OK, so it’s Arbor Day and we’re all supposed to give thanks for all of the things trees have given to us — things like an ecosystem to provide habitat and food for birds and other animals; they absorb carbon dioxide and potentially harmful gasses, such as sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide, from the air and release oxygen (one large tree can supply a day’s supply of oxygen for four people); and, of course, wood for fire and to build things.
It’s the latter I currently have a problem with.
As you read this, I am suffering from the stings of 257 slivers in my hands. Yes, I said slivers like a northern person, not shivers like a southern person. One is correct, one is totally not. But I digress.
A few years ago I got a wild hair, and those are almost always dangerous. I have a pretty good-sized area of my yard where a dog pen once resided and, centered but on one side is a huge tree. In fact, it’s the same tree that helped spark my children’s book “The Luckiest Leaf” several years ago.
Oh, the wild hair.
Well, I envisioned a large deck covering the same area as the dog pen AND circling around the tree. In my mind, the job was simple … just buy a lot of wood, some concrete blocks and a bucket-o-screws. Bing-bang-boom … a deck is born.
I was so confident this would be an easy job that I put the whole thing off for something like 1,455 days.
The wild hair returned a few months ago, and I actually decided to take measurements, look at decking wood and other supplies in an effort to calculate the entire cost. What I found just about made me want to buy grass seed and be done with it.
Here’s what I was looking at: The deck would measure about 30 feet by 27 feet. That’s not a typo. I know the tape-rule I was using once belonged to my grandfather, but just because it’s at least 50 years old doesn’t mean it’s not accurate. In fact, as he would do when he was “doping things out,” I made sure to measure not once, not twice, but three times. In terms of square feet, we’re talking 810 — there are homes smaller than that.
So, in culinary terms, I had moved this crazy idea from the far away pantry to the just-a-bit-closer back burner. It could simmer for another few years … or so I thought.
A few weeks ago, the front burners of my mind suddenly became cleared when my fiance’ said to me one Saturday morning, “What ever happened to that deck idea you had?”
Guys, you know what happens next. It quickly took a spot at the top of the honey-do list and, whether it’s in pencil or pen, there is no escaping things once they are on that list.
Hours later that day, we had ordered wood to be delivered and then hauled the concrete blocks, a bucket-o-screws, a special drill bit and a skill-saw blade home.
Since that day, nearly every minute of dry or semi-dry daylight at home has been spent leveling the concrete blocks, building a frame, laying the decking, sinking screws (11 per board!) and cutting the areas that were too long. The work around the tree was especially challenging … to the point of creating some colorful new, adult words.
What did I learn along the way? That my math isn’t always spot-on (we made several trips back to the wood store for more boards); that even good wood will stab you a hundred times and leave slivers; that making something perfectly level east and west doesn’t always mean it will be level north and south; that dropping a 2×4 on your hand really hurts; that bending over to sink something like 1,200 screws will seriously mess up your back; and that, when all is said and done, the final result will be a tremendous source of pride.
After a marathon of deck-building Friday through Sunday, I finished that bad boy on Tuesday. And now that I see it in real life, it’s stupid massive. Even though we have to wait two or three months to stain and varnish the thing. I’m sure it will get plenty of use — and if anyone needs someplace to hold a prom or reunion, it’s available for a very small fee.
Happy Arbor Day, but if I never see a piece of wood again, it will be too soon.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.