit. Pulled in every direction. Bucked and tossed.

As an amateur bull rider, Shawn Rupert lived a life in which buckles weren’t as important as fun. Until he got drug by a bull and hurt his leg badly enough to be laid up for six months.

That’s when Rupert decided it was time to hunker down and get serious about work. He had been working in construction in Kansas when he learned about jobs at a power plant near Wheatland, WY. He still remembers the starting wage for a laborer at Laramie River Station in 1980: $7.77 an hour.

“Awesome money. It was great money, great money,” he says. And the safe nature of the work, well, he couldn’t put a price tag on that.

Today, 34 years later, Rupert is a lead yard equipment operator. He worked his way up through the ranks, from laborer to utilities to equipment operator. He’s been in the coal yard his entire career, running scrapers, the picker, dozers, all kinds of heavy equipment.

These days, they’re a little short-staffed. The plant has lost employees to retirement, co-workers Rupert’s age are moving on. “We only have five new laborers right now. One of them already has a bid out (meaning he may be promoted, possibly away from the coal yard), which is awesome for him, but it’s hard on us,” Rupert says. “I’ve been here through the good times and the bad times, and now we’re headed back to the good side again. … I think we’re headed in the right direction, I really do.”

Read the full story from the May/June 2014 issue of Basin Today: A day in the life of a lead yard equipment operator

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