March 2014: The Children Are Tender

Caregiving, teaching little kids to read, and riding in the pickup with Farmer John; I tweet, pin, and blog, from my home in rural Kansas. If you've landed here looking for information about my books, visit my author's page by clicking this link: A. Born. Thanks for visiting!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Farmer John's Mad Carpentry Skills

Farmer John is...well, he is a farmer.  He is not fond of yard work; he prefers to disc and plant and spray and harvest 50 or 100 acre fields. He doesn't blink an eye at thousands of dollars spent for farm machinery, but hundreds of dollars earmarked for household use can cause him to squeeze his eyes tightly closed in pained resignation. He is especially oppressed by home renovation projects, famously muttering, "I hate this, I hate this, I just hate this" when we were picking out new kitchen cabinets a few years ago.

I call this a famous occurrence because it struck me funny. I laughed so hard I cried, and I'm afraid I've mentioned it whenever we've shopped for home supplies since.  "Remember that time..." here I begin to dissolve into giggles, "...when we were shopping for kitchen cupboards and you kept saying..."

Poor Farmer John.

I've always thought it odd that this man who is an accomplished welder and mechanic seems so inept when it comes to carpentry. Whenever I've inquired about building a shelf or doing anything requiring nails, hammers, and wood, he has had a stock response.  He stares at me, mouth partly open, with a crease between his brows.  It is as though I'm speaking Greek.  I have even felt sorry for him, thinking that it must be sad, having grown up around house builders and woodworkers as he did, not to share in their skills.

Fortunately, our son grew up to be a woodworker, and I've been able to turn to him when I've had need for someone to saw, build, or nail.  But our son is married now, lives 45 minutes away, and has a busy life of his own. 

A couple of weekends ago I was frantically preparing for company when the broken piece of trellis I'd propped along the ramp to my mother's apartment fell to the ground (our home has a "mother-in-law addition, where my 91-year-old Alzheimer's mom has lived for the past eleven years).  I was brought to tears; it just looked horrid and I couldn't get it to stay in place.  John happened to see me struggling with it and strolled up and watched for a few moments.

The next day he pulled into the yard in the farm truck and unloaded two six-foot pieces of trellis. 
He whipped two sawhorses from the bed, and placed one of the lengths of trellis across it. Striding to the ramp, he pulled out a tape measure and took three measurements. Back to the trellis, he measured, made pencil marks, then measured again.  He saw me watching him.  “Measure twice, cut once,” he said.

He plugged in an extension cord and attached some kind of a saw with a wicked looking circular blade.  “Oh be careful!” I warned. 

He didn’t reply, and I noticed he’d pulled a small, worn metal disk from his back pocket. 

“What’s that?” I asked.

“A chalk line.” 

 "A chalk line? Where in the world did you get a chalk line?" 

 He stretched a string across the trellis and snapped it expertly, once, then again, leaving a blue chalk guideline.  I plugged my ears as the saw sprang into ear-splitting action, and retreated to the house.  When I returned fifteen minutes later, John had cut the second trellis, matched the two pieces perfectly, and had used wood screws to secure the trellises to the ramp.  The whole process had taken less than 15 minutes.  

He tossed the tools into the back of the truck and as he prepared to drive away I yelled, "Wait! Thank you! I didn't know you could do this kind of stuff, do you think maybe you could do something about the trim on the back porch?...

However, the the wheels of the truck were already moving.  "Bye Hon, goin' to do some real work now." And he was gone.  He has to make a living for the two of us, and farming is more than a full time job.  

But you have to admire this man. He hid his woodworking skills from me for forty years and had me convinced that such things were beyond him. This probably qualifies him for some sort of a cagey husband award, but the cat is out of the bag.  I've made a list of a half dozen projects that I now know he is more than capable of completing.  

He can run, but he can't hide.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Beautiful September

Perhaps because I was a teacher for so many years and loved returning to work each fall, September is my favorite month. Well, until October comes and then maybe I'll say it's my favorite. And I'm fond of November too; perhaps we'd best just say Autumn is my favorite season and leave it at that.  I worked so hard on descriptive passages in The Children Are Tender that I think I'll be lazy this evening and use a quote from the novel to describe how I feel about this golden month:
In September, the leaves of the cottonwoods, wildflowers, and grasses became tinged with shades of yellow and amber so that the sun’s reflection from grasses and petals caused the light itself to appear warmed with shades of gold.  The Children Are Tender, p. 48.  
 The light is truly beautiful in September here in Kansas, as summer's harsh brilliance is muted.

Here's a photo of the front porch of the little yellow house; I'm pushing the season a bit with my mums and pumpkin:
My grandpa plucked this tractor seat from a pile of scrap metal on his farm and gifted it to my husband. That was about 40 years ago, and so this seat is probably 80 years old. Farmer John welded the seat to the legs of an old metal chair, and it has graced our front porch ever since.  

Above is an example of that beautiful September light. One afternoon about 20 years ago, my father-in-law stopped by and planted a little oak sapling in our side yard. Oaks are slow growing, and this sturdy little tree is still young.  It is beautifully shaped, and always reminds me of the Scripture, "They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor."  Isaiah 61:3