While We Sleep

Story by Jonathan Streetman  ”¢  Photos by Rachel Mummey


It’s an odd feeling, to be awake when the county is asleep. But while most everyone else sleeps, you have a job to do — there are inmates who need to be watched and babies who need to be bathed. Machinery needs oil, a small crowd needs one more beer and some folks will want a donut or two to start the day. So when the sun begins to set, there are those who get ready to work through the night.


The Jailer: 11:30 p.m. — 1 a.m.

With only the beam of his flashlight to guide the way, jail officer Ross Nordhoff of Jasper checked on an inmate while collecting mail during one of his hourly security checks Feb. 13 at the Dubois County Security Center in Jasper.

Ross Nordhoff lounges in the break room of the Dubois County Security Center. He and fellow jail officer Jerry May are waiting with several sheriff’s deputies for their next call.

Nordhoff, left, released the handcuffs from a woman as she was dropped off just before 1 a.m. in the booking area by Huntingburg Police Officer Andrew Hammack, second from right, who handed paperwork to jail officer Jerry May of Jasper, right, at the Dubois County Community Corrections Center on Jan. 16 in Jasper.

Nordhoff, 28, of Jasper works from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. at the jail. He’s been there less than a year but already feels like he’s part of the family. Nordhoff came to law enforcement late, graduating from Vincennes University Jasper Campus with his associate degree in law enforcement in May. He was hired before graduation.

“Even when I leave my family, I come here to work with these guys. So I’m never away from family,” says Nordhoff, who’s married to the former Kelsey Barrett of Huntingburg. They have a 20-month old son, Daylon.

While he doesn’t mind working the night shift at the jail, his goal is to become a deputy. Eventually, he’d like to work days, but nights are just part of the job. He gets that.

It’s 11:57 p.m. when Nordhoff’s radio crackles on his shoulders. An Indiana State Police trooper is bringing in a 21-year-old male to the jail to be booked and locked up.

Nordhoff and May move quickly down a labyrinth of hallways. The layout of the jail is confusing on purpose to discourage escape attempts and befuddle anyone who might try. Hallways angle off and all look the same, but Nordhoff can glide through them in the dark if he has to. At night, in the darkened cell blocks, he often does.

He heads to the back garage where Trooper Brock Werne has just pulled in.

Nordhoff speaks politely and precisely as he guides the young man, dressed in a polo shirt and sweatpants, by his handcuffs to an area where he will remove his shoes and all personal items.

Nordhoff’s done this a few times. Nordhoff records his fingerprints and takes his mugshot.

Soon it’s 12:30 a.m. and Nordhoff needs to go on rounds. May finishes the book-in on his own.

Wearing a fresh pair of black latex gloves — he’s never without them for fear of germs — Nordhoff begins walking through each cell block, checking to ensure inmates are behaving.

“You always get that excitement (walking through),” Nordhoff says. He sometimes plays along with inmates as they toss out harmless jokes. “Life can get pretty hard if all you are is mean to them.”

With a flashlight in one hand, Nordhoff grabs any letters that happen to be perched on a barred door. Each one needs to be stamped to let the recipient know the mail is from an inmate.

After his rounds are complete, Nordhoff is able to relax for a while. It’s a perk of being on the night shift — things move slower on the outside, too.

It’s nearing 1 a.m. when his radio crackles a second time. An undocumented immigrant has been pulled over and will soon arrive at the security center for processing. Nordhoff heads back toward the garage, ready to start the process all over again.

The Bartender: 12:50 — 2 a.m.

During the 1 o'clock hour, Anastasia Meneilly of Jasper joined in a laugh with a patron while serving him a drink during her bartending shift at Yaggi's Restaurant in Jasper on Feb. 23.

Anastasia Meneilly — Ana to anyone who knows her — wipes down the tables at Yaggi’s Bar & Grill in Jasper.

She’s been on shift since 5 p.m., but it’s nearly 1 a.m. and many of her loyal patrons just flooded out the door, headed to a rival establishment to wish a bartender farewell during her final shift.

“Oh, they’ll be back,” Meneilly, 25, of Jasper says as she makes her way back behind the downtown bar, where she is a bartender.

Meneilly got her job at Yaggi’s during the 2012 Strassenfest by “knowing the right people.” On this night, owners Joe and Darla Jones are perched on bar stools visiting with patrons. Meneilly, who also works as a clerical assistant at Dr. Greg Gordon’s optometry office in Jasper, says the hours can be long, but she doesn’t mind all that much.

“I’d rather be making money on the weekends than spending it,” she says during a break on the back patio. She typically works behind the bar only Fridays and Saturdays. “I don’t think I’d like (bartending) if I had to do it full time. But we do have a good group of regulars here. We don’t have the ruckus or the (bull).”

It’s getting late and the band that was playing in the adjoining room has already packed up and left. Many of her customers have had their fill of beverages. But she keeps busy as she moves from task to task.

Grabbing a couple dollars from the tip jar, Meneilly glides to the jukebox, selecting songs with a mischievous smile on her face.

“I like to play a little bit of everything,” she says, catering to the crowd she has at the time. On this night, sounds of The Cars and The Police are followed by more contemporary choices Weezer and Lorde.

As it becomes apparent the crowd is gone for the night, Meneilly takes out two more shot glasses — one for herself and one for Darla. She pours the bar owner a tequila sunrise and makes herself her “own little nightcap,” a shot she invented called a “poco loco,” because it’s just a little bit crazy. About 10 minutes to 2 a.m., the two knock back their shots and revel in another successful Saturday night.

Freshly energized, Meneilly empties the tip jars behind the bar and starts stacking ones, fives and several larger bills into neat piles.

“The amount of tips really vary, but on a good night I can pull in around $250, on top of my hourly pay,” she says. By the looks of the stacks she’s piling into the register, this was a good night.

Meneilly slams the register shut and turns back toward the bar, ready to serve another drink.

The Fixer: 2 — 3:30 a.m.

Tom Gravatte of St. Meinrad has worked the night shift for nearly 30 years, seven of which have been dedicated to maintaining the lines at the MasterBrand Cabinets plant in Ferdinand.

Tom Gravatte works with military precision. The former U.S. Air Force aircraft mechanic of 20 years has a system when maintaining his designated conveyor belts at the MasterBrand Cabinets plant in Ferdinand.

Gravatte, 53, works from 7:45 p.m. to 6:15 a.m. as a maintenance man. Working through the night is his preference.

“I’ve pretty much been night shift my entire adult life,” Gravatte says. He’s been with MasterBrand for seven years. “I have an aversion to alarm clocks.”

His wife, the former Sally Werne of St. Meinrad, is anything but a night owl. To accommodate her, Gravatte adjusts his weekend sleep schedule so they can attend church together. As she rises and he finishes his shift, they spend a couple hours together. Gravatte eats his steak dinner while she has breakfast. It works for them. Together they live about five miles outside Ferdinand.

Inside the factory, it’s impossible to tell it’s past 2 a.m. Gravatte hustles through the bustling operation. Forklifts zoom past toting kitchen cabinets in all stages of completion. Hundreds of workers stand at their post, eager for their lunch break. At the conveyor belt where cabinet doors are treated with ultraviolet light, a handwritten sign that says “lunch” rolls along, the belt stops and workers clear out. That’s Gravatte’s cue to get to work.

He has already checked each gearbox — chain and all — that pulls the belt. Now, it’s all about preventative maintenance.

“There’s that old line that failure is not an option,” he says. “Well, they forgot a line. Failure is inevitable, it’s all about keeping it to a minimum.”

He has a system. The yellow metal cover gets unbolted and set to the side with the bolts resting on top. He grabs his can of oil spray and coats the chain thoroughly, wiping off the excess with a rag. He pulls on the chain to check its tightness. He bolts the cover back on and moves along. Same thing every time.

He jokes with coworkers over the constant hum of machinery while moving to each station. When he’s completed maintenance, he hits a switch and the line kicks back to life.

“If I do my job right, my night is pretty quiet,” he says as he strides back to his cage, a personal fenced-in work area. That’s the way he likes it. No one is hovering over his shoulder. The night shift is good for that.

During his inspection, he noticed a chain running a little loose. Ducking under cabinet doors hanging from hooks, he weaves his way to a giant warehouse. In the cramped aisles, he searches for the right part to make a new chain. Back in the cage, he prepares the chain for the start of his next shift, when he’ll make the replacement.

“I like quiet nights,” Gravatte says in his work station, adorned with pictures of B-2 bombers and other aircrafts he’s worked on. “There isn’t a lot of stress to this job, not like when you’re working on aircraft. You do your work and you don’t have to second-guess yourself.”

At about 3:30 a.m., Gravatte shifts into a holding pattern, available to work on personal projects until 4:45 a.m. when he makes his rounds, step by step, same as the last time.

The Nurse: 4 — 5:15 a.m.

At 4:15 a.m., night nurse Marcy Weyer of Ferdinand gently placed Emily Hasenour’s newborn daughter Lexie Ann into her arms Jan. 22 in the maternity unit at Memorial Hospital in Jasper.

Marcy Weyer pushes a bed on wheels carrying a newborn baby girl. In a sink in the nursery on the third floor of Memorial Hospital in Jasper, the baby will get a bath.

It’s 4 a.m. and the baby’s face is flushed red. She was born to Philip and Emily Hasenour seven hours earlier and is loudly protesting the goings-on.

“The baby always gets mad right before you bathe it, then they immediately calm down when they feel the warm water. They love having their hair washed,” Weyer, 42, says, massaging shampoo in the newborn’s hair. With the wash complete, Weyer wraps the baby girl in a “baby burrito,” reminiscent of the womb, and with a dab of petroleum jelly, attaches a small bow to the baby’s hair.

Weyer has been an obstetric nurse since 1993 and has spent the last 14 years on the night shift at Memorial. On this night, she arrived at 7 p.m. and won’t leave until after 7 a.m., only when she’s given her morning report to the day shift nurses.

“I know it’s hard on your body, but it’s good for the soul,” Weyer says of working the night shift.
She’s able to spend more time focusing on family and patient care, instead of computer work and filling out charts. She says since night shift nurses are normally left to fend for themselves, they become a tight group.

“I don’t want to leave my friends.”

The hours can be tough on her family, she admits. But her husband, Glenn, takes care of their two teenage children, Drew and Hannah, at home in Ferdinand when Marcy is working or sleeping during the day.

Weyer gently placed a bow on the head of newborn Lilly Faye Coleman on Jan. 22 in the nursery at Memorial Hospital.

After the bath, Weyer notices the baby licking her lips, a cue the girl is hungry. She wheels the baby’s bed down the hall to her mother, waiting expectantly at 4:30 a.m. Her father is asleep on the couch under a hospital blanket.

Weyer reminds the mother how to help the baby properly latch. The longtime nurse remembers helping Hasenour with her first baby several years ago and reminds her to stroke the baby’s cheek, feet and top of her head.

“Sometimes it can be back-breaking work if I have to stand there for the whole hour,” Weyer explains. On this night, the baby does just fine.

Night shift has its advantages and disadvantages, Weyer says.

“It’s tough to get doctors in here at night if something happens. We’re all we got,” she says. “But there’s also not nearly as many visitors walking through. The two shifts are totally different beasts.”

Back in the nursery, Weyer sits in a rocking chair with another newborn, preparing to feed him formula. This is one of her favorite moments in a job that can be emotionally taxing.

“For the most part it’s a very fun job. Sometimes it’s not so fun,” she says, rocking the baby to sleep.

Miscarriages and stillbirths and helping parents cope after the loss of a child are the hardest parts.

Weyer has suffered miscarriages, giving her empathy for her patients.

“I am strong for them to help them through it. But there are definitely nights you just go home and cry.”

The benefits will always outweigh the negatives, she says. She returns night after night.

“I feel passionate about my work,” she says. “Most OB nurses are lifers.”

The Baker: 4:15 — 5:30 a.m.

With a tray of freshly glazed donuts in hand, Schmücker stocked his display cases for early-morning customers Jan. 9 at Ofenhaus Bakery in Huntingburg. The bakery closed last month.

Florian Schmücker spreads flour over the metal table in the back of Ofenhaus Bakery on Fourth Street in Huntingburg.

It’s nearly 4:15 a.m. and the baker, who his friends call Flo, has already been at the Ofenhaus for 45 minutes, getting dough ready for specialty donuts and letting it rise.

Schmücker, 26, of Jasper was born in Germany just outside Berlin. He came to Dubois County in 2004 as an exchange student at Forest Park High School. He made the permanent move in June 2010 to marry his wife, the former Steffi Mehringer.

The couple opened Ofenhaus last summer with Brian and Tyan Mullen. The bakery closed last month.

“The opportunity came up and it was like it’s now or never,” Schmücker says, moving the dough to a flour-covered table.

But owning a bakery means waking up long before the rest of the world so breakfast will be ready.

“It doesn’t really bother me,” Schmücker says of arriving at work at 3:30 a.m. “It took some adjusting. I know I can’t stay up later anymore. I usually go to bed around 8.”

Schmücker rolls out dough for donuts with a wooden roller. He tries to get the thickness the same all the way around, but it’s not a huge priority.

“They can’t always be perfect. That’s how you know they’re homemade.”

With a tray of freshly glazed donuts in hand, Schmücker stocked his display cases for early-morning customers Jan. 9 at Ofenhaus Bakery in Huntingburg. The bakery closed last month.

German radio plays from Schmücker’s iPad, keeping him company while he works in solitude. The quiet doesn’t bother him, but the radio doesn’t hurt.

Schmücker grabs a pizza cutter to create Ofenhaus’ distinctive brick-like rectangle donuts before slicing a gap down the middle of each. He takes a donut in his hands and, with the flick of his right thumb, turns one end through the slit, flattening it to create the signature twist in the middle. When completed, the donut looks like a wrought-iron fence.

“We wanted to have something unique and do our own donut,” Schmücker says.

The shape of donut with an oblong twist, which Schmücker says improves taste and helps the dough better withstand the fryer, came from the 1930 World’s Fair in Belgium.

After the donut fries for 45 seconds in special donut oil and cools on a rack, Schmücker applies either a cinnamon and brown sugar mix or traditional donut glaze.

Just before 5:30 a.m., when the first customers of the day begin to trickle in, Schmücker puts the fresh donuts in the display case, next to cake pops and German cookies. He flips on the lights, ready for the new day.

Contact Jonathan Streetman at jstreetman@dcherald.com.

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