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Building a Shed

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Building a Shed

More hands make for faster work or something like that... but not when they're hooves


Ten years ago my wife and I built a much-needed storage shed. As usual, the project turned into an adventure. 

Due to another adventure (project) we are working on now, I didn’t get a column written this month. This is the story of that first shed published in The River Journal in May of 2002. I also added a very short addendum. 

I hope you enjoy it again and I promise a brand new story next month. 

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, but was still protecting the mower.

While looking at some fresh moose prints near the mower, I thought about putting it and its cover 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 consulted. 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—for me.

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. Finally the earth was flat enough so we stopped to the day.

As we came out to start on the shed the next day, a large bull moose was standing in our fresh dirt. Since he wasn’t on our footings, waiting seemed like a good idea.  

Things went fairly smoothly as we built the floor and the walls. 

While framing rafters, standing on the old wooden, rickety ladder I was supposed to replace several years ago, my partner started screaming at the top of her voice. I suddenly realized the reason she was yelling; I was shrieking words that would have sent my mother after a new bar of Lava soap to wash out my mouth.  

See, the ladder had broken and left me hanging by an elbow over a two-by-four. Looking down, as most of the ladder fell away, I saw only jagged, sharp pieces of broken wood appearing to take aim at my landing. I made a vow to the great master shed builder that if I ever got my feet back on the ground again I would wash out my own mouth. I did too—with a barley and hops solution. 

By the end of the weekend the walls were up and the rafters for the roof were in place. Monday morning my partner called from town saying she heard it might rain during the week and maybe we should put a tarp over the shed. 

There wasn’t’ a cloud in the sky, but I was on a new fiberglass ladder putting up a tarp.  

A light breeze blew through just as I got the tarp over the entire roof frame. I grabbed a bungee and reached up to hook the corner of the blue fabric and as my hand went up, the tarp lifted 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 wondering if this was necessary since the sky was clear.

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 sheet, the hook on the other end of the cord caught my nose and lifted me up through the skeleton roof. From there I was able to watch the temporary roof lift and lazily float off the building, down the hill and into the pond at the bottom.  As it was settling, there were some strange ripples—almost waves—on the water. I thought it odd but had never seen a tarp land on water before. 

With frustration mounting I jumped off the ladder, dangers on the ground be damned, and stormed down the hill to the pond. I charged into the eight-foot reed grass at the water’s edge with all pistons firing. Look out fish, look out fowl, and look out anything in my way! Nothing, nothing, would stop me now.

I broke out of the reed grass. My foot went into the water and the man-eating mud below. Out of the tall vegetation I could see again. There, only one step away, just one, was the head of a huge bull moose, my tarp draped over his humongous 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. Make my day.”

Some of the pistons kind of misfired. I knew if I could get my foot 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.

The moose moved slightly. Due to the overdose shot of adrenalin, the mud let go and instantly 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 was there.

The mud had not given up one boot, which was fine; I had no trouble scrambling up the hill. From here I could see the pond, the tarp and the head of the moose, his body still completely submerged—now I understood those strange ripples.

I had some thoughts about that close call and the need for this project, which will remain my own.  

Grabbing another tarp I put it on the shed, then looked up at the clear blue sky and demanded it start raining 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 did that tarp get on 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 the 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 car and under the trees, into their new home. How handy to have them all in one place. In addition to the tools we put three bicycles, a couple pair of skis, some snowshoes and one boot in the new building. 

It’s a good shed, 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 wheelbarrow.  Maybe next year I can build a…


It is now 10 years later and there is still a need for another shed. Or, maybe a dump run would be easier.

Ernie Hawks is a writer, photographer and motivational speaker. Reach him at [email protected], and check out his photos at www.PhotosbyHawks.net


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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.

Tagged as:

moose, construction, building, home improvement, shed, From the Hawk's Nest

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