Archive for the ‘1’ Category

Sometimes It Pays To Be in the Way

January 9, 2010

When I was an apprentice, partnering with my corrosive, but brilliant, brother-in-law, we were doing piece work at a large tract of houses. [Piece work is being paid for a set price per square foot for certain phases of house framing, such as rolling joists, framing walls, and cutting/stacking the rafters to form the roof. My brother-in-law and I were in the elite phase, that of the roofing. We would make more per sq.ft. because of the difficulty of the work. Being paid for piece work depends on knowledge, skill level, and speed.] Dennis was a hardworking, money grubbing builder. So, you can imagine the consternation he felt when we observed a bunch of semi-trucks and a film crew driving into the tract. For some reason, they chose our building in this big tract on which we were stacking a roof.

But, that wasn’t the worst part. The director of the crew came right up to Dennis and told him he had to quit working because they wanted to film a McDonald’s commercial in our building. The ranting and raving that came from Dennis scared the wits out of the director and everyone around him. However, the commercial film crew began setting up after Dennis became hoarse.

While the filming began, Dennis negotiated with the director to be paid double what we would have made for the day. So we stopped to watch as the “construction worker” actor came into the garage of the house. He was dressed more like a lumberjack than any carpenter I ever saw:  Red-plaid shirt, 3-day-old beard, big boots, and a hard hat, which is usually worn on large commercial building sites. When someone yelled, “Action!” he sat down on the stack of lumber and opened his phony lunch box. Then he grimaced down at his supposedly yucky lunch. “Cut!” was called out and they did the scene over and over and over again, about twenty or thirty more times.

Dennis and I went to the New Braunfels McDonald’s and had lunch, went back to the tract, picked up our double pay, and took off for the rest of the day, tooling around Canyon Lake, Spring Branch, and Wimberley, ending up at Cabella’s between Kyle and Buda. The next day we started work bright and early, eager to get back to the task at hand.


A Tale of Two Metatarsals

December 21, 2009

Three days into my apprenticeship as a journeyman carpenter I had an unfortunate incident. For the lack of one nail in the scaffolding I fell from a three-story building, along with my friend. Not only was it the third day of my apprenticeship, it was also the third day of marital bliss. After driving 75 miles to bring me my lunch, my wife pulled up and watched me hit the ground. I landed on a sandhill left by the masons. When I looked up, I was surrounded by my wife and a bunch of strangers, who turned out to be from the neighborhood. They had come running from as far as three blocks away after hearing me scream on my way down to the ground.

My friend Jim bounced off the garage roof on his way down and landed near me, seemingly unhurt. However, my wife drove us both to the hospital for x-rays. I had discomfort in my right foot, while Jim thought he might have had a broken thumb afterall.

After our x-rays, we waited painfully for over an hour before hearing the results. Finally, a doctor came out and said that Jim had a broken thumb but I could go home. As I was getting up to hobble out with my wife’s support, another doctor asked where I thought I was going with two broken metarsals. He told Jim he could go home because he had no broken bones in his hand. The first doctor had gotten it all backwards.

That incident brought my apprenticement to a halt for six weeks with my leg in a cast up to my knee. I spent the summer on disability and fishing, but I couldn’t wait to get back to my job. That painful lesson has kept me safe while remodeling and building additions, decks, and garages in New Braunfels, San Marcos, Wimberley, Kyle, Buda, Spring Branch, and Canyon Lake.

It was a dark and dreary night

December 2, 2009

Today the stormy weather has traversed Spring Branch, Canyon Lake, New Braunfels, Wimberley, San Marcos, Kyle, Buda, and beyond. The state is taking a soaking, but it does not compare to the pounding one of my custom homes received years ago.

We were building atop a hill overlooking the neighborhood, much like the hilltop remodeled homes and additions in our fabulous hill country. The day started out so bright and sunny and we commenced construction of the 40′ walls. As the day progressed, we began to lift and install the walls of the two-story house.  We noticed the clouds forming, until the sky over the construction site looked quite ominous.

This was before the internet, so I called the fire department to find out what kind of strength the storm was supposed to have. The fire chief was well-informed, as is our great New Braunfels fire department chief, and I was told it was going to be a doozie of a storm. We raised the fourth wall and began bracing them all with double studs 6′ apart at a 45 degree angle. When we were finished, we surveyed the braces and felt confident the walls would be able to withstand all but a tornado that we occasionally see in Kyle and Buda.

The owners called me at 3am that night. They had stopped by after a New Year’s Eve party to see how the framing had weathered the storm and found their walls were down the hill, scattered over three neighboring homes. I rushed to see for myself and met them in their drenched tuxedo and evening gown. All the second story walls and double-studded braces were shredded into toothpicks. Thank goodness for my insurance company and understanding clients.

I couldn’t believe it, folks, that was one granddaddy of a storm – worse than a hurricane that often affects us here in New Braunfels and the hill country.

Unexpected perk

November 20, 2009

Before I began specializing in additions and remodelling, I framed small housing tracts (5 to 10 homes), as an apprentice carpenter in southern California. We cranked them out as fast as we could, until one day work came to a standstill. 

The five-home tract we were working on was next door to an established neighborhood. There was a pool with a nice deck at the nearest house. We were working away, when one by one the guys on the scaffolding turned around to stare. Two nude females had come out and settled down to sunbathe.

Well, for two hours no work got done. All the guys, sitting on or hanging from the scaffolding, were talking to the girls. Finally, a near-naked guy came out and yelled at the girls to come inside. Of course, for the rest of the day work was interspersed with talk about that unexpected perk of the job. There were some sore thumbs from hammers going awry, but smiles abounded.