This Side Up

Some snow, please


“Another project?” Carol asked.

I paused to think. I replaced the section of siding that had deteriorated and painted it, which, by all rights, should have taken no more than a half hour. Of course, it didn’t work out that way.

A search of the basement failed to turn up the 2 by 3 piece of plywood that I saved for the job. The paint was where I knew it would be, as was a brush and a stick to stir it.

I plugged in the charger for the cordless saw. I figured it would be sufficiently charged to handle the one or two cuts needed to fit the piece, if I could place my hands on the plywood.

Anyway, that search turned up two pumps, still in their boxes, that Carol bought in the wake of the Great Flood of 2010. Back then, when the basement was covered by 18 inches of water, you couldn’t find a pump. We tried at Salk’s, Home Deport and Lowe’s. Everybody was cleaned out. Off handedly – more of sheer frustration than anything – I mentioned that to Sue Baker in the mayor’s office.

She caught me by surprise.

“I’ve got one in the car, do you want it,” I remember her saying.

Does a drowning man want a life ring? Well, maybe, that’s a bit melodramatic, but you get the point. Sue’s pump kept the water at bay and the basement tide ebbed to a couple of inches.

As soon as pumps were back on the shelves, Carol bought a giant one and then another, about the size Sue had loaned us. We were ready. They have yet to come out of the box – although I now know where they can be found, so the search for plywood had not been entirely futile.

Finally, I made a trip to Lowe’s. To say they have plywood is an understatement. Sheets of the stuff stand in giant piles. To my surprise – perhaps a sign that the recovery is more than the wishful aberration of Washington bureaucrats – there were several young couples with carts piled with building materials. They weren’t contractors and my guess would have been new homebuyers looking to make renovations themselves.

I found what I wanted, only it was about ten times the size I needed. I wrestled a sheet onto a cart and wheeled it to the cashier.

“Do you do cuts,” I inquired.

She nodded and yelled to an assistant that a customer needed to have a section of plywood cut. She directed me to the back of the cavernous store where I was to wait. It wasn’t too long before my giant sheet was two large sheets and I was headed to the parking lot. They were still too big. After another visit, I had four reasonably sized sheets and I was on my way.

My half-hour project had already consumed an hour and a half and I hadn’t even as much as touched a saw blade to wood or picked up a hammer. Mentally, I went through the rest of the weekend list and figured if I was really short on time, changing the oil in the snow blower was the chore that could wait.

Indeed, this has been an odd winter so far. Here it was, the second weekend of the New Year and I was working on an outdoor project where, under normal circumstances, I’d be wearing gloves, a hat and not even thinking of painting. I even got to do some fiberglass work on one of the boats, although I question whether I was pushing it. Carol’s hair dryer may have saved that one.

I even got to the snow blower; an acquisition that earned its reputation for dispatching huge drifts of snow last year. I went for full maintenance; pulling off panels to grease shafts and oil bearings. The only thing left unattended was changing the plug. I wasn’t about to make another foray to get one. But she didn’t seem to need a new one anyway.

On the first pull, she started right up. The controls vibrated in my hands. The engine settled into a steady beat. At that moment, I longed for the crunch of snow under foot, flakes flying from a dark sky and a plume from the front of the blower. Instead I was in a T-shirt doing some carpentry and paint touchups. This isn’t winter.

But there was satisfaction in knowing the blower is ready. Like the set of pumps in the basement, the blower is there when the time comes. And I much prefer clearing snow to fighting floods.

There’s a project I relish…at least once a winter.


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