Join Date: Aug 2003
Up on the scaffold
Up on the scaffold
By Bobby Neal Winters
In 1996, I made a rash vow. Using the sacred name of Sherwin Williams in vain, I swore that I would never paint my house again, and I am sure that God heard it because I was standing on the top of fifteen feet of scaffolding at the time which made me a lot closer to Him that I usually am when I say such stupid things.
The Bible cautions us against making such oaths. There is so much that can happen in the future that we can't predict. However, this was shortly after a yellow jacket had inspired me to do the hundred-yard dash on a ten-foot long 2-by-12. Like the coyote in a Warner Brothers cartoon, I ran a few feet past the end of the plank, turned around, and ran back. At that point I decided working high up in the air was not for me.
My thinking then was that by the time I needed to paint the house again my salary would have increased to the point I could either hire it done or hire someone to put up siding for me. Notice that either of those scenarios has someone else at the top of fifteen feet of scaffolding, preferably someone with younger muscles, better balance, and stronger bones. As a matter of fact, my income has increased over the last eight years, but then amount of money absorbed by my children has increased too.
To be fair, they are frugal, low-maintenance kids, but sometimes it seems they believe that money comes on a roll like toilet paper and all I have to do is to peel another bill off. I've never put pencil and paper to it myself, but those who study such things say that, for people in my income range, children cost 9000 dollars per year per child if you have one or two and 7000 dollars per year per child for three or more. Six years ago this coming October we had our third. I've not done the math, but I get the feeling the 3000 extra would just about pay for my painting.
Not that I am complaining. There have been times when I have complained about making ends meet with three kids and have been told, "That was your choice." Over the years, I've had time to ponder how many layers of meaning that last statement has.
Recently, the paint on the north side of my house began to flake. It was expensive paint, guaranteed for ten years, whatever that means, but it is peeling after eight. Again I had a choice. I could either break my vow, or I could put up vinyl siding. I've chosen the latter, not because I am particularly concerned about my vow, but because I don't want to be facing the scaffold again at age 50. There are some things that a man with a mid-life crisis and a lot of life insurance just shouldn't do.
Putting up the siding itself is actually fun. It is like a jigsaw puzzle in which all of the pieces are the same and you are allowed to cut them in order to make them fit. However, there is a small amount of carpentry that has to be done as well, and that has proved to be more of a challenge.
I've had to replace a support for my roof. In taking off the old one I discovered it was hollow, and year-after-year birds had built their nests in it, stacking this year's nest on top of last year's. I managed to pry the board off of one side first, and knocked all the nests out, but the one at the top contained this year's baby chicks. The whole mite-ridded mass fell to the ground, where the naked chicks peeped for their parents, but their parents never came, not that they could have done anything.
I looked in vain, hoping that my cats, which have such a strong appetite for songbirds, would come to finish them off, but I guess baby grackles just don't taste as good as adult robins.
The rest of the day I expected to step on a loose piece of debris, slip off the scaffold, and lie by the dying chicks moaning for help with no one being able to hear me, but that hasn't happened yet. The forces of nature that care about baby birds are much more patient and subtle, or it could be I've just watched too much Twilight Zone.
The next day, I was attaching the replacement support to the house with 4-inch screws. I had used a power drill to screw it into my house when, for some reason, I decided to touch it. It was then I discovered those screws get very hot and became the owner of a half-inch long blister on my finger. Two minutes later, I discovered it again.
The project continues. I work in the morning because it is somehow easier to face the scaffold in the morning than in the evening. Maybe that's why they hanged people at dawn in the olden days. Or maybe not.