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Colorful Words and Phrases

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Colorful Words and Phrases

In construction, progress often follows a well-placed dirty word

Carpentry is one of those fields where, if you’re out in it long enough, you’ll be part and parcel to a wide variety of entertainment, much of which should not be divulged to mothers of carpenters.

Take dirty words and phrases. Not yet a category on “Jeopardy,” but capable, just the same, of some amazing things anyway! A few that come to mind are fear, shock, giggles, guffaws, dread, panic and loathing. Out of that group, the most important one is consciousness from those who are in desperate need of some.

Profanity can also clear a crowded work space faster’n last night’s roast garlic!

Progress often follows a well-placed dirty word. Like any tool, though, results vary by user and the mood in which it is given. There are those who can swear one minute and get fired or arrested the next, and there are those who do it right and get promoted or re-elected.

I prefer construction in this regard in that it’s always to the point and not all flowered up like some other professions. There’s no guesswork about what it means. Unlike in church, say, or maybe a library where it never seems to work in the way I mean it to. On special occasions like blunt force trauma, for instance, I’ve been known to recite without intermission or repeatin’ myself until my endorphins kicked in hard enough to allow my lips to stop movin’. This can take a minute or two, depending on the impact. What can I say, I grew up in a Montana bar and learned how to swear before I was introduced to toilet paper.

When you’re driving nails, it’s awful easy to drive in one of yer own, especially while in the framing stages. One crew I worked on got in a serious competition over just how few whacks were necessary to drive home the average 16d sinker. We all had 22-ounce waffle heads and too much coffee, so the playing field was fairly even. By the time the boss showed up, there were just two of us left. The rest had dispersed to get medical attention. The winner overall was a kid we nicknamed “Knuckles” for the way they drug on the ground. He was so inspired he managed to drive a nail-in-one! Well, actually, he got three in one blow, but only one was metal. If he hadn’t had sunglasses on, his eyeballs would’ve popped out on the floor. This is what they mean by “leaving a little something of yourself in your work.”

The interesting thing about ‘peening yer thumb/forefinger nail holding jig is this: it’s very similar to biting the inside of your cheeks. It will happen more’n once unless you take the rest of the week off to do a little fishin’.

If you hit the same one twice, everyone around you will hear cusswords three octaves higher than the first one. A third hit will typically see the hammer go off on a fling someplace followed by a lot of whimpering and some first aid.

I missed “orientation day” at the School of Hard Knocks and’ve been workin’ on my degree the hard way ever since!

I once shot three fingers together with a 2-inch finish nail while I was, of course, up a ladder. I let out a quick reference to the gun’s lineage, sexual preferences and moral turpitude and let it go at that. It didn’t hurt so I thought I’d finish up what I was doin’.

“Did you shoot yerself Clawson?” This blurt came out of my boss at the time and oddly still my friend, Scott Hancock. “Well, there go my premiums you blockhead!” I can’t reiterate the next several statements; suffice it to say they had some color attached.

“Where you goin’?”

“Get a camera,” says I.

“What for?!”

“Ta show my wife and kids! It’ll crack ‘em up. Besides, my wife thinks I probably just screw around all day. Well, here’s proof that sometimes I use nails.”

I handed my camera to Jim Ford who obligingly took my portrait while I pulled one of my fingers free so I could give him one of only two salutes known to carpenters throughout the world. Actually, there’s a third but it requires sound effects you just can’t get on a typewriter.

About a month prior, Scott and I were discussin’ some details, when I noticed a framing nailer looking in our direction. I mentioned, without the use of swear words (why, I don’t know), the risks involved in such a practice but was informed that I needn’t worry about it. Before I could throw out a couple of meaningful obscenities, the very next round split its intended board, ricocheted off a rock and stuck twenty feet away in the center of my leather and felt knee pad, stopping just inside my Levis and lightly dimpling the skin over my patella.

Scott was speechless and a little pale for about two seconds, then the color returned to his cheeks as well as his vocabulary. “&#[email protected]*&[email protected]+%!! That coulda been MY knee, you moron!” Hell, I’d take a nail fer him any day; that’s what friends are for.

Some other things that precede colorful words and phrases are practical jokes. Two words joined together by an absolute idiot! For instance, there’s really nothing practical about having someone shave a couple degrees off your speed square just to watch you argue with yer work.

Or getting drilled in the back by a snowball with a hidden cargo of drywall mud.

Or getting your boot screwed to a bundle of trusses you just hooked to a crane. I’ll agree to funny, but not practical.

Once in a while these little episodes of practicality have a delayed “swearing-in” ceremony. Like gettin’ home, thinking about something cold and sweaty awaitin’ in the fridge, set the ol’ lunch bucket on the counter to clean out the remains of the day and have something fast, furry and claustrophobic jump out and vanish before you can get your underwear untied.

Or get home, take off yer coat to find a sign on the back warning everyone behind you not to light matches or use a cell phone with fifty feet. Then you recall all the stops you happened to make on the way home; the library, three stores, chiropractor, gas station, post office and the bank.

On the job, pets are quite capable of inciting near riot conditions when least expected. It all depends on the phase yer in. The wet cement, wet paint, new carpet or freshly varnished floor phases are some to leave your pet home by. Other’n those, they’re great to have around, especially at recess.

One day a blue healer named Buddy went past what I was doin’, grabbed a sawed-off broom, headed upstairs under a NO ADMITTANCE sign with an addendum attached underneath that read in plain English “under penalty of death,” and proceeded to pummel every freshly painted door jamb on the second floor. Don McCabe and his crew were so taken by this gesture of friendship that they essentially played ‘volley-dog’ with him from room to room until he got bored and came back downstairs where he gave me a big ol’ grin and sauntered back outside, mission accomplished. I managed to catch three new bawdy phrases and five blasphemes I’d never heard before, three of which rhyme!

But, other’n for rips, tears, splinters, splatters and contusions, bent ladders, weak bladders, slippery conditions, lame renditions, bad gas, building inspectors, meter maids, crappy lumber, cranky lumbars, hypothermia, heat stroke, frostbite, stupidity, morbidity or mud, as well as knots, trots an’ snots, it’s seldom you’ll hear a disparaging sneer from carpenters, unless you’re in their way. In closing, there ain’t much can compare with sneezing behind a welding hood with a mouth full of cupcake, but rollin’ off a roof to land in a fresh mound of horsemanship sure comes close.

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Scott Clawson Scott Clawson No, he's not the electrician, he's the OTHER Scott Clawson, who's a quality builder when he's not busy busting a gut while writing his humor column for the first issue of each month, or drawing his Acres n' Pains cartoons.

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