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I like to work with my hands and to work outside. And at the end of the day, to have a sense of accomplishment. I like to see what I’ve done. I do enjoy helping people.
Who are your favorite type of customers? What are your favorite kinds of plumbing? How can customers make your job easier?
My favorite customers are nice and appreciate our work. I also like customers who pay their bills on time, like that same day.
My favorite kinds of plumbing to do are things that do not involve getting dirty or wet.
I don’t mind if people watch me while I work, but that’s not my favorite. Most plumbers do not enjoy that.
If I’m working on your kitchen sink, it’s really helpful if you clean out the work area first. Don’t leave a pile of dirty dishes in the sink. Or if I need to get into the crawlspace, get the stuff out of the space around it, so I can get in. That is helpful.
What made you want to become a plumber?
After I finished college, I became a personal chef, which was very demanding time-wise. It was hard to be in a relationship while being on call ALL the time, 24 hours a day. I had been a personal chef for 15 years in Wisconsin and then in Bigfork, here in Montana. I had a good friend in Bigfork who owned a plumbing company and one day I was complaining to my friend about my current job and girlfriend status.
Several days later, he called me and said he needed a plumbing apprentice. He said had prayed about needing an apprentice and God told him to talk to me. I could not even imagine myself being a plumber. We talked about it some more and then I agreed to try it.
My first day of work was September 11, 2001. On that day, I was working in a woman’s house in Bigfork, and her husband actually worked in the World Trade Center. Luckily, he wasn’t in the office at that time, but she didn’t know that right away. It was very scary. The other plumber and I basically just watched TV with her all day and she paid us anyway.
What did you like about plumbing so much that you wanted to keep plumbing?
I had a good teacher and I was pretty good at it, amazingly enough. I liked solving plumbing problems too. After that, I was able to do some cheffing part-time, when I wanted to. A couple years later, I was hanging out on my computer on eharmony.com, where I met my beautiful wife Jeanne, who talked me into moving to Billings. We were married in 2005, and then we had you a couple of years later. Now I’m YOUR personal chef.
Where is your favorite setting to work? In a small room, a big room, an old house, a new house? A crawlspace?
I would say that I like being outside of a crawlspace, working on trim, which is when the job is almost done. It doesn’t matter where it is – I like remodels as well as new houses. It’s neat to see a new space when it’s all done.
What is your favorite thing to work on?
I love changing out water heaters! I’m pretty good at it; I have a system devised that goes quickly so I can drain it, get the old one out and the new water heater hooked up.
When is your favorite time to work? Which season, day of the week, and time of day?
My favorite season is fall. My favorite day of the week is Friday. My favorite time of day to work is first thing at the day, about 8 o’clock in the morning.
What is the grossest thing you’ve ever had to do?
Oh, I’ve got one for that. I went to a job where none of their drains were working; everything was backing up from the basement into the shower on the first floor. So the shower area was full of sewage. They had a sewer cleaning company come and they ran a camera down the line because they couldn’t get the snake down it and they found that the line was cracked. They marked that spot in the basement floor on the concrete. I got there thinking that I was going to cut a section of pipe and just fix it. I got the jackhammer out and drilled one hole in the concrete. Right when I got through the concrete there was a 6 inch geyser of raw sewage spewing into the air.
Does that mean it was poop and pee?
Yes, that shot up into the air and didn’t stop for quite some time.
For many years, their sewer line had been severed. Their sewage had been seeping into a cavern under their house.
Yep. I had to leave my work clothes in the garage that day.
What’s the funniest thing that ever happened at work?
There was a guy from a supply house running parts to me on the job and he was waiting for us to finish something. We were drilling holes through 12” concrete with a giant hole saw. The floor underneath was finished. We had to have a guy on the floor below us to catch the concrete plug with a bucket below us. This job runner was bored and so he put the bucket on his head, without us knowing. The concrete core landed in the bucket on his head. I looked through the hole down below and there he was sprawled out on the floor.
Hee. Heee. That was funny. Was he okay?
What was a difficult job that you did really well?
Well, I think we do jobs really well when my team works together, Gabe, Travis and I. We all have different strengths and knowledge, so we can solve problems together.
This past year at Rimview Apartments, Gabe and I replaced multiple valves in a 6” water main, in a pit that was 12 feet deep and five feet around. That was challenging because there was barely enough room in the pit to do what we needed to do and we had to actually jackhammer out some of the concrete pit to make enough room to make it work. We were happy when that was done.
How long have you owned your own business?
I started Rimrock Plumbing in 2013, after working for more than eight years at Precision Plumbing and then Acorn Plumbing. I added my first employee, Gabe Hopkins, who is a master plumber, in 2015. Gabe was the commercial superintendent for Precision Plumbing. Then I hired Travis Franklin, a journeyman plumber, in 2017. Travis was an experienced service and trim plumber.
I had already worked with both Gabe and Travis for several years in the past. I admired them for their plumbing skills, knowledge, customer service and work ethic. I knew I could trust them both, which was super important. I’m lucky to have them at Rimrock Plumbing.
Thanks, Daddy. Can I go read my book now?
Yes. Good night.
By Ellie Manske, almost a 6th grader, with her dad, Bill Manske, owner and master plumber, Rimrock Plumbing