Weekly Column

Speaking of water   . . . it's nice

to have helpful neighbors

by William Gibson White



After last week's article, our oldest son, Dewey, in Arlington, Va., sent the following email:


Speaking of water….

Charise (our daughter-in-law) was off work this past week, and we decided to make it a "working vacation." Painting, caulking and the usual crap.

Saturday morning, we noticed one board on the front porch had some water damage. It was just a bit of trim and no big deal. Unfortunately, the water damaged trim was just a symptom of additional rot including a structural beam. Since the day was young and we are as foolish as the day is long, we decided to fix it ourselves.

Worked on it all day. On the first trip of three to Home Depot, Charise and I had an argument over the size of the replacement beam. (Now, that sounded Cupcake-like.) The beam at home was a real 2 x 8 beam measuring 2 inches thick by 8 inches wide. While at Home Depot, Charise found the storage rack for 2 x 8 beams. "Perfect!" she said, "We'll get this beam and just cut it to length."

I explained that we would need a 2 x 10 and rip (saw) it down to 2 x 8. After several minutes of trying to explain the evolution of board sizes. She still thought I was wrong and the dimensions given on the sign should accurately match the size of the beam. So, after finding a tape measure and proving the necessity of buying a larger beam she agreed we needed a 2 x 10.

 "We'll just have Home Depot cut it to size," she said. Unfortunately, Home Depot would only cut the beam to length but, would not rip the beam down from 10 to 8 inches in width.

We get the beam home and mark it to cut. I have a large metal bar I use for a saw guide and it was taking some time to position and clamp down. Charise thought she could speed things up by just following the line with the saw. She didn't want to use the circular saw; she wanted to use the saber saw. Our saber saw purchased on clearance from K-Mart 30 years ago for $12 was too light-duty for this work, so we used the guide and circular saw. We worked on the project until dark.

With rain in the forecast for Sunday afternoon we got up at first light and started working on the porch. As we hurried to finish the project and the skies darkened our next-door neighbor came out with her morning coffee to chat.

Several times during the conversation she said, "I know you're trying to get this done before it rains…." then changes the subject and keeps talking. As I headed up the ladder another neighbor walking by sees Charise and Wendy talking, so now I have three cackling hens standing right in the middle of my job site.

 First, I try a subtle approach and drop a piece of scrap board while up on the ladder. Without any break in the chatter Charise bends down and hands me the board. Much to my chagrin the women continue their feeding frenzy of neighborhood gossip.

Finally, I had to say, "Sorry, we're (I'm) trying to get this done before it rains."  This spawned an additional 20 minute conversation on where and when they could get together and "talk". 

It begins to rain.

* * *

Vienna, Va.—36 years before.  Cupcake, my two stepsons and I just fought a snowstorm coming back from Williamsburg. Snowplows had cleared most streets within five blocks of our house where we got stuck. We parked the Suburban in front of an empty lot and walked home.

The snow stopped during the night, and our street was plowed. But our vehicle was now buried in a drift left by the plow. Armed with snow shovels we arrived just as a neighbor did. We thought he was going to help, but he had a bad back. Instead, he showed us hundreds of photos he had taken on his last summer's vacation to Hawaii!

Bless 'em!




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