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Rigger a Memoir from High School to High Steel


This world doesn’t exist anymore. It was a time when jobs were plentiful and workers were scarce. The Vietnam War raged on, dividing the county. The sexual revolution was here, embraced with open arms. The selective service was collecting young men who didn’t wish to be soldiers. Women sought a well-deserved equality. Music was changing, giving us protest songs to help stop a war. It was a time when, with only a high school diploma, you could follow your father into a high-paying but very dangerous industry. This is a story of a young man’s quest, raised on traditional morals and values, to find his way through this tumultuous era, adhering to some of his values and discarding others.

It is also a story of survival in the very dangerous occupation of “hanging iron”. Mr. Neff, the son of a steelworker, joined the ranks of Bethlehem Steel employees in 1972, and became a rigger in 1975. The rigger crews in the Steel Company did the jobs that were deemed too high, too hard, or too dangerous for other departments to handle. They also had a certain reputation for being somewhat crazy, but able to get the job done.

This is a sometimes light-hearted and always uncensored view of day-to-day work in the Bethlehem Steel mill. You’ll read about close brushes with death, about a young woman’s quest to become the first female rigger in a male-dominated workplace, and the playful and sometimes rough antics of co-workers. This book talks of life among rivers of molten iron, walking steel hundreds of feet in the air, and the men (and the woman) who were tough enough to do it. You’ll read of “snakes”, rats, ghosts, picking locks, explosions planned and unplanned. It will illicit snorts of laughter and perhaps a tear or two, and give you a view into a world that few have ever known.


"Larry Neff's wry, sardonic, and deeply humane voice brings a forgotten era back to life."

Joyce Hinnefeld, associate professor of English and director of the Writing Center, Moravian College and award-winning author of  "Stranger Here Below", " In Hovering Flight", and "Tell Me Everything and  Other Stories." 


"You always were quite the storyteller...some people wouldn't believe some of the stories we could tell."

Charlie "Snapper" Walp, Rigger/Welder


"This is literally heavy metal literature—a pounding story of the suspense, the danger, and the sublime sense of accomplishment that was the everyday fare of the adventurous, rule-breaking riggers."

Mary Lawlor,Director of American Studies/Professor of English Muhlenberg College, author of "Fighter Pilot's Daughter:  A Story of the Sixties and the Cold War"






A Publication of Blue Heron Book Works







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