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The Hawk's Nest

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Building a shed

The lawn mower has stayed under the overturned wheelbarrow for years. This hasn't been a problem because the wheelbarrow protects the mower very well from the elements. When it looks like it might rain, rest assured the wheelbarrow was not being used yet still protected the mower.
    Last summer, while looking at some fresh moose prints near the mower, I thought about putting the mower and wheelbarrow inside, but there just wasn't a place for it. We needed a new shed.
    The idea was mine but my partner in all projects would need to be part of it. She becomes the design department on things like building sheds, arranging furniture etc. My role is engineering. This is important because when engineering has a problem due to lack of skill, knowledge or intelligence it's easy to blame it on design. So the system works.
    First we built the footings and made sure they were level. I can't believe there are people who still think the world is flat. Apparently they've never tried to level footings. When we finally got the earth flat enough we rested until the next day.
    As we came out to start on the shed a large bull moose was standing in our fresh dirt. Since he wasn't on our footings, waiting until he moved on seemed a good idea.
    Things went fairly smoothly as we built the floor and the walls. It looked like there might be room for a low loft, also known as more storage. After all, things had gone so well so far, I thought, what would a little addition like this hurt. I didn't realize how many times the design department had hit her thumb with the hammer or how much wood, in the form of small slivers, was in her hands.
    When I mentioned the loft to the design department she immediately changed the subject to stuff you try not to step in, in the barnyard. She then came back to the subject at hand, then switched back and forth between the two subjects  for a few minutes. When she was done she said a loft might be a good idea. I'm glad she thought of it.
    I was on the old wooden rickety ladder that was supposed to be replaced several years ago when my partner started screaming at the top of her voice. I suddenly realized the reason she was yelling was because I was shrieking words that I'm sure would have sent my mother after a new bar of Ivory soap to wash out my mouth. See, the ladder had broken and left me hanging by an elbow over a two by four. I looked down as most of the ladder fell away, leaving only jagged, sharp pieces pointing up and appearing to take aim. I made a vow to the great master shed builder if I ever got my feet back on the ground again I would wash out my own mouth. And I did, though with a barley and hops solution.
    At the end of the first weekend the walls were up and the rafters for the roof were in place. On Monday my partner called from work saying she heard it might rain during the week and maybe we should put a tarp over the shed. My idea of heaven is a place that does not need tarps or bungee cords. Because tarps are not of heaven but are of some much lower place and they share it with bungee cords.
    Early the next morning I was on a new aluminum ladder putting up a tarp. I was glad there was no wind, just an occasional light breeze. As I got the tarp over the whole roof frame I grabbed a bungee and reached up to hook it in. At the same speed my hand went up, the tarp lifted on a breeze and landed beside the shed.
    I climbed down. I got the tarp. I put it back on the roof. I was trying to focus on the task at hand but my mind kept wandering to a barnyard.
    This time I was ready. I had a bungee in my mouth, like a pirate carries his knife. Just as soon as the tarp was in place I grabbed one end of the cord to make the hook. As I jabbed at the grommet in the corner of the tarp, the hook on the other end of the cord caught my nose and lifted me up through the skeleton roof.
    This turned out to be a good thing. I was able to watch the tarp lazily float off the building, down the hill and into the pond at the bottom. As it was settling on the pond there were some strange ripples -  almost waves- on the water. I thought it odd but had never seen a tarp land on water before. The pond was deep and sat on very soft mud; maybe that had something to do with the waves.
    The thought of stepping into the water and mud raised some frustration that had been simmering just below the surface. But I figured with one foot sinking into the quagmire below the water I could reach the tarp and drag it out.
Besides, by now I was no longer a guy trying build a shed. In fact, it didn't even matter whether a tarp needed to be over the unfinished roof. I had a job to do no matter what.
    I jumped off the ladder, danger on the ground-be-damned, and stormed down the hill to the pond. I charged into the eight-foot reed grass with all pistons firing. Look out fish, look out fowl, look out anything else in my way! Nothing, nothing would stop me now.
    I broke out of the reed grass. My foot went through the water into the man-eating mud below.
    When I could see again, I was only one step away, just one, from the head of a huge moose, with my tarp draped over his humungous rack. One corner hung down over an eye. With the other eye he was looking at me and seemed to be saying in a Clint Eastwood voice, "go ahead, take the tarp".
    Some of the pistons kind of mis-fired. I knew if I could get my leg out of the mud, or any part of it for that matter, I could run. But first I needed to mainline all my onboard stores of adrenaline to jump-start a totally stalled system.
    There was a slight movement by the moose. Suddenly the mud let go and I was on the other side of the tall grass. I don't remember the trip through, or maybe over, that eight-foot grass, but I think I did it under my own power. It was probably the overdose of adrenaline.
    I noticed the mud had not given up my boot. That was fine, I had no trouble scrambling up the hill to the shed. From here I could see the pond, the tarp, the head of the moose, and his body still completely submerged - I now understood those strange ripples.
    I had some holy barnyard thoughts about that close call. I grabbed another tarp and put it on the shed. Looking up at the clear sky I demanded that it rain NOW.
    The next weekend, as we were finishing the roof, the design department looked down at the pond and noticed a tarp floating on it. "How'd that tarp get in the pond?" she asked.
    I studied the tarp while I formed my thoughts to answer. Then I said with all the sincerity I could muster, "I don't know." Thank god, that seemed to end the conversation. If you see her please don't tell, okay?
    Once construction was over, we moved stuff from under the bed, under the desk, under the house and under foot into the new shed. I also moved my tools from the house, the cars and under trees etc. into their new home. How handy to have them all in one place. In addition to the tools we put three bicycles, a couple pairs of skis, some snowshoes and one boot in the new building.
    It's a good shed and filled to capacity with important things we need. Granted it hadn't come out exactly as planned, but it hadn't exactly been planned either.
    As I walked back to the house for a celebratory beer I realized I should find a place for the lawnmower and the wheelbarrow. Maybe next year I can build a... barnyard thoughts, barnyard thoughts.

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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

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