Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Independence Day

Each summer since we have lived here, Golden and I have had some big thing planned for each summer. Cross country road trips occurred a couple of times, but mainly we have been staying closer to home and concentrating our efforts on big home improvement projects. The one constant of our summers in Lenoir has been that I usually do something pretty stupid, but manage not to do any permanent damage to myself.

This summer is no different. The big project, currently underway, is building a new porch on the side of the house. Now the old porch and me... let's just say we have some history. Ever since the porch tried to kill me, I've had it in for it.

It was July 4th, about 3 or 4 years ago. G and I had gone for a 3ish hour ride, planning to grill steaks and drink beer and generally enjoy the holiday. We got home, put up the bikes and decided that she would shower, while I got the grill started.

Now, let me preface by saying that I am a long time devotee of gas grills, so our new charcoal grill was a bit of a new experience for me. I put in the briquettes and tried to light them. No go. I tried to use kindling a la campfire starting. No go.

For anyone who knows me, it probably isn't readily apparent that I am an analytical thinker who considers problems carefully before enacting a solution. So I considered my problem of how to start the charcoal without the use of lighter fluid, since I didn't have any and didn't especially want to make the trek to get any.

I remembered that I had Coleman stove fuel. You know the big gallon metal can of white gas. Owing to the fact that I have had an unfortunate incident with this very substance which nearly started a forest fire in the White Mtns. of eastern Arizona, I was naturally cautious about how to approach the proper use of the fuel in this situation.

I went down and got the can, brought it up to the porch where the grill was located and proceeded to pour a small amount into the cap of the metal can. I poured the fuel onto the charcoal and tried to light it. A little tiny, infinitesimal flame barely licked one of the briquettes . Now I thought to myself, "Just pour a little more on and it should be all good, but be CAREFUL!" So, I tipped the can up and just poured a dash of the gas onto the briquettes.

I distinctly remember watching the little tiny nothing of a flame grow very large and travel up the stream of gas towards the can in my hands. I distinctly remember thinking, "OK, don't panic. This isn't a problem. You can deal with this." There was now a flame at the opening of the can. I knew that the solution was to just set the can down, and put the lid on it to deprive the flame of oxygen and smother it out. I slowly put the can down, but somehow the bottom edge of the can caught in the space between two of the porch decking boards and caused it to tip over, spilling flaming, white gas all over my porch.

The neighbor across the street immediately yelled, "You got a far!" To which I thought, "No s*it, I'm in the middle of a burning lake of fire." I ran inside the house, yelling, "Call 911! Call 911!" Golden looked at me, fresh from her shower, and said, "What have you done?" in an eerie deadpan. I called 911 and got the firetrucks on the way.

I went back outside, where I discovered a small crowd of people had gathered in the hopes of watching my house burn down. One of them was my neighbor from a few doors down, who a co-worker of mine had always referred to as "Dumbass David". It is completely relevant to this story to tell you that David drove a riding lawn mower everywhere because he was no longer allowed to ride moped due to causing an accident to an ambulance while chasing fire trucks on their way to a call. In southern parlance, David is someone who would be referred to as "simple" and would usually have "bless his heart" uttered after his name. As in, "Oh you know David, bless his heart, didn't mean to run over that dog with his lawn mower."

David came right up to me and said, "Where's your hose?" Realizing pretty quickly that a probable pyromaniac of questionable mental ability was probably not anyone's number one pick for go-to guy in this situation, I said we should wait for the fire department to arrive. Sure enough, red trucks with lights and sirens come blasting down the street. A bunch of guys pile out, hoses are pulled out and I walk up to them and say, "It's a white stove fuel fire." Hoses go back up, chemical extinguishers come out and after about 30 seconds, I'm no longer barbecuing my porch.

The head guy from the fire crew came over to me and asked me what caused the fire. I replied, "I was doing something stupid." I like to think that the expression that flashed across his face was an appreciation of my blunt honesty, but I can't be sure. Needless to say, however, is that that was the day the porch tried to kill me and I swore that I would kill it first.

So now porch is torn off, but hidden by its decrepitude was a 10ft. section of rotten sill that ran from the front corner of my house to the midway point of the wall. I had no choice but to cut it out and replace it. This meant jacking up the corner of the house from underneath and then cutting the board out and putting a new one in. A touchy, tricky affair, but doable.

This brings me to an inescapable rule of carpentry in the Moore family: I will hit myself in the head (one of the balusters from the porch railing) and my Dad will, at the very least, bleed profusely from some wound that he is completely unaware of. So, here we are, father and son, carefully preparing to undertake this daunting task. We are prepared to stick the sawzall into the hole in the board and we get my Mom to do a final check to make sure we won't cut anything but the sill. Mom gives us the all clear from down in the basement and we start cutting.

If you have never used a sawzall, I highly recommend trying it out. Pick some unneccesary wall in your house and just cut a big ol' hole in it. It is immensely satisfying, I assure you. Anyway, we are cutting right along and we hit a little something and a spark jumps out. Dad stops cutting and we figure he must have hit a nail. He starts cutting again and my Mom runs out of the basement, yelling "Stop! Stop!"

Let me pause here and tell you that we have been trying, unsuccessfully, to kill my father for many years. Like the Terminator, nothing seems to phase him and his cutting through a 220 volt, live electrical wire with the sawzall, was no different.

It seems that my Mom giving us the all clear, was part of a grander master plan to, for once and for all, dispose of my Dad in an "accidental" way. We got the sill replaced, but now my Dad is truly convinced of his invincibility and my stove doesn't work until the electrician comes to rewire it.

So, enjoy your Independence Day! and don't do anything that I would do...
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