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What are you working on now?

“Can I get eight, 8-foot 1 x 4’s?”

“What you doing now?”

I looked at the lumberyard guy in mild amazement. “I’m doing what I’ve been doing since 1975. Working on my house.”

I’ve been buying stuff at this lumberyard for five decades, spanning parts of two centuries. I’m on my third set of owners. Some people might find this discouraging.

We live in a beat-up old house. Old because it was built by my great-grandparents; the new part is 103 years old and the old part is considerably older than that. Beat-up because, well, because I live here and I have a tendency to thump into things, and I have five grandchildren who visit on a regular basis and they all appear to have inherited my thumping-into tendencies.

I love this house, except for the times when I hate it. It’s kind of a theme in my life. Many years ago, I wrote a column about how if I ever built a house, it would be a concrete igloo in the middle of an asphalt parking lot. A few years after that, I wrote another column about how the only way the president is able to find time to run the country is because he’s not the one who cleans the gutters at the White House.

I stand by both those statements.

There are two times when I really hate it. First is when it needs to be shingled. I may have solved that, because we recently shingled and used thirty-year shingles. With luck, I’ll be dead before it needs to be shingled again.

Next, when it needs to be painted. I haven’t been able to figure out a way to make a paint job last thirty years, so this problem appears to come up once a decade or so.

I have gotten better with practice. The first time we painted, we used our 1954 Minneapolis Moline Z with a Farmhand loader for a scaffold.

Many of you won’t know what that it is. And that doesn’t matter except for one detail. The bucket is tipped forward and backward with a series of cables. What’s interesting about that is, due to some sort of boring physics thing, when the bucket tips forward a certain amount, it trips and drops like a rock. Even for those days, back when I had hair on my head and red in my beard, the hydraulic system wasn’t particularly sophisticated. I think it was a pail of used crankcase oil and a trained squirrel with a hand pump. Malfunctions were common, and not that big a deal, unless you were twenty feet in the air standing on a ladder stuck in the bucket in order to get high enough to reach the peak.

Then, it was kind of a thing.

Luckily, I was considerably more nimble in those days. The only casualty was two gallons of paint that plummeted to the ground.

We made an amazing innovation this time – we used the same color paint. I’m telling you, I highly recommend it. The first five times the house was painted it was all white. It sat empty for ten years and when we moved in, we switched from white to brown, then brown to yellow, yellow to gray, then gray to a different shade of gray. Luckily, the colors we picked a decade ago were still acceptable. The only issue is that if I’m painting with three colors of paint, I never actually get done. The “Flaxen” drips on the “Pewter”, and when I fix that, I slop on the “Tarnished silver” …on and on, forever, or until I get sick of fixing mistakes and call it done.

That’s where I’m at now. I put away the ladders and washed out the brushes, basking in a job, if not well done, as least completed.

Except for the garage. The garage is looking a little rough. I should probably touch up the paint a little.

Copyright 2019 Brent Olson

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