GENTRY Last week, Lindy Chamberlain was hard at work helping pour a concrete slab for an art studio behind a Siloam Springs home.
As the concrete truck rumbled and men hurried to smooth out the concrete spilling into the mold, Chamberlain used the chute and his handy shovel, nicknamed "Lucille," to make sure the cement was applied evenly across the area.
The only thing that made the scene unique, outside of Chamberlain's well-practiced skills, was his age. At 87, he still works eight hours a day on a concrete finishing crew.
Chamberlain, who lives in Gentry, has been working in construction for nearly 64 years -- since he was 24 years old.
He was born in the Chamberlain School House community, between Gentry and Colcord, Okla., and learned hard work growing up on the farm.
"(Hard work) is all I know; really it is," he said, in a characteristically cheerful tone of voice.
Chamberlain spent 39 years running construction crews in California for telephone and utility companies. He came back to Arkansas in 1993 and soon thereafter started his concrete finishing business.
"I didn't know what I was going to do, but it wasn't very long until two or three guys found out I could work," he said.
Over the years, Chamberlain said he has poured a lot of concrete for houses in Siloam Springs, especially in the Mallory Woods subdivision. He has also done a lot of concrete work on local farms.
Eight years ago he passed the business on to his protégé, Toby Roberts, but kept right on working.
Roberts, of Siloam Springs, began working with Chamberlain about 18 years ago, he said. He has learned a lot about the concrete business and about life from Chamberlain, and has come to think of him as "Dad," he said.
Roberts said it is highly unusual to see an 87-year-old still working in construction, especially pouring concrete.
"All I can say is they don't make them like that anymore," Roberts said. "He works all freakin' day long. He will run a pick and shovel eight hours a day."
Roberts said that Chamberlain does things the old-school way.
"Here's what my wife and kids say about him," he said. "'He's half man, half amazing,' and that pretty well sums it up right there; that's kind of the way we see him."
Clarence Tolly, of Siloam Springs, has also been working with Chamberlain for 18 years. Over that time, they have developed a close relationship.
"He knows how to teach people. He's a real good old man. I call him Dad," Tolly said.
Al Crider, who owns a remodeling business and is building the backyard art studio, said that Chamberlain's unique methods of spreading concrete, using the shovel and chute, make the rest of the crew's job much easier.
Chamberlain has been pouring concrete for Crider's jobs for several decades. Crider said he started using Chamberlain's concrete finishing company because it offered the best price, but soon learned that it also offered the best quality of work.
"It's amazing to watch him ... I've never seen anybody like him, really," Crider said.
Last year, Chamberlain broke his hip. Just four months later, he was back to work, Crider said.
"He's a remarkable old man," he said.
Chamberlain said that his work has kept him youthful.
"If I go sit down, I would be gone in a couple of years," he said. "Really, at my age, I would be."
Being a lifelong learner is also important for longevity, he said.
"You still learn something all the time. I mean, if you don't, you ain't trying," Chamberlain said.
When asked what has kept him in the construction business so long, Chamberlain replied, "Willing to work. Willing to work. That's it, and I like it. I like working out here, I don't have to."
While Chamberlain has slowed down over the years -- he no longer runs the machine or gets down on his knees to trowel the concrete -- he stays busy on the job site. After pouring the concrete, he cleans all the tools and puts them away so when the rest of the crew is finished, they are ready to go.
Chamberlain and his wife, Mickey, have been married for 54 years. When asked if his wife ever asked him to retire, he replied, "Oh, no. She told me 'you just keep working as long as you want.'"
Even after nearly 64 years on the job, Chamberlain still loves his work.
"Oh, I enjoy the heck out of it," he said. "In fact, I don't know when I'll quit. I'll tell you the truth, I don't know. When it gets to bothering me and I get to hurting, I'll quit, but other than that, I don't know when I'll quit."
General News on 12/06/2017
Print Headline: 'Half man, half amazing'