Imagine having the ability to pick up thousands of pounds of metal, concrete or even a zoo animal. To Ronnie Hendershot, one of the handful of crane operators on the Red Wing Bridge project, that has been his career.
"I get here in the morning, I check out the piece of equipment I'm on," Hendershot said. "Then it's just whatever needs to be lifted on the job sight, that's what I do."
From setting the crow's nest for video cameras to film the Wild at Xcel Energy Center, to working on walkways at airports and helping get a sick Minnesota Zoo animal to a medicated tank, Hendershot said he has seen it all.
"To me, that's one of the things that sticks," Hendershot said of the zoo job. "That was pretty cool, we were right there by the dolphins."
Hendershot said he can't fathom the number of projects he's worked on.
With a long road still ahead to replace and take down the Eisenhower Bridge by 2019, Hendershot has declared this his last project after 30 years on the job. He's worked with a variety of companies, but has spent a considerable time on transportation projects, including the Hastings Bridge, bridges on the Interstate 35E MnPASS and the Stillwater Bridge.
The sense of accomplishment once a project has been completed is like none other, he said, but the biggest challenge is the high-level of stress.
"It's a lot of responsibility," Hendershot said. "You have to be dialed in. The way I have always ran the crane ... if I was the guy up there, I would want the load coming in nice and smooth, that's what I've rolled with on my career."
Commuting from his home along Pierce County's Rush River every day, Hendershot has crossed the Eisenhower Bridge thousands of times during his life.
"It's awful neat to be working on the bridge that we cross all the time," he said. "When I drive over it (now) I can say I worked on this."
His only regret? Not documenting every single thing he's done since Day 1.
"I wished I would've kept a journal from when I started," he said. "One day you're setting air conditioners, anything you could possibly imagine to lift and set, that's what we did as a crane service."
Once the new Red Wing Bridge is up and running, Hendershot said he will be spending his free time hunting, fishing and hanging out with his family and, of course, his grandsons.