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Bud Jimerson's office changes every day.

He moves up on his job each week an average of two floors.

No, he's not a Wall Street tycoon. He's one of 63 ironworkers carefully constructing the skeleton that will one day become the Seneca Niagara Casino's new 26-story hotel.

They have a Christmas Eve deadline, and nine floors to go.

The hotel itself is scheduled to open next September.

Jimerson, a Seneca Indian, lives on the Cattaraugus Reservation. He has been working in the family profession 20 years. His father and uncles also are ironworkers.

Although he's done every task associated with building a structure's frame, for the hotel he's one of two "raising gang" bosses, relieved not to have to be running around above the trees of the city.

His job is to coordinate which steel beams go where, like putting a puzzle together, he said.

Was this your first job?

This is all I ever did. I started when I was 20 years old.

Did you go to a trade school?

I just learned right here. This is how you learn. It's the front lines out here.

What other projects have you worked on?

All kinds of projects. There's so many I could go on and on. My first project was a four-story building.

Do you work your way up to 26-story hotels, is that how it works?

Whatever they're building, that's what we work on. It don't matter where it is. If it's a five-story, we'll build it, if it's a one-story, it don't matter. Wherever the work is, that's where we're at.

I see some guys welding on the 15th floor. Have you been up there?


Are you scared of heights?

Yep. It depends on where you're standing and what's going on. Try running up and down on one of them little beams up there and I'll tell you what . . .

How wide are the beams?

They're 4-inch beams. It's like walking across here would be OK. (Jimerson points to a beam near where he's standing.) When there's nothing there (below) it's a lot different.

How heavy are the beams?

Some you can pick up with your hand and some are about 36,000 pounds.

So what do you do?

We raise the iron. We put all the structure together, and then you got the welding gang, the bolt-up gang, the deck gangs. The connectors put the bolts in the beams to hold them together. They're the fearless ones, the ones that run around up there.

So you used to do that?

I used to do that. I would do it again. They're the real workers. But it's all a team.

How have things changed since your first started ironworking?

There used to be a lot of fun in it. Now they have everything buckled down with safety insurance and all. It used to be a lot of fun. You'd come in to work and have a good time. Now you still try to do it, but now they come out with a lot more (rules). I guess it's safer and all for everybody. I mean you've got to have safety, otherwise people get hurt. There's a lot of pride here because it's fun doing the casino.

Do you have extra pride working on a Seneca project?

Just as long as there are projects to work on. As long as it's work. The way work is around here, sometimes you're not working.

What's the farthest you've driven to get to work?

Last year I was driving more than two hours to work. You're always on the road. That's how it is. Whoever has got the work, that's who you're working for.

Could you ever picture yourself being in the same office every day?

What's good about this kind of work is there is a lot of freedom involved. How many people can say I'm going to quit this and take six months off?

You can do that?

There are so many personalities to put up with, sometimes you can't put up with it. I mean, there's a lot of people involved trying do this stuff. A lot of times you see hustle and bustle between the men, and you gotta keep them calmed down and keep them working and get the work done in a safe manner.

Do you think you'll stay at the hotel when it's finished?

If it's free, I will.


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