True Color: Two horses and a scared ass

  • Thu Apr 3rd, 2014 5:50pm
  • Life

A $400 cabin

Story by Chiggers Stokes, special to the Forks Forum

It didn’t take my bed in the hayloft being fed to the horses in the stalls below for the romance of my sleeping arrangements to be over. I confessed to Jim, my sister’s common-law husband: I was not cut out to share sleeping quarters with my dog and occasional guests such as a pig’s head. I had my eye on the lumber pile outside the barn.

Being a wheeler/dealer, Jim had acquired a considerable quantity of lumber including utility grade cedar   This being 1973, and there being no clue that the supply of old growth cedar was not endless, Jim took $120 for three thousand board feet of knotty 1″ by 12″ siding. For another $280 he provided the joists, studs and rafters I would need for a cabin.

Jim had built a bridge across the creek from the driveway to my sister’s cabin, but at the time he didn’t want vehicles on it. I had to carry every board to the building site a couple hundred feet into the woods beyond my sister’s cabin.

Once the building materials were delivered by chiggerspower,  I still didn’t know squat about constructing a cabin. Jim was truly patient in leading me step, by step, but I had some major distractions.

My girlfriend and I got caught out on the flanks of Mr. Jefferson, in an Indian Summer blizzard which dumped six feet of snow on us.  It had a Donner Pass feel to it for the almost week we were stranded without food.  We were briefly national news when we crawled out. A couple months later I attended a winter Outward Bound program out of the Sister’s wilderness. Outward Bind I called it. I continued to drive nails in between ordeals and slowly a superstructure emerged from the pile of lumber.

I have bragged that I walked away from public power in 1973, but, in truth I have lit more than one candle with extension cords and the like. So, I had run 200 feet of 12 gauge house wire from my sister’s cabin to my building site. I was intending to drive my two utilities (lights and an electric typewriter) on sisterly house power.

Half way through, Jim showed up with his worm driven contractor’s circular saw. It was a beat up old work-horse with a sticking blade guard. A temporary house-wire switch was electrician taped to the handle to replace the ac/dc toggle he had fried. It drew enough current to dim the lights back at my sister’s place.

Jim’s concern was that the 200 foot of extra wire would interfere with the high amp diet of the two horses that champed at the bit in that big industrial motor. There was already a roof of sorts over the two story project and we were working out of the weather on the ground floor.  We had 500 pounds of wet cedar on two saw horses.  The issue of the extra 200 feet of wire was settled the first time the blade bound on a wet cedar 1″ by 12″. The saw drug Jim across the cut and when he let go, launched into the air, landing halfway across the tiny room. I began to assess the room in terms of shelter from a disaster.  A tiny stool and the overladen saw horses were the only furniture.

A few successful cuts and the saw bound again, ripping itself from Jim’s grip and commencing a high speed landing on my new floor. But this time it landed with the guard retracted and the unit took off like a clown riding a unicycle. But lacking in comic angle. The 7.25 inch blade became the two-horse-rider-of-Death in the apocalypse of that confined space. I went for the high ground of the stool, leaving my brother-in-common-law to his fate.

It was like watching a Christian fed to a lion. Jim was knocked off his feet in the first charge and was trying to get up with the wood on the saw horses. As he tried to claw his way up, the saw made it’s second erratic pass and just missed him. There was already a quarter ton of wood on the saw horses and no room for Jim.

As the saw was coming in for the third try, it ran over it’s own cord and stopped short of the kill.  Jim let go of the saw horse he was trying to climb and said, “I gotta get a better temporary switch.”

The tracks of that saw are still on that floor today, though the roof is falling in. My girlfriend, and later, my wife, would reside in that cabin much longer than me.