Sunday, December 5, 2010

My Dad Works Construction

As some of you may already know, I decided to build a house a few years ago. It seemed like an excellent idea at the time. There were a large number of pros that couldn't be ignored. First, you can save a lot of money by building your own house. Second, you can make sure the quality is as high as you like. Third, you will get a lot of exercise. When we added these things together the decision was made, we planned to build rather than buy.

What we didn't take into consideration was the fact that there was one serious drawback. That drawback was, of course, that we had to build a house. It's funny how you can over look little details like that when you're overwhelmed with the idea of moving out of the single wide and into a real house. (Not that there was anything wrong with the single wide, but by the time the house was done we had five children living in it.) Having looked at the pros and never even considered the cons we pressed on and began to build.

The Lord blessed me and I managed to get a number of co-workers lined up for the job. There was myself, obviously, Josh, Jonathan Cooper, Adrian Fealty and Jake Anderson. Before long we had two more on the construction team and that was Joshua Fealty and my Dad. These stories are actually about Dad as a construction worker on the house, if you hadn't already figured that out from the title.

Now, I do need to set the scene a bit before we proceed. All of us construction workers had different levels of experience. Josh Ethridge and Josh Fealty had done a number of odd jobs and knew a good deal about house construction. Adrian and I could do a little carpentry. Jonathan and Jake could pull the hammer out of a pile of miscellaneous tools in less than three guesses. Now, Dad could handle electrical, plumbing, duct, and wood work. He knew a lot about all the essentials, but had never done much drywall, tile or flooring work. (Not that he couldn't, it just hadn't come up a lot.)

Out of all us Dad was probably the most flexible and he was willing to do whatever needed to be done no matter how bad the job was. Considering his experience he was given the electrical and plumbing work, as well as planning out the duct work. The electrical work was a piece of cake. Dad decided where things went and I pulled the wire for it and hooked up the outlets. We were done in no time. The plumbing turned into a nightmare that I can finally laugh about. More than anything else it was frustrating. In fact, there were a lot of things that we thought would be easy that turned out to be very, very frustrating.

I don't remember how many days we had been working since our last real break. We only worked on the house five days a week, but the weekends were never enough to rest us up for the long days of house building. As we got more and more worn out we all got more sensitive to aggravation and more easily angered. I have mentioned in earlier stories that my Dad has gotten more and more calm over the years. Well, these months of long, hot, frustrating days had worn that calm away just a bit. There were times when he would fly off the handle as if he were in his twenties again. Except for the screaming it was good to see the vigor of youth in him again.

Joshua Fealty had kind of grown up with us, but he had rarely seen Dad loose his temper. I know in these stories it seems like Dad is doing it all the time, but that's not an accurate depiction of the man. (It's simply a matter of him being funny when he was angry.) For the most part Josh was used to a calm, caring, gentle Dad. So he wasn't ready when Dad had finally had enough.

The rest of us were taking a break in the garage. We were all lying around on piles of flooring resting up for the next big push. We could hear Dad in the kitchen fighting with the cabinetry. That was also a frustrating job because things had to be just right. Because of the delicacy of the job Dad had ended up with it. As we sat there talking Dad began to get louder and louder. There was closed metal door between us, but we could have repeated every word that he said if we had wanted to. Joshua Fealty sat there with a concerned look on his face. Finally he decided to speak:

“Is he going to be all right?” He asked looking at the closed door.

“Who Dad?” I asked, surprised by the sudden introduction of the subject.

“Yea, your Dad! Don't you hear that?”

“Oh, yea. He gets like that, he's just frustrated.”

“You're sure?”

“Yea, bro. He's been my Dad for thirty years. I know the man.”

“Well, OK.... Seems to me that he could have a heart attack or something.”

Here Jake Anderson decided to chime in. He had been working with us on the house since the beginning and had seen Dad get angry a few times all ready. He wanted to assure Josh that Dad would be fine.

“Man, you ain't seen nothing yet. I mean, he hasn't even started throwing things.”

As Jake finished his sentence we heard something rattle across the floor and slam into the kitchen wall. We all burst out laughing. Jake and Dad couldn't have timed it better if they had been working on it for weeks. However, since Dad had reached the “throw things” stage we all piled into the house to help. It turned out to be a piece of trim he was working on that wouldn't fit into place no matter how he cut it. Of course, five minutes later he had it cut and in place.

It may seem unkind to laugh at Dad's frustration, but it's not the frustration that's really funny. It's his reaction to it that makes people laugh. I mean, after they realize he's not going to have a heart attack or a stroke. Once they know he's alright, they can't help but laugh. The man is simply funny.

After the cabinetry was complete Dad had started working on the corners of the soffit. They were hard to get at, so we borrowed Phil Huggins' bucket truck. (Phil Huggins is a side character in some of my stories. I have known him since I was six and our families go back generations. Just a few years ago my Papa married his mother making us uncle and nephew by marriage. Papa was over eighty and she was over seventy. Isn't love grand.)

We had been using the bucket truck for a few days and everything had been going well. (For those of you who don't know a bucket truck is one of those trucks that men from the electric company use to get up to the power lines.) Dad had moved the operation around to the front of the house and had parked the truck on the driveway right in front of the garage. Now, the garage was raised up off the ground about four feet, so there is a steep hill at the very end of the driveway. It was on this hill that Dad had parked.

Normally this wouldn't be a problem at all. Once you've parked on a hill you take out the wheel chucks and put one in front of both the tires on the high side. Well, whoever chucked them (we never got a clear confession) did it as if the truck had been on level ground. When the truck is level you chuck the front and back of one tire so the truck can't roll either way. This doesn't work on a hill, instead you get a situation where one side of the truck can't move, but the other can.

Dad had actually backed the truck up to the garage so he could get the bucket up over it's roof. He wanted to be able to reach as far as he could before he had to move the truck again. This meant that the front of the truck was pointing strait down the driveway. The only thing between it and the road was the car Jonathan had just bought. Most of us parked on one side of the yard or the other. However, Jonathan liked to keep his car on the driveway. So the massive, improperly chucked, bucket truck was parked on a very steep hill looking down the driveway directly at Jonathan's beautiful car. What could have possibly gone wrong?

I'm not sure how long Dad had been working in the bucket before he decided to take a breather, but he had very good timing. He lowered the bucket down and got out on the roof of the garage. He was considering what he had to do next with the soffit when he decided to make sure he had a tool he needed in the bucket. He turned around to where he had just stepped out of it and it was gone.

It took his brain a moment to process the information. He was looking right where it had been. How far could it have gone? He did what anyone would do in that situation and looked around. The bucket hadn't vanished, it had just moved a few feet away from the house. At this realization I think a minor case of shock set it. As Dad was trying to figure out how a bucket could just start moving around on it's own it dawned on him that it was still moving. That revelation gave birth to the understanding that the truck itself was rolling down the hill strait for Jonathan's car and then the road.

My Dad has always been a man of action. His mind accesses the situation and almost instantly he comes up with a plan. As soon as he realized what was going on his brain began firing at full speed. What could he do? What resources did he have? Well, he was trapped on a roof roughly ten feet from a concrete stop at the bottom, so jumping was out of the question. He had a number of hand tools, none of which would keep a stationary truck from rolling down a hill, much less stop a vehicle in motion. The only thing he had that could be of any use at all was his voice. He knew in a flash his message had to be short and convey the idea of absolute urgency. Everyone working on the house heard his clear call ring out:

“AHHHHHHHH!!!!” Dad screamed at the top of his lungs.

Most of us were out working in the yard. I stopped what I was doing and looked to where I had heard the call.

“AHHH! AHHHHH!! AHHHHHHH!!!” Dad repeated as he stood jumping up and down on the garage roof while waiving his hands generally in the direction of the driveway.

Both me and my brother flew into action. We had no idea what we were going to find, but we were both running full speed. Dad saw that we were moving and decided the encourage us.

“AHHHHHHHHHHH!” He bellowed as we ran with everything we had.

I came around the corner of the garage and saw the truck rolling toward Jonathan's car. It was too far ahead and had gotten up too much speed. Even if I had been able to catch it I would never have been able to stop it in time. All I could do was stand there and watch as Dad made a number of inarticulate noises at full volume just above my head. I felt certain that Jonathan's car was a goner. There was nothing we could do.

However, at the last moment the truck made a hard right turn. It flew off the edge of the driveway and hit a pine tree. The tree was about six or seven inches in diameter and the truck pushed it to the ground with ease. The little pine did put up enough of a fight to stop the truck though. So there it was, sitting without a scratch on it, parked on top of a little tree. Nothing was damaged in the least, except maybe Dad's heart (and the poor tree, of course). We all stood there panting for breath as we considered the scene. After all the excitement everything was all right. There was nothing anybody could have done to stop that truck, but the Lord had a handle on it. We should keep in mind that he always does.

The house has been complete for a good while now. It was worth all the effort, all the blood, sweat and tears that went into building it. It has truly been a very great blessing. Among those blessings I count being able to work construction with my Dad pretty high. He is a very talented man and, what's even more important, he's a riot when he gets mad at inanimate objects.


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