Monday, May 21, 2012

He haws, see saw?

When a man reaches an age, he looks about for ways to assert his continued masculinity. There are people who have money and use that for cigarette boats and happy hookers. Others take up golf, which is more consumptive of money and less productive than any prostitute. Me? I have discovered that there is yin and yang, but there is also haw and hee.

"All things are taken from us, and become
Portions and parcels of the dreadful past.
Let us alone." -- Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "The Lotos Eaters."

First, I discovered the pleasures of stomping in dog poo. I started shooting up "the clear," and it did absolutely nothing for my energy level or my libido, but it did enlarge my prostate and make me want to cut the grass. In fact, it made me sit inside and stare at the grass, cursing it for not growing taller so that I could cut it again.

Second, I changed my own oil, at least once. I haven't done it a second time yet, although that's coming up. This was in addition to starting to hack and slash at every growing thing I could get near that would not scream or bite back.

Now, though... now I have found it! At long last, my seminal moment: wood and power tools.

In case there was any doubt
 (Why is she holding an angle grinder? She's so thin, all that weight up top is going to make her ribs collapse. Let's all look away, before something terrible happens.)

I need to be careful here, because two things potentially cause offense. First, I spent a fair amount of time protesting that Southerners do not have stereotypical nicknames the way Hollywood says. I stand by that assertion. We don't all have silly names. However, I do, it seems, have an Uncle Doodle. I also have an Uncle Ram. I had a Grandmother Bill who was married to Deacon. Their daughter was Clyde. However, it's Doodle who concerns us here.
Doodle (short for "doodlebug") is an educated man. He went to Georgia Tech and got an engineering degree, and that is no mean feat. He was a real, professional engineer, I guess (no one knows what the older generation does for a living; my cousins didn't know) for the power company. However, Doodle also had, and perhaps has, a knack for comic demonstration's of Robert Burns's advice to a soon to die mouse: "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men/ Gang aft aglee."

Doodle has enacted with his body what would otherwise be a Vaudeville act. When building a tree house for his boys, he decided that it would be properly made, and so he went up to the tree and laid down two floor joists. He then put down cross beams for support. After that, it was time for floor boards.
The clip art bears no resemblance to the man, as he hasn't nearly such a nose or chin, but I invite you to look at his position. Leaning over, he would nail down a floor board, take a step back, and nail down the next. He was doing this 8' off the ground, and his systematic approach was doing very well until the last step, which was into the void.

In 1969, it was a very hot summer in Atlanta, and Doodle got a window unit air conditioner for his and his wife's bedroom. They were living in a split level, and people were outside for the fourth of July. This left him time to install the unit. It was a large unit, and the top floor bedroom window did not like it. If you have ever installed a unit like that, then you have sympathy for what he was going through. With the bedroom in the 90's, himself in a tanker t-shirt and boxer shorts, and lifting an unbalanced behemoth, anyone would get angry, and Doodle had a way of getting angry that would put Homer Simpson to shame. It was not money that was at stake when the 200 lbs. of window until launched out of the window and the house, but pride, and Doodle was not going to have his pride -- his very integrity as a man -- lost, and so he held on.

The air conditioner landed in the neighbors' yard, with Doodle still attached, like a toddler with a kickboard at the swimming pool.
They were both fine and both worked afterward.

When we had a problem with a hornet's nest, the men folk huddled to decide on the course of action. Burning the hornets out seemed to be best, and so several went to go gather all the materials needed. Doodle favored a more direct route. He and his eldest went up to the tree and poured gasoline onto the hornet's nest. He then went to his shirt pocket for his butane lighter, which, of course, would not light. Once more, though, physical laws must work, and so he was going to stay in place, because the lighter must light. Hornets, one might add, must defend. As he kept rubbing the flint wheel, the hive came loose.

I was up hill at the house, and I saw the two of them running and screaming toward the house. The son was faster. Doodle was yelling and windmilling his arms. At one point, half way up the hill, he stopped windmilling and began running with one arm up, as if he were going to give the Black Power salute and run the 100.

We got them covered in towels and started pulling stingers. Doodle, it seemed, had windmilled a hornet into his arm pit, and that had caused the change in posture.
I Doodle
Doodle is an accomplished individual, but he just has this. . . knack.
I, on the other hand, am not so accomplished, and I regard mine as a tendency.
I wanted to get more in touch with my "haw." I needed to grunt and sweat and be manly and know that, even if my appendages were not being utilized nor utilizing me in the way that once they did/were, still I could celebrate muscle mass and a willingness to spurt blood.

I was going to be analytical about this. Not having paid attention (it was a frought situation) when I had the male role model around, I decided to go to the world wide web for plans.
Problem: Aluminum ladders are $80. I need to clean the gutters. My ladder is 6'.
Solution: Make a wooden ladder without frills or hinges or anything cute. No bonnets on the top, no filigree.

Well. Here you go, Doodle.

Ok, now it's time to think about it, assemble materials, think about it, and try to understand what you've read. Incidentally, I challenge YOU to understand what you've read, too.

Let's not rush into things.
Ok. Two saw horses -- least expensive -- from Lowes. "California has determined that touching this may cause birth defects or cancer. Wash your hands." Huh. I already have birth defects, and I don't want the cancer. Calf skin gloves on (Carhartt, union made). A chisel, hammer, a can of stain, sandpaper, a new circular saw what I ain't used since Shop my junior year in high school in 1978 or 1979, a pencil, a triangle square and tape measure, and three clamps.

Remember, this is for a 2 hour project.

The next day, I sand and stain the raw lumber, which is rather like fitting a teenager with a hearing aid. Then I clamp each piece of lumber to the saw horses individually, sort of kind of figure out how to get my saw to cut a half inch, and start measuring.

Side #1: measure 8" from the bottom, make a line. Go 16" from that, make a line, etc. I get four steps, plus the top. Side #2: repeat.
Get saw. Saw. Saw saw saw. The blade doesn't really line up where I want, and it's not actually on the lines, and I have to make a bunch of little cuts so I can then go in with a chisel to break out all the slices to get a notch.
Grab "bad" board and cut it into 16" steps.

Do you see the mistake I made? Neither did I. When I finally put the two side rails up against each other, it was pretty obvious.
A very wee problem, there. If I put those steps in, it's going to be a slippy slidey trip.
Take a look at the directions again. "Clamp all four." Hmm.


Had I placed the two sides next to each other on the sawhorses and made a single cut, it wouldn't have mattered how bad my spacing was: they'd line up.
Consequences: First, I can hardly grip today. Second, my back and legs are busted. Third, my pride and integrity are both as uneven as those laterals. Fortunately, I had a "spare" lateral, so I can fix it.

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