When I formed the new patio, I built the forms as tedious little tunnels so that I could break them out later and plant things in the gaps. The 9? cross pieces in the grid were full length; the long top pieces went the opposite way, to anchor everything together. You can get a hint of how it was constructed here:
I finally finished it, we finally poured, and then I had the job of taking this whole laborious framework OUT again. I got the edge restraints and their stakes out, got one of the 9? cross piece constructions out and a few of the 3? shorties, and then it rained like hell, I hid inside, and all the wood swelled. So yesterday I’m out there with my trusty FU flat bar and my six foot iron bar, using all the tricks of leverage to slowly convince one of those 9? tunnels to come out. I’d been working an hour or two, and I’d finally gotten the free end up over the concrete. Rest of it was still wedged, not even budging with the 6? iron bar. I’m working it from the ends and from both sides (where the cross members made a gap) when I hear:
“YOU NEED ANY HELP? I’M FROM TEXAS AND THEY TEACH US TO HELP PRETTY LADIES.”
It’s an elderly man in sweat pants and a tucked-in-t-shirt, walking a three-legged dog. Oh dear, thinks I. I’m tired. I’ve been working all day. I do not want to risk a senior citizen breaking themself in my yard while trying to be flirtatious.
“No thank you, I’ve got it,” I said, and then “NO THANK YOU, I’VE GOT IT” because clearly not much remains of his hearing.
“DID YOU POUR THIS YOURSELF?”
“Well, I had help on the pour, but I formed it all myself. I’ve been doing a lot of remodeling and –”
“MAY I SHAKE YOUR HAND?”
Well, I can hardly say no to that. So he comes up the driveway, grins, and shakes my hand. And with his other hand he passes me the dog’s leash. I take the leash because that’s just what you DO when someone hands something to you, he takes two steps over to where my 9? cross piece is stuck, and he lifts that end five feet clear of the concrete in one movement.
“YOU GOT A BLOCK TO STICK UNDER THERE?”
“Yes!” I run for the scrap pile.
“DO YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?”
“Yes!” I said, getting the block, but he couldn’t hear me because I was facing away from him.
“OH, THAT WAS SILLY OF ME. OF COURSE YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN, YOU BEEN DOING ALL THIS YOURSELF, YOU KNOW ABOUT LEVERAGE!”
“Leverage,” I said, turning back, “Is just about all I have going for me.” I stuck the block in place and *pop*, out comes the 9? tunnel.
“I WAS THE WEIGHTLIFTING CHAMPION OF TEXAS. I BENCHED 600 POUNDS. SQUAT 1200. I HAD CANCER FIVE TIMES FROM AGENT ORANGE. LAST TIME I WAS IN THE HOSPITAL, SOMEONE LET MY DOG OUT. VET CALLED ME, SAID ‘I CAN PUT HIM DOWN OR I CAN TAKE OFF THE LEG.’ I SAID ‘HELL, I RUN WITH GUYS WITH FEWER LEGS THAN THAT EVERY MORNING! TAKE THE LEG!’“
“Dogs have an advantage, starting with more legs,” I said, scritching the dog. “He’s really nice. And I limp too. Gotta stick together.”
In very short order I learned that his name was Tony, the dog’s name was Trigger, Trigger is Not A Pitbull (Trigger is totally a pit bull, and a sweetheart), he has four kids and five grandkids (Tony, not Trigger), he ran Arnold Schwarzenegger gym chain for twenty years, and sometimes he’s got so little to do around the house he builds things and then deconstructs them again, so if I need any thing else lifted when he comes back this way, just say so, Y’HEAR?
On the second lap of his walk, I wasn’t ready for any help – I had to take some top cross pieces off so I could get at the next 9 footer. He was ready for me, though, because apparently he’d spent his walk deciding which pieces of advice from his marine force recon days were best suited to a young woman remodeling her house. This time I learned about the five Ps and how having the right tool is most of the job and that when he woke up screaming one night his wife left him but the kids decided to ‘stay with daddy’, and do I know what marine force recon is? And I said maybe, I had a friend who did something like that but he didn’t talk about it.
“MOST GUYS DON’T, BUT MY THERAPIST SAYS IT’S GOOD TO TALK ABOUT IT.”
“IT’S HEALTHY. NOW, WE USUALLY TAKE A WALK IN THE EVENING, SO IF YOU’RE OUT HERE AND YOU GET ANY MORE OF THOSE BOARDS A BIT UP WHERE I CAN GET AT ‘EM, I’M HAPPY TO HELP. IT’S BEEN REALLY NICE TALKING WITH YOU.”
“I don’t know how long I’ll be out, but thank you!”
“JUST LEAVE THE CROWBAR ALONG SIDE THERE, THEN.”
And off he went, and I went back to work.
I got one more 9? chunk out myself, and a bunch of little crosspieces. I really went to work on the rest of it, but when I packed it in there were two nine footers remaining, as well as about six littler pieces, and one of the long ones was stuck in tight.
“Erik and I are going out to dinner,” I told housemate Xed. “Uh, if a loud elderly man comes and starts tearing things out of the patio outside your bedroom window, please don’t be alarmed.”
This was not the strangest thing I’ve warned housemate Xed about, but it was right up there.
We’d been at dinner half an hour when Xed texted me. “Your elderly friend came back. The forms are gone. I said thank you.”
Came back home, and yup, every single piece of form is out.
“He wasn’t even winded,” said Xed.
I really have to think of some way to say ‘thank you’ to Tony and Trigger.
An elderly hard-of-hearing weightlifting marine-force-recon-veteran is a person in my neighborhood,
In my neighborhood,
In my neigh-bor-hood
elderly hard-of-hearing weightlifting marine-force-recon-veteran is a person in my neighborhood,
He’s a person that you meet
When he’s walking down the street
He’s a person I met yes-ter-day!
Tony & Trigger
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