Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Aug. 12, 2004
When we got to our cottage in Wisconsin in late July, the last thing I expected was that we'd have to do some major work on it. I always look forward to our two weeks in the North Woods when we can get away from telephones, e-mails and the never-ending chores that keep us hopping the rest of the year.
We walked in the front door and almost immediately noticed the porch floor was "spongy." I sighed. Art and I knew it was a sign of a major project in the making. Our suspicions were correct. Four days of our vacation were spent removing the indoor/outdoor carpet, ripping out rotted floor panels and damaged support joists, getting rid of soaked insulation, and then rebuilding the floor so the problem wouldn't reoccur.
I've had a lot of practice helping with such projects. Art is able to repair almost anything, whether plumbing, electrical or carpentry skills are involved. My first husband was no slacker in the fix-it department either. It's nice to have a spouse who can fix almost anything, but that means that I've been a designated "go-fer" for nearly 25 years.
Luckily, the girls are now old enough that they're familiar with the various tools Art might need and can follow the orders he barks at them. In fact, Mariya took a woods class in high school, so she has a working knowledge of what needs to be done. She and Art have done most of the work getting her apartment ready, but Art has also pressed me into service many times.
One of the most interesting occasions was removing a 1930s cast-iron tub from the upstairs apartment. Both girls were present.
"This makes me nervous," I said as we prepared to lower the tub down the steps.
Art laughed. He's heard me say that many times before. One time was when he asked me to hold a 4 x 8 piece of drywall board against the ceiling while he nailed it in place. Another was when I held a pry bar in place as he placed wedges around the slightly-raised lip of the septic tank cover that didn't want to come off.
With the tub sitting at the top of the steps, Art began his instructions.
"OK, guys, here's what we're going to do."
He had tied a heavy rope to a couple of cross bars at one end of the tub. He explained that he, Mariya and I would hold the rope to keep the tub from crashing down the steps.
"However," he cautioned. "If the tub is too hard to hold, release the rope and just let the tub go. I don't want anyone dragged down with it."
"Oh, man, this really makes me nervous," I said.
"This is scary," added Katie
We got the tub down the first small set of stairs without too much trouble. Art balanced it on the small landing, where it teetered precariously. Then we turned it in preparation for its final journey to the bottom.
But because of the angle, once it started moving, there was no stopping it. We immediately released our ropes.
I pictured the tub careening from one side of the stairway to the other and imagined that it would either crash through one of the side walls or shoot straight through the wall at the bottom of the steps. It did none of these. It made a few dents in the carpet on the steps, but that was the extent of the damage.
I was amazed.
Art sometimes has an odd way describing things. While he was a professor, one of his students observed that whenever he said the next topic would be "interesting," what he really meant was that it would be difficult.
With the tub safely at the bottom of the steps, Art said, "There, now wasn't that fun?"
Memorable, yes. Interesting, possibly. Fun, definitely not.
Mariya gives a “thumbs-up” and Art smiles
after the tub, top down between them,
made it down the apartment steps.