Rooster Pecked!

26 01 2013

While stationed at the Coast Guard Air Station in Elizabeth City, one of the guys I knew, but not all that well at the time, asked me about helping him with a project. Turns out his wife had been involved in a car accident some time earlier and suffered permanent back injuries. I’m not clear on all the details but she had been awarded a pretty good chunk of cash as a result of her injury. Using this money, they bought 10 acres of wooded land which surrounded their home and then had a swimming pool installed right in front of the house.

The next step in their plan was to enclose the pool so they could swim year round. That’s where I come in.

Bob had no carpenter skills but he knew I had done some building, so he asked me if I would be willing to “help” him build a room, attached to the house, and surrounding the pool. He was willing to pay me to do it but the truth is, I’d have done it for free.

The house was deep enough into the woods that it could not be seen from the highway. I eased my 1954 Ford pick-up up his driveway, parting the sea of chickens in my path like a ship parting the waters. Bob met me as I got out of the truck and showed me around. As we waded through the chickens he warned me about his rooster. He said you hardly ever see the rooster, but he’s a mean one. I thought, c’mon, it’s a chicken. How dangerous can he be!

That's a mean rooster!

That’s a mean rooster!

Sometime later, as we were getting close to finishing the project, I had a day off and decided to spend at least part of it working on Bob’s house. He and his wife were both at work so there was no one but me and the chickens.  We kept tools in the barn, so when I arrived I went straight to the barn to get out what I would need. As I stood there collecting tools, I was suddenly attacked… yes, physically and brutally attacked… by the rooster Bob had warned me about. I turned around and there he stood-defiant. Daring me. My goodness! This rooster must have been six feet tall. He looked like Foghorn Leghorn! If he could talk, I know exactly what he would have said. “Boy, I say, boy, I just pecked you in the butt. Now, whatcha gonna do about it?”

He was the biggest rooster I had ever seen and he knew he was big because he wasn’t backing down a bit. I reached around to my backside-the point of attack-and there was a hole in the seat of my jeans! And to make matters worse, and me madder, there was blood! Not much, but blood none the less. I was hot. I looked on a shelf in front of me and saw Bob’s wrist rocket slingshot. Well, when I grabbed it I got the impression the rooster had seen the wrist rocket before because he took off. I took off right behind him with the wrist rocket and a handful of ammo from a jar on the shelf. There weren’t enough lawyers at PETA to stop me from putting a hole in the chicken. I chased him around the barn and got off a couple shots while on the run. Both shots missed but the second shot skipped off the ground right beside the rooster and hit the side of Bob’s house. The sound of that steel shot bouncing off siding made me stop and think how it would’ve sounded had it struck a window instead, or worse, my truck, so I gave up chase and let the rooster live another day. But I kept one eye out for the rooster the rest of the day.


The Sermon in the Shop

29 12 2012

I’m not really sure why I wrote this piece, I guess I was just struck by a bolt of motivation. I wrote it some time ago after building our TV stand (pictured). I thought it was whimsical and fun to write and hope you enjoy it. I call it The Sermon in the Shop.


Oh the glory of yon stack of cherry, walnut and pine. Fear not, oh wood brethren, for thou wilt not meet thy demise this day. To the contrary, thou wilt become a thing of beauty. Thou wilt become as one, for I will transform thee, with the help of my trusty tools, from a pile of wood to a useful and beautiful offering for my helpmate. And, thou wilt adorn my den and, thus, bring her much joy. And, with her joy, thou shalt win for me points of her adoring approval. For it is written, the points placed in thine account by thine spouse are like money in the bank to be redeemed for thy pleasure. And so I said, “this is good”.


Verily I say unto you, oh boards of beauty, I will give you shape. I will give you definition. I will give you tight joints of biscuits and glue. I will place upon you a finish of varnish and, thus, reveal your inner beauty.


So I took a board of uniform color, having grain as straight as the arrow’s path, and following careful measure and marking did prepare to place

Norm-the Guru of Woodworking

Norm-the Guru of Woodworking

wood to steel. But first let us say a word about shop safety, for thus saith the prophet, Norm, “be sure to read, understand and follow all the safety rules that cometh with thine power tools, lest thy table saw shall rise up and smite thy finger”.


With safety glasses firmly secured did I run the first board through my surface planer. And, BEHOLD, the beauty of the grain did burst forth in radiant splendor! And the smell of fresh shaven wood emanating from within did bring pleasure to my senses as the mighty, manly aroma arose to envelop my face and engorge my nostrils. And, whereupon, I withdrew the board from my planer, its surface was as smooth as the river Jordan at dusk on a windless day. And, thus, I said to myself, “this is good”.


So, in my plaid and denim arrayment, thus did I proceed to prepare each piece for the project at hand. And just as Moses tamed the mighty sea with his staff, I could feel the power of the control I had within. For it is I, by the God-given gift of the woodworker, who will shape and form and glue each piece to build so fine and useful corner cabinet.


Just as the jubilation of a resounding victory over mine enemy brings relief and gladness, I rejoice at the perfect fit of each edge. Thus, I take my clamps and with their mighty span do assemble each panel to be brought thereunto with other panels and the assembly is near complete. But I sought diligently thereabout for one more pocket screw and yea there were none. So taking the steel and plastic four-wheeled chariot, I set off for a land called Lowes-a land fertile with pocket screws, and hardware as countless as the stars in the sky.


And wandering the place therein I did find the rack I sought, for, BEHOLD, there was an abundance of pocket screws! So merrily I returned to the place from whence I came. And inserting yon pocket screw I could then say that assembly is complete. As I looked, mine eye was consumed with gladness over the beauty of a fully assembled cabinet of fine hardwood. And it was with pride and a sense of accomplishment I said, “this is good”.


And thus did I begin the task of preparing the object of my wife’s desire for staining. But as I applied sandpaper to its surface the dust didst form around my nostrils, thus causing me to sneeze violently. “Depart from me thou disgusting irritant! Goest thine own way or I shalt connect the sander to mine shopvac.” So I did and the wickedness was consumed within. And so I said, “this is good”.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd the surface was as glass so with great joy and haste I applied gel-stain followed hence by polyurethane. Thrice didst I apply the varnish with its intoxicating aroma, for a pleasing look thereto. And when it was finished I stood back and examined every aspect of its beauty. It was then I summoned the first-born child, the fruit of my loin, hitherto. And ever so carefully, he helped me move the beast of beauty to its place of final rest in the corner of the den. And thereupon did we place the magic window through which we have seen the prophet, Norm on PBS. Then, without warning, the mother of my children appeared and looked upon the cabinet which was adorning the room. And with an approving nod she said, “this is good”.

Practice What You Preach, Big Boy!

16 09 2012

My office was in desperate need of painting.  So, on Labor Day, along with my constant companion- my wife- to keep me company,  I set out to complete this chore which I had been dreading.  If you follow this blog,  you know how I much I loathe painting. But this was something that had to be done.


Now, I’ll just cut to the chase.  I was standing on a ladder while painting up above my head.  As I was coming down the ladder, I stepped wrong and lost my balance, falling from the second rung. I came down on the side of my left foot. The pain was enough to bring a normal man to tears, but as you know, I’m not normal. Pain, (in my Italian accent) I laugh you inna da face..Ha! Chuck Norris would be proud!


With assistance from my trusty companion who, by the way, failed to break my fall, I pulled myself up into a chair. After a couple of minutes most of the pain had subsided and I was able to man-up and complete the job. Over the next few days, the swelling increased but the pain continued to subside. I diagnosed a sprained ankle which was quickly improving. There’s only one thing wrong with my diagnosis…I’m not a doctor.  On the following Thursday I felt a pain run down my left lower leg. Over the next few days the pain increased until Monday, a week following my fall, I was unable to put weight on my foot when I got out of bed. I decided it was time to see someone who was qualified to render a medical opinion.


At first the doctor diagnosed a bad sprain, but when I mentioned the pain down my leg she took another look at the x-ray and decided it was a fracture. Check out my earlier post, BT, Phone Home if you like reading about my ankle injuries.


Aside from the embarrassment I endured this week limping about the classroom in an air cast while teaching safety classes, I’m doing fine. My wife, no doubt feeling guilty because she failed to throw her body under me to prevent me from hitting the floor (!!!!!!), is taking great care of me, waiting on me hand and broken foot.

Writer’s Block

2 09 2012

Writer’s block…it happens from time to time and the past few days I’ve struggled to come up with something new. I decided to take a break long enough to do a little drawing when in a moment of creative brilliance I had this idea and put it into pen and charcoal. Let’s all hope for change!

Chicago or bust!

Take This Job and…Just Take It!

3 07 2011

Yesterday I completed a job which I have been dreading for 44 years. Not a terribly bad job, just something I did once and never wanted to do again.

The days before satellite

I mentioned in an earlier post (The Christmas Tree-Part Two) that daddy was a truck driver who traveled 48 states with an occasional trip over the border into Canada or Mexico. As a result, he wasn’t around home all that much making me the man of the house. That’s what he would tell me when I was a little boy and he was about to leave home for another 2-3 months. He would say I was the man of the house while he was away and I needed to take care of my mother. As bad as it was not having daddy around, there was some good which came from that. I had to learn things early. I was doing plumbing repairs when I was just a kid. If the TV antennae needed adjusting or the gutters needed cleaning I would climb onto the roof and do the job. If we wanted something grilled, I was the griller. I’ve been grilling for 47 years-ever since I was 12. Oh, and don’t forget the Christmas tree.

I was 15 years old and the drain in the bathroom sink was so badly clogged it would take forever for the water to drain out. It was like watching ice melt. Mama tried everything- Drano, Mr. Plumber, Mrs. Plumber, the plunger, a new plunger, coat hangers; you name it. I’m telling you, once the hair begins to accumulate around the horizontal rod (that’s the do-hickey that makes the stopper go up and down.) there’s only one way to get it cleaned out-disassemble the thing and pull it out. Mama finally got fed up with it and said she was going to call a plumber. I just figured something had probably fallen down the drain and gotten stuck in that curvy pipe beneath the sink. I didn’t know the nomenclature at the time but having worked the following summer with a plumber, I learned that curvy pipe is called the “P” trap, or simply trap. I told mama I thought I could fix it so she should give me a shot before she pays a plumber to do the job.


I have three sisters and a brother. At the time, only two sisters were living at home. Still, that’s one guy-me-and three women. Women shed a lot of long hair, and it’s especially bad when they dry their hair over the sink. When I pulled the trap off the drain pipe I pulled a huge, gelatinous, stinky plug of hair and scum from the drain. I thought I was going to hurl. (Still not as bad as drinking Fleet. See The Colonoscopy.)


So, in the back of my mind, I have always, at least since that day, been aware of long hair’s drain-clogging potential. I also knew the day would come when I would be a homeowner and would face this situation again. The day we signed the papers to purchase this house, over 25 years ago, I thought back to that day in 1967, knowing that if we stayed in this house long enough, there would come a day when I would have to repeat that chore. And I’ve thought of it every time I’ve watched my wife stand over the sink blow-drying her hair.

Several weeks ago my wife and I noticed, about the same time, that the drain in the master bath was getting very slow. Memories of that day from 44 years in the past, returned.

Now, we could have called a plumber but I just have a hard time forking over $125 for someone to do a job, no matter how repulsive it might be, that I can easily do myself. I told my wife I would fix the problem.

We are usually quite busy so it has not been easy to find the time to get in the bathroom to clean the drain. Also, it seemed to be one of those things you never think of when you have the time to do it so for several weeks the job has been on my roundtuit list.

The Day of Reckoning

But yesterday, I had the time and I remembered. I got my tools together and did the job in about 20 minutes. Wasn’t all that bad after all, but it was just like I remembered it-another huge gelatinous plug of stinky hair and scum.

Okay husbands, here is the lesson to learn from this post. When you face a job like this…procrastinate. Yes, put it off for several weeks, long enough anyway for your wife to begin to reach the point where she is threatening to call in a professional. Then when you finally do the job, she is so pleased with the results that you get extra points (if you are a points collector, that is).

Now, this task delay technique doesn’t work for everything. It works best on a job which has immediate and striking results. When she saw how fast the water emptied from the sink the results were so vivid my wife smiled.

I know, because I’ve tried unsuccessfully, I will never be able to get my wife to find somewhere other than over the bathroom sink to dry her hair. After all, that is where the mirror is. But that’s okay; it’ll probably be another 25 years before that drain needs cleaning again. By then I’ll be 84 and since I probably won’t be able to get down beneath the sink to take the drain apart, I’ll just call one of my sons over to do the job. hallelujah, I may have cleaned my last drain.

My McCulloch Mistake

13 02 2011


The ice storm fell throughout the town

It broke my favorite tree.

So I went out into the yard

Just my McCulloch and me.

My saw came alive as I yanked the cord

With its familiar buzzing sound

Its white smoke curling around my face

As I knelt down to the ground.

I placed the blade against the tree

And squeezed the throttle hard

Cutting deep into the trunk

Sending chips across the yard.

I cut one side and retracted the blade

As I’d seen on HGTV

Then flipped it to the other side

And got on the other knee.

Squeezing the throttle once again

The tree began to lean.

The smell of smoke, the splintering wood

It was such a manly scene.

But looking up in nauseating fear

I was horror-struck.

The tree was falling along a path

Straight toward my neighbor’s truck.

The crunching steel, the breaking glass

It was a blunder on the greatest scale

Now a newly placed sign in my yard reads

One chain saw for sale!



It’s A Matter of Taste

27 09 2010

My wife says all my taste is in my mouth. I won’t dispute that, but, I would ask who died and made her the taste queen? Who’s to say her taste is any better than mine? I do know enough not to wear plaid pants with a paisley shirt. Actually, I know enough not to own plaid pants and a paisley shirt. I know what I like, but what I like is not always socially acceptable. In the final analysis, it doesn’t make any difference because if we disagree, we can usually reach a compromise. For example, I recently decided to paint my office at home and chose a color which was about two shades darker than what she thought it should be. After a brief discussion we came to our customary compromise-I went with her choice and she hasn’t said another word about it. She gets what she wants-her choice of paint color, and I get what I want- her silence.

I know this sounds terrible to those of my species, my fellow husbands, but it isn’t really that bad. The truth is I like her taste…usually. (there were the red pants she gave me in 1980.) I respect her taste. In most cases in which we have had a difference of opinion, I usually wind up liking her choices better than mine. But that doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea to take her with me to my manly haunts like Lowes and Woodworker’s Supply. I have to be very selective about inviting her along on such jaunts.

About seven years ago I was remodeling one of the bathrooms. I never even considered paint and tile colors. I just left that up to her from the git-go. It worked out so well, I decided I would also let her choose the new light fixture.

“I’m going to Lowes to get a light fixture for the bathroom. Would you like to come along”?

That was a mistake. She accepted my invitation and we spent the next two hours at Lowes looking at light fixtures. Now don’t get me wrong. There are few places I would rather spend two hours than at a store surrounded by tools, hardware, and building supplies. But two hours looking at light fixtures?! That’s worse than tailing along watching her read can labels in the grocery store. (See The Grocery Store, under Previous Entries, on this blog) In case you’ve never been, take my word for it, Lowes does not have that many light fixtures. She quickly ruled out the majority and had her selections down to three or four. Then it began, “Which one do you like?” she would ask.

I was a B student, which puts me just a notch above average. In marriage it has been the same way. In other words, it may have taken me a few years to learn, but I did learn, perhaps a notch faster than the average husband. After 39 years of wedded bliss, I have learned that if we disagree and we go with my choice then she is, more likely than not, going to be unhappy with it later. And, I need not tell you what it means when the wife isn’t happy. For that reason, and the fact she is usually right, I invoke my rights as a husband to insist that she make the final decision…a small price to pay for a happy home.

Maybe that’s how we’ve managed to last 39 years!