Mar 3, 2016

Old Cars, Old Friends and the Haunted Manor

I started my driving career in a rust bucket.
My uncle had a 1963 Chevrolet Impala, complete with rust all along the undercarriage and a dull, gold paint job that screamed “uncool”. When my dad asked if I would be interested in buying the vehicle, there was no hesitation. Although I had never seen the car or had no idea how much he wanted for it, I was all over it. After all, the only motorized vehicle that I had up until then was a Rupp 3.5 HP mini bike. At 15 years of age, my own car represented freedom. And I would buy my freedom with my own cash! Working at the White Horse Drive In, along with a paper route, had helped me to earn and save enough money to afford the car and the small insurance premium. My dad went to Uncle Charles house and brought the car home for me and I immediately jumped behind the wheel to take her for a spin. “Not so fast” dad commanded. “First, I’ll need $100 for your uncle; second – do you know how to check the oil? the water in the radiator? Tire pressure? You can’t just check the gas gauge and take off, son!” I must admit that, although checking the tire pressure was a no-brainer, the oil and water thing was foreign to me. The mini bike was air-cooled and the oil was something that I had never given much thought to. Dad took his time explaining how to do the basic maintenance procedures, pointing out how important it was for a thirsty car to be quenched. The year was 1973, so I had in my possession a 10-year-old car, rusted by constant exposure to the salt and sand of the South Carolina low country. It was a road boat!
After giving dad the C-note, insuring that my oil and water were topped off and that there was an ample supply of fuel, I took off to show my friends my new ride. Watching my dad in my rear view mirror as I drove away, I could see a worried smile cross his face. He had already bid bon voyage to two older siblings as they tooled away in their new rides so I’m sure the smile reflected more pride than concern. I went by lifelong friend (and co-author of this blog) Larry Durham’s place and found Larry and several friends playing basketball in the yard. “Hop in boys, we’re taking her for a spin”. “Your new ride?” “Yep, bought and paid for! Let’s see what she’ll do!” We went all over the neighborhood, me and the younger brother in the front, Larry and John Chandler in the back. We decided to leave the confines of the neighborhood and explore downtown Greenville, SC. Unbeknownst to me, the radiator had also been a victim of the seaside rust and had sprung a pinhole leak.
We continued through downtown and then decided to go through the ‘haunted house’. It was actually an old brick home with a long driveway that wound its way to the home through an urban forest, of sorts. The driveway led up to the home and then proceeded through to another road on the back side of the home. Why this home was purported to be haunted, I’ll never know. It was one of those landmarks that my older brother would point out whenever we went by the property as kids. As we turned into the driveway, hearts pounding with excitement, a curious series of events unfolded. First, the front passenger side seat broke through the floor and dropped to the ground. My brother was holding on, sparks flying from the bottom of the seat as the metal scraped along the road. Stopping the car (and foolishly leaving the engine running), we got out to examine the damage. The entire floorboard under the seat had given way, rusted out. Opening the trunk, I saw a 3ft 2x4 lying there. I was not sure of its original purpose, but it would now find a new home wedged under the front as a support for the bench seat. Problem solved! Well…not quite. By the time we all climbed back in the car and were heading further into the woods surrounding the house, steam started boiling out from under the hood. Hoping to make it past the house before the worst happened, I floored it! No such luck. The car sputtered a couple of times and then died a grisly death right there in front of ghost manor. We all looked at one another, speechless. The hissing of the radiator gave an eerie undertone to the rhythm of 5 beating hearts, the only two sounds that I recall hearing at that moment. I certainly didn’t hear the footsteps of the approaching gardener, who appeared at my window like a ghost. He was holding a pair of hedge trimmers. “What are you boys doing on this property?” Scared shitless, I mumbled something to the effect of “sorry sir, but our car overheated and we were hoping to get some water”. “Get out and follow me” said the gardener. We all poured out of the Chevy and followed the gardener like a bunch of schoolboys heading to the principal’s office. The old man led us to the house, past the garage and around the back of the house. I thought that we were being led to slaughter. No one else knew where we were – the perfect setup for teenage murder. The old man found a large watering can and filled it from the faucet at the back of the house. Handing me the container of water, he said “be sure that you wait until the car cools down before you open that radiator cap. Don’t want you to get hurt”. The way he said it almost made my skin crawl. He then picked up his trimmers and walked around the opposite side of the manor house. We quickly made our way to the car, opened the hood and waited impatiently for the cool down. As soon as it was safe to open the cap, I poured all the water into the bone-dry radiator and secured the cap. We all piled back into the car and remembered our childhood prayer for “Lord, please let this car start”. It did and we were off!
The 1963 Gold, rusted Chevy Impala only lasted another year with me. I upgrade to a 1967 Chevy Impala, white in color and no rust. And we never made the mistake of visiting that haunted house, ever again.

Oct 22, 2015

An Innocent Abroad Part 4 – Paris

An Innocent Abroad Part 4 – Paris

Paris. City of Lights. City of Love.
Gare du Nord
Our Eurostar train pulled into the Gare du Nord ahead of time. We gathered our luggage and exited the train, emerging into a cavernous, Victorian era building, bustling with people and awash in shops with anything and everything imaginable for sale. After clearing the platform Kim and I headed outside to find the nearest Metro Station. I turned back to look at the massive train station and my jaw dropped – nothing like what I had seen back in South Carolina. Even the train stations in Paris were works of art!
gare-du-nord ext
After a short 5 minute walk, we arrived at the Metro station. We bellied up to the kiosk and purchased a metro pass, allowing us travel on the metro for the duration of our time in Paris. We made our way to our hotel, the Appart’City Paris La Villette, just a steps away from the Ourcq metro station. Pleasant greetings from the hotel manager, and a lovely room set the pace for the next three days. After a few minute’s rest we made our way back to the metro station and headed out for the heart of Paris.
The Louvre is a must see while in Paris. Unfortunately, I underestimated the sheer size of the place and was only able to take in about a quarter of the available art and statues. It would literally take days to see everything in the museum, a luxury of time that I didn’t have. I made sure that I saw the Mona Lisa, albeit from a short distance as the crowds around the small painting were always very large. I was struck by some of the large paintings that lined the walls leading up to DaVinci’s masterpiece.
Rembrandt’s The Supper at Emmaus, Jacques-Louis David’s The Coronation of Napoleon and Water Lilies by Claude Monet are but three of the hundreds of paintings that I admired, but stand as the most memorable for me.  Ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian statuary, Italian Renaissance sculpture,  Dutch Baroque paintings, my God! The list goes on and on. Depending on the section of the building, the floor and the hallway you go down will determine what you will be fortunate to see.  After more than half a day of being up to my eyes in high art and culture, I found Kim and we headed out to the Eiffel Tower.
Finding a grassy spot in a park adjacent to the famed tower Kim and I sat and took in the beautiful spring-like day that we’d been blessed with and gazed up at the wrought-iron wonder. I then decided to call my friends back at work in the states and share my location and experience. After quality time at the Eiffel Tower it was time to hit the Metro for the trip back to the hotel and a good french dinner.

Next morning, I stumbled out of bed and began the search for coffee. I found the small coffee maker and brewed the two cups that it would provide. I then decided that I wanted to pick up some breakfast for Kim and I and find some real french coffee. Around the corner from the hotel stood a quaint bakery with a beautiful young lass minding the store.  “Bonjour monsieur! Comment puis-je vous aider?” “Good morning. May I please have two bagels and two cups of coffee?” She didn’t understand what I was saying so I pointed to the bagels in the case and held up two fingers. I then pointed to the carafe of coffee behind the counter and again held up two fingers. She smiled and acknowledged my order and gathered it for me. When she steps up to the cash register she said something to the effect of ” quarte euros”. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a handful of euro coins and held them up to her. She took the coins that she needed and placed them in the register. I had to trust her as I was still really new at this euro thing, which I understood far better that this french language thing. She smiled a sweet smile and said “au revoir”. I would have my breakfast there for the next two days.
The next day found us at the Musée d’Orsay, a former train station built at the turn of the last century located on the left bank. The Musée d’Orsay holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1915, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography. It houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world, by painters including Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin and Van Gogh. Kim was adamant that we visit and I’m glad that she insisted. I was finally able to see, up close and personal, my favorite painting – the famed Starry Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh.
I was also able to view a work that I’d heard mentioned since I was a child – Whistler’s Mother, which was known by the original title of Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1.
After a day filled with art and culture, Kim and I set our sights on the Cathedral of Notre Dame.
Notre Dame
The rain worsened as we ascended the stairway from the metro to street level. This did not, however, deter the crowds that were moving along the sidewalk toward the grand cathedral. Crossing the Seine it comes into view. From the front of the structure, it’s imposing. You can’t help but be reminded of that iconic 1920’s era movie “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” with Lon Chaney as Quasimodo, ducking in and around the massive bells that fill the towers. A larger than life-sized statue of Charlemagne stands outside the grand chapel, reminding me of the great historical heritage of this parcel of land. Taking our place in the line to enter the church, Kim pointed to the elaborate artwork that decorated the building. After entering, we made our way around the line and ended up in a small area away from the main chapel to look at some of the clothing worn by priests of long ago. While there, a young lady approached us and, in perfect English, stated that she was a personal tour guide for the church and that her small group had failed to show. She asked if we would be interested in a private tour of the church. After agreeing, she took us to places that the regular tourists weren’t allowed to enter, all the while giving us various descriptions of events that had taken place in said areas. As we slipped behind the velvet ropes which blocked access to some of the areas, the others would look at us as if we were visiting royalty. We were extremely fortunate to be given access to these areas, with a knowledgeable tour guide to boot!
After our personal tour, Kim and I wandered back to the metro and caught a lift to the Place de la Bastille, a monument which stands to mark the spot of the infamous prison that was the ignition point for the French revolution. In my head, I was singing the RUSH tune from 1974 (and they’re marching to Bastille Day. The guillotine will claim her bloody prize.) After a quick dinner at a lovely French restaurant near the hotel we called it a day. Tomorrow-more bread from the sweet mademoiselle at the corner bakery.
Our third day in Paris was a walk about day. I had stayed up most of the night walking the streets of our hotel neighborhood. Ducking into an all night convenience store for a pack of smokes, the owner asked if I was a tourist. “Yes”, I replied. “Why are you walking in this neighborhood at this time of morning? Very dangerous!” Thanks-I’ll just head back to the hotel.
My short morning ritual was observed while at the corner bakery. Same pretty girl, same order, same trust that she would only take the correct amount of euros from my outstretched palm. She did. Awww…love this life!
Then it was time to catch the Metro and walk some of the gardens of Paris. Everywhere you look there are beautiful gardens and parks. We sat on a bench in one of these parks next to a pond and watched the birds do their mating dances. Wow! Does this city also have an effect on wildlife?
A stroll next to the Seine to look at the houseboats completed our wandering. Time to catch the metro, head back to the hotel and collect our belongings. Next stop: Gare du Nord for the trip back to London. Then back home to the good old US of A.
While I enjoyed every single moment of our trip to Europe, and I want to revisit both cities, there’s no place like home. The cabin beckons!

Oct 7, 2015

An Innocent Abroad part 3 – On to Paris

We’re sitting on a plush, comfortable seat, arranged two to a row. Two seats face us, but they are unoccupied. We’re traveling at close to 186 mph and suddenly we feel the train slow down. It slows to 100 mph and suddenly everything goes dark. We are now in the Chunnel.
After seeing the major sites in London, which included Buckingham Palace, the National Museum, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace, former home of Henry VIII, we are now heading to Paris on Eurostar.
The train glides through the English countryside, offering spectacular views of small towns, medieval villages, cows, hardware stores, big box stores and country lanes. Anything close to the train goes by with a blur, but looking out into the distance you get a sense of the southeastern part of the country. I walked to the bar buffet and nabbed two Diet Cokes and a couple bags of ‘crisps’, known as potato chips in the US. Kim and I talked of our previous few days in London and some of the sights that I should see if I ever return and have a bit of time to explore the country. We did get to meet up with some of Kim’s old friends who lived in Greenwich, not far from the Greenwich Observatory and the International time line (where we get GMT). It was special having a meal with the couple and enjoying their home, which was crammed with books and beautiful knickknacks. We then went down to the Thames and walked along the river, which I enjoyed almost as much as the historical sites that surrounded us. Then off to another pub to enjoy the locals and be immersed in the culture of soccer-British style. And, as a special treat, Kim took me to Rules, a restaurant which has been around since Jesus. Then it was off to the Globe Theater to catch “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” But I digress…on to Paris.
Emerging from the Chunnel, I realized that I was now in France for the first time. Thoughts of my maternal grandfather filled my mind – he had been an American Dough boy in the First World War and his unit, the Old Hickory 30th Division had served in France in 1917 and 1918. I wondered, as I looked across the open fields covered in flowers, if my grandfather had looked at this scene upon arriving here nearly a century before. Although the mix of modern autos and convenience stores would not have muddled his view, would he have seen that huge oak in the distance when it was a mere sapling?
The open fields gave way to small towns as we made our way across the French countryside at 186 mph. The small towns and villages that we passed were a mix of new buildings that surrounded an old church or castle that looked as if it had always been there. In the distance we could see Paris approaching and we knew that soon we would be walking in the “city of lights”. My excitement at this prospect, however, was grounded by my realization that I didn’t speak French. How would I navigate my way around the city? How would I order breakfast? Ask for directions? This would certainly be an interesting trip!

Sep 6, 2015

The House that Love Built

2005 - late winter/early spring.
The chainsaws are buzzing and trees are falling. "TIMBERRRRRR"
We are clearing an acre of land for a new home, a home that we would build...with our own sweat and muscle. We would hire a sub-contractor to build the foundation, the roof, the fireplace and a couple of other details. The rest is all on us. This is our story.
In a previous post, I spoke of our daughter Ruth E. and the tragic events surrounding March 2002. After losing her, Laura and I fell into a funk of unprecedented proportions. Getting out of bed was a chore, facing the drive to work was a chore, facing people was a burden. It had indeed been a struggle to continue to exist. Our friends and co-workers were doing all they could to help revive our spirits. We were literally going through the motions. Our families were also weighing in with encouraging words and actions. They were there for the unthinkable and continued to be there to help pick up the pieces. Our co-workers continued to be supportive and understanding. Our managers cut us slack on those days when we couldn't manage the 42 mile drive into work, allowing us to use personal time, even when there was none available. Everyone who surrounded us was the rock to our jello.
At the time, Laura and I were living in the town of Prosperity, SC (formerly called 'Frog Level'). We had bought an old home, built in 1918, and were planning on remodeling and bringing the home up to date. This is the point where I learned my limitations on carpentry and the skills associated. Building something new, from scratch, was much, much easier than tearing out the old and replacing it with the new (for me, anyway).

The Land
Laura and I had looked for a plot of land a wee bit closer to Columbia and our kids and our jobs. Our whole world was based in Columbia, so why not try to get closer. We looked in Chapin, in Irmo, in Little Mountain, in Blythewood...we looked everywhere to find the perfect few acres. Nothing caught our eye...
Meanwhile, back at Molly's Rock, SC.
My mom had moved to Newberry back in the late eighties. She had located a few acres of prime land on the edge of the Sumter National Forest, right next to an old tombstone factory. She had setup a nice home there among the deer and rabbits, as well as a few neighbors. As she was not getting any younger and was aware of our search for a lot to build upon, she suggested we build next to her. While this was contrary to our plan to move closer to Columbia, we said that we'd consider it. At a party at mom's place one day, a co-worker of mine looked out from mom's deck at a wooded area behind mom's house, which overlooked the pond. "Somebody could put a nice home right there", she said. "Somebody ought to build a house there". Laura and I looked at one another and wondered how our co-worker had even known that we'd even considered it. After a couple of weeks talking about the possibility, we had a conversation with mom. She agreed to give us an acre of land and proceeded to have the paperwork drawn up.

The House
Let's go back to the year 1979, shall we?
Laura, the kids and I are in Gatlinburg, Tennessee for a vacation. As we're driving along, Laura sees a log home dealership and they're having an open house. "Pull over", she says. We pull into the parking lot and proceed to go through the model home. "I love these log homes! One day, I want one", says Laura.
I was born and raised in the city and I was sure that I wasn't Abe Lincoln. Log homes just didn't have the same charm for me as they did for Laura. Being the good husband though, my reply to her request for the home was "sure baby...someday". That off the cuff reply would one day come back to haunt me.
Fast forward to late 2004. It's a little over two years since we lost Ruth E and, as I stated, we are downright depressed. Only the excitement of a possible new home would move our thoughts away from the awful and give us some hope for our future. Daily, on our drive into work to Columbia, we passed by a place on the interstate called Southland Log Homes. I never paid much attention to it. Laura, however, noticed it every day. One day, after making the decision to build on the lot my mom had offered, Laura pointed to the log homes as we glided past on the interstate. "Remember your promise?" she asked with the slight rise of an eyebrow. "Uhhh...promise?" I replied. "The log home you promised Gatlinburg that the seventies". Jesus...I don't even remember the seventies! Laura proceeded to remind me in great detail of that day back in 1979, the cabin, the promise, her dream. So after work that day, we made a stop at Southland Log Homes for a tour of their model homes. And I was impressed with how far log homes had progressed since 1979! We collected some literature on the variety of styles that were available, went home and made our plans. We would have someone build us a new log home at Molly's Rock, overlooking the pond. It would be wonderful!

Enter The Family
My family has always been close. We had been blessed with wonderful parents who instilled in each one of us that family is truly all you ever have, and to stick together through good times and hard times. That your family will always have your back. After the impossible couple of years that Laura and I had just endured, this was never more true! Brothers Gary, Steve and sister Linda would call and check up on us, stop by and see us when passing by our town, and sometimes just make a special trip down to Prosperity and see how we were holding up. This meant more to Laura and I than we could ever convey to them. Just knowing that someone was there, especially after all the company had gone back home after the funeral, and especially after a couple of years had passed, was everything to us. We were, and still are grateful for them.
The breakdown of my siblings is as follows:
Linda-six years older than me;
Steve - four years older than me;
Gary - two years younger than me.
As a result of our slight difference in age, Gary and I became pretty close while growing up, although we had both married and gone our separate ways. We still kept in touch through telephone and the holiday gatherings that our family enjoyed several times a year. One day while we were heading to the beach, I told Gary about the log home idea. He suggested that we stop and look at the model home at Southland as we were passing right by the place. After touring the inside, Gary started asking the salesman more questions about log home construction than I cared to know. After a few minutes we stepped outside. While looking up at the home, Gary blurts out "we can build this thing!"
"What?" I asked. "Are you nuts?"
"Look at it! We could stack logs! It would be fun".
"But we know shit about building anything!" I replied.
"The salesman says to follow the blueprints that are provided and almost anyone can build a log home" Gary says.
"Let me think about this"
A few days later the decision was made that yes, we could build this home. And build it we did!
Laura and I stopped by Southland Log Homes one afternoon, threw caution to the wind and ordered the 'Greenwood II', a home with a large great room, master bed and bath downstairs with walk in closet, kitchen, dining room, bathroom and laundry room, two upstairs bedrooms with a full bath and two huge walk in closets. We were given a delivery date for the end of May 2005. We started searching for a sub-contractor to build our foundation (as I had no experience with laying blocks and I wanted our foundation to be done by a professional). After finding a Mr Shealy, who came highly recommended, we then began looking for a stone mason to build the forty foot fireplace. We found a genius from Camden, SC who came very highly recommended and hired him on the spot. We had seen examples of his work and were duly impressed! Then, a contractor to dig our well and one for the septic tank. We secured the necessary building permits, installed a 'saw pole' (which is where your initial electricity comes to the property) and mounted the circuit breakers and receptacles needed to get started. Then, we grabbed the chainsaws and began cutting down forty four very large trees.

The Clearing and the Rains 

While clearing the land, we received help from nephews, sister and brothers, mom and her gentleman friend, as well as other friends. That was hard work! Gary brought a log splitter and we not only cut the trees down, we also cut them into bite-sized pieces and split them for the fireplace.
 After several weekends of cutting and splitting wood, it was time to hire the landscape contractor who would push over the stumps and groom the land for the foundation guy.
Side note- The well digger had completed several wells in the neighborhood and stated that they had all been striking water at about 200-250 feet. After three days of drilling, they finally struck water at 505 feet. My water is not only cold...but it's deep too! Strike one for going over budget on an item.
Just as the foundation man finished and the log delivery was just three weeks away, the rains came. And boy did it ever rain! Night and day it rained, then it poured for a week. The building site was mud, mud, mud. Trying to walk in it would get you nowhere. We thought about fashioning a type of snowshoe to make our way around the site but thought better of it. We had gravel delivered for the new driveway, which goes up a pretty steep hill, but with our log delivery just days away, we knew that the truck delivering the logs would never make it up our driveway.

When delivery day arrived, we decided to store our home (2 truckloads full) in mom's driveway. After all, she was away on vacation. We could have the materials moved after the ground had dried a bit. Mom was none too happy when she returned home from that vacation! There was a house in her driveway.

The Foundation and Start Stacking

After all the blocks were laid and the rain had ceased, we started to lay the first sill for the foundation. We spent a couple of weekends building the floor and getting it ready for the first logs to be laid. On July 4, 2005, the first log was set and off we went. Sister Linda was keeper of the blueprints and kept us informed as to what log went where. The logs were marked on each end with the length of each log - one inch equals one pound. A 225 inch log, therefore, would weigh 225 lbs. Each log would have a foam sealer strip placed in the center from end to end. After lining it up, a 9 inch screw would be driven from the top into the log underneath, requiring a screw for every 36 inches. Drilling a 9 inch screw into a log takes a heavy duty drill, so we bought a Makita 3/4 inch drill for the job. You had to be careful with that monster or it would break your wrist! We would stack logs around the perimeter up to row 17. This is where the second floor came into play.
Row 17 logs are notched at the top to accommodate the beams that would support the floor for the upstairs. At this point we set the temporary flooring and continued to stack logs. After a few weeks, we had reached the tip top and were all done stacking. Side note - my mom got married about the time we were three or four logs from the top. The ceremony took place in her backyard. Wanting to get the stacking completed, we worked until called for the ceremony. Hot, sweaty and dirty, we attended the wedding but stayed away from the photographer.
Meanwhile, our stonemason was building the fireplace. This guy and his crew were top notch.
They built the concrete block portion of the fireplace and then went away to do another job out of town. The job they contracted involved building a long wall-hence they needed no scaffolding. The mason asked if he could just leave his scaffolding at our place until he returned. Uh...yes. I was going to have to rent, but this noble gentleman  solved that problem. To this day I remember him and the beautiful work that he and his crew accomplished. (Southern Mule is the company name, located in Camden, SC). When they returned to do the stone work, I couldn't thank him enough for his gracious donation to the cause (and budget).

August 29, 2005. Hurricane Katrina hits the Louisiana coast as a category 3 storm, weakening from a category 5. The devastation it caused was tremendous, mainly because of the levee situation. I would later discover that it would also devastate my budget.
Pre-Katrina, an 8ft. 2x4 cost about $1.74. After Katrina, the price would rise to nearly $4.00 for that same 8 foot board. Drywall, which till the storm had been a little over $11 per 4x8 sheet climbed to almost $20.
Needless to say, when you budget 1000.00 for an item and you end up paying $2300.00, it shoots your budget all to hell. Some of the amenities that we had planned on adding had to take a back seat...sorry Laura, no enclosed screen porch complete with hot tub. That will have to wait. Strike 2 for going over budget...big time!

The Hispanic Contingent
After considerable discussion, a few evenings of intelligent discourse and a few beers, it was decided that (a) we were completely unaware of the process for properly framing a roof and (b), we were absolutely not climbing way the hell up there! So time for another sub-contractor. We found a crew of gents from south of the border who were skilled in all aspects of roof framing and climbing (one was a lumberjack in a former occupation). They worked hard, showed their skills and certainly didn't mind using thousands of nails from my borrowed nail gun. And, come hell or high water, at 2PM each day they retreated to their work van for an hour and a half for siesta. Having a few days break, Gary and I sat down on lawn chairs facing the house and watched them work. Beer after beer was swilled as we watched in awe - these guys actually surfing down the rafters, only to step off at the last minute onto the log at row 17. After a few days, the roof, dormers and the porch roof was completely framed and we said goodbye to the gentlemen from Mexico. As they pulled away, Latino music blaring from the van, Gary and I looked at each other and said :back to work".

The Schedule
We had been blessed with relatively good weather, although it was extremely hot, since we had started building the foundation. We formulated a plan to combat the heat. My mom had a pool next door so the schedule was set as follows:
5AM Get up and have coffee;
5:30AM Start work;
8AM Call for breakfast;
8:40AM Back to work;
Noon: lunch;
12:30 Back to work;
3PM Break to swim and nap (our siesta);
6PM Back to work;
9-10PM Knock off and have a beer or 12
Asleep by midnight

This schedule worked very well for us and we stuck to it religiously for the duration of the summer and early fall.
As cooler weather started creeping into South Carolina, so did the rains. At one point the rain was pouring off the steep-pitched roof so hard that it found it's way into the home, which was technically "in the dry". Gary and I put our heads together and created a troth using tarps to channel the water back outside. It looked like a waterfall which fed a stream to the outside which fed another waterfall off the foundation.
For the build, we were sleeping in an old pop-up camper that my sister had lent us. Every night, after a hard day's work, we hit the sack and went straight off into a deep sleep. At 4:30 AM on the nose, a mockingbird, perched right outside our door, would sing us awake (whether it was time to get up or not). I wanted to shoot that bird. But we'd arise, get the coffee on and prepare for another day.

Shit Runs Downhill
As we got closer to the end of our 18 month build, it came time to do the electrical work and the plumbing. The electrical part we had down. Brother Gary really knows his way around a three way switch and his genius allowed us to get through the wiring and connecting in no time. For the plumbing, we knew one thing...the chapter title. We were fortunate to have as a resource a gentleman who had retired down south and was a friend of my moms. He had been a master plumber in his home state of Indiana and proved invaluable to us. While he never physically crawled around under the house or connected one bit of pipe, his expertise gave us the courage to go for it without having to hire another sub-contractor. Roger passed away a couple of years ago...really miss that guy!

The Gang
When taking on a project such as this, you take on a slew of responsibility. I felt, at times, that it was all on my back. One day I looked around and there were two beautiful girls on the scaffold, stacking logs and setting those 9 inch screws. They were co-workers of my wife and wanted some experience with construction. They had volunteered their time and energy on a very hot summer day to come and lend a hand. I realized that I was never alone in this project.

Brothers Gary and Steve, sister Linda, mom and husband Jim, son Michael, nephews Pete, Brandon, Derick and Shannon, friends like the co-author of this blog (Larry Durham), co-workers of my brother and myself (Pete and David D.), my sister's boyfriends, some people that we hardly knew - all came down to help us build our home. It was an experience that showed the love that exists on this planet. These people wanted no money for their efforts. Some got caught up in the story of the build, some just came for the experience. We worked together, ate breakfast and dinner together and would swim together during those hot summer months. We froze our asses off, then huddled up next to the fire when it got really cold. We laughed and joked and cursed and sweat and bled. We made possible, for us anyway, the impossible - we built a freaking house! I remember well, minutes after first signing the papers to buy the logs, my brother leaving me a voicemail - "Don't sign the papers! I was just kidding about building the house". Before I could determine that he was just fucking with me, I expressed my concern to Laura about Gary's call. Her reply: "Don't worry. People build houses everyday...and we're people".

The Housewarming
August 2006, We had done it! After losing about 40 pounds in sweat and 50 pounds out of my wallet, we had a home. We invited all those involved, as well as other family, friends and coworkers to see what we had accomplished. Some of the naysayers, those who openly scoffed at the very idea that we could build a home, failed to show. Their absence spoke volumes. Those who did attend loved the place. It was our home, Laura's dream home - a cabin in the forest. Fort Reid. We had done well.
We had a plaque made with an etching of our cabin along with the names of all those who helped build it. It is mounted right next to the front door. All who come to Fort Reid stop and read it. All comment on it. And they all love the place!