Saturday, June 28, 2008
How I Spent My Summer Vacation-
So, the "family house" we vacation in for a week or so in June is a house bought by my wife's grandmother back in 1955. It was built back in 1900, and local legend claims that the builder is buried in the basement. His name was Jack, and there's a plaque in the living room above the point in the basement where we think he was buried, that says "this is the house that Jack built". Since Jack was only in his 30s when he disappeared, everyone assumes his disappearance was not voluntary, and his ghost has been said to live in the house ever since. The contractor who looks after the house and does maintenance work on it every year talks to Jack when he comes in to work, complimenting him on his workmanship.
But that has nothing to do with today's story. In the basement there is a small 8 by 12 foot room, which almost literally has a "river running through it". Not a river actually, but a small spring under the house does come bubbling up through the floor. This is a house that could never be built with today's codes and environmental regulations...
This small room has water coming out of the floor, no lighting, and a small, 10 inch by 2 foot window near the ceiling. So, of course, that is where the firewood is stored. I know, I know, don't even start. The house is owned by my wife's 86 year old aunt and 90 year old uncle, native New Yorkers for their entire lives, and wonderful, wonderful folks. My wife's aunt is a literary agent who still takes the subway to the office 4 days a week. They are great people, and we love visiting in New York with them. They know a great little Irish sports pub around the corner from their condo where we all go when we visit them, and we silently cheer the Red Sox while they loudly cheer the Yankees. But, as native New Yorkers, what they don't know about stacking firewood is a lot. And what I know, as a native New Englander, is also a lot.
So- we went down to help them open the house on Memorial Day, and Fritz asked us if we could stack a half cord of firewood which was going to be delivered when we were there in June. Of course we said yes. But then I began thinking- the firewood room, with water running through it, is a disaster. The wood was all stacked against both side walls, in the water, and it hadn't been cleaned in at least 20 years. To get dry firewood these days you had to carefully step over the rotted stuff coating the floor, and pick and pick and pick through stuff on the sides that was not eaten by beetles, soggy, or rotten.
I just could not, in all good conscience, stack a new half cord of wood in that room. So while we were there last week, I spent a few days with a wood basket, a shovel, and a wheel barrow, cleaning out the wood room. I cleaned the whole room out to the bare floor, and scooped all the crap up and threw it in the woods. Hale Berry, Mama O' God, if you had a light in that room, and some corn seeds, we could have grown a crop, for all the rotten wood dirt that was the floor. And there were some very interesting bugs and mushrooms too. I may have discarded one or two new species...
After cleaning the room out I went to the local home center and bought some bricks and 8-foot 2x4s, and put the bricks down against each side wall, and then put the 2x4s on them, and then when the new wood arrived we set it on that. At least the new wood will not be sitting on the floor. Mission accomplished.
In case you missed it, the brand-new Royters News Service is far more fair and balanced than Faux News, and Bill O'Reilly called them "the Spawn of Satan", so they must be ok.
I'm re-reading a book about aerial warfare in the First World War. Here's a video some of you will remember fondly, and some of the rest of you may have never seen-