Life on the farm isn’t too different from anywhere else. Except for the chores, not being able to see neighbors, the deafening quiet at night, and hunting from the porch, it’s just like living in Manhattan.
Oh, and tetanus. My entire farm is a case of lockjaw looking for a place to happen.
Between an old barbed wire fence, the two barns, renovations to the house, and a couple of rusty junk piles in the back woods the previous owner left behind, the chances of somebody visiting the Emergency Room in the next year will be an even-money bet.
Unless I need stitches or a cast, I should be good, but not so for the rest of the family.
Because of the places I’ve been, I’ve been pricked and prodded more than the zit on a prom queen’s nose the night before homecoming.
If I had a dollar for every time I was stuck by a syringe, I could probably just write for a living. And if you count jabs from a tattoo needle, I could afford to farm full-time.
The wife and kids should have appointments for tetanus and rabies vaccinations soon. Either that, or we can have them added on during the next Urgent Care visit. Whichever comes first.
I had a slightly different vision of what was going to take place when my wife said, “A little paint and some texture touch-up.”
Electrical outlets have been relocated. Archways have been added. Undesirable doors are being framed shut, and new ones are under consideration, so we can access a deck and hot tub we don’t yet own.
I don’t think I’ve reached the point of having bitten off more than I can chew. However, some of the projects will push the limits of my skills and force me to learn a couple of news ones.
I can always fall back on my Amish carpenter, if absolutely necessary, but that’s admitting defeat, and I’m not a fan of losing.
During a long, hot San Jose summer, my brother Jake and I, inspired by daily reruns of “Hogan’s Heros” and pushed over the edge watching “Stalag 17,” decided an underground clubhouse would be far cooler than any stupid tree house our parents had already told us we couldn’t build because lumber costs money.
We weren’t poor growing up, but neither did we have cash to burn. However, getting money out of my mother was like giving the cat a bath. As reasonable an idea as it may seem at first, nobody ends the project feeling good about the experience.
Confident in our logic that removal of dirt to create a void was not objectionable because it didn’t cost anything, and with the additional benefit of not creating an architectural eyesore, me and Jake raided the tool shed for the implements of the imminent cave-in.
We found a secluded spot behind the garage, at the far end of the property, that was not visible from the house. Not that it mattered much. The plan was to have a magnificently camouflaged entrance that rivaled the tilting tree stump Bob Crane made famous.
We didn’t have a tree stump handy, but no matter. Such minor details would be worked out as the project progressed.
That Monday, me and Jake began to dig. By the end of the work day on Tuesday, we could both sit up inside the cavern comfortably. That’s when we realized just how dark an underground existence could be. We would have to scavenge the garage for parts to wire our lair.
On Thursday, we were closing in on being able to stand up, but grew mildly concerned at the dirt raining down on us whenever the dog walked across the top. I think our parents became suspicious at me and Jake showing up for dinner all week encrusted in enough dirt to require stripping us to our underwear and hosing us off with the garden hose.
Pulling a dirt-filled bucket into the daylight the next afternoon, I met my dad, squatting down along the rim of the entrance, holding a flashlight.
“You and your brother, get out of there,” was all he said. Jake and I clambered out of the diagonal shaft, while the old man hung his torso over the edge and peered to the end with the aid of his flashlight.
Plumbing the dimensions of the cave with the beam of light, Dad slowly shook his head. He looked toward me and Jake. In a flash of brilliance, Jake blurted out, “We’re making Mom a root cellar for her canning.” I nodded my head in agreement.
“Your mother doesn’t can,” said my Dad, in a measured tone I’ve come to learn is a father’s way to keep from killing again.
“She can learn,” I added, hoping to turn the situation into a good idea.
It’s episodes like this that cause me to believe I was not beaten enough as a child.
After a lecture on the need for bracing within earthworks, Dad caved in the structure by jumping on the roof. Jake and I spent the weekend collecting the dirt we had scattered to fill in what was now a big hole in the ground. The Kommandant had found us out, and we were lucky to get out of it without any time in the cooler.
Looking back, the experience turned out to be instructional because my wife just texted me.
“Where do you think would be a good spot for a root cellar?”
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