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Looking back over years of do-it-myself jobs and frustration
People who can fix and build things with ease are a mystery to me.
My granddaddy, Papa Hudgins, built his own house, his own outhouse, his own chicken house, his own car house, his own smokehouse and his own barn, and all six were still standing decades later.
I didn’t inherit any of Papa’s good genes (although I do have a pair of his overalls). It took me three days to build a rabbit hutch. Trying to do it myself has been frustrating at times:
My wife gave me a beautiful tool chest on wheels, and it’s full of nice tools. The only thing missing is a lock to keep me from getting to them. Tools are dangerous.
Please note, however, that I was an honor graduate of the United States Army’s Wheel Vehicle Mechanics School. I worked on carburetors and distributors and stuff from Jeeps and deuce-and-a-halfs. Fortunately, most of those items were confined to a work bench, not a vehicle. I graduated near the top because I was graded on written tests. No one ever graded me on my use of tools.
Once I got to the motor pool, the sergeant said he needed someone to type for just one day. I volunteered. As a result, I never touched a wrench in that motor pool. I became the clerk in an unsoiled uniform. The Lord and the Army work in mysterious ways.
When rugs in bathrooms were popular, I decided I could install ours. I drew off a paper pattern of the bathroom floor, turned the carpet over — because the rubber side was easier to cut — and followed the pattern with a pair of scissors. I realized my mistake — in flipping the rug — when I found that the hole for the commode was about 11 inches off. My wife spent a couple of hours with needle and dental floss, sewing the commode hole back in.
I installed a new sink in our utility room. I worked for hours. When I finished, I noticed that the spray hose was only a foot long. That’s because it was wrapped around the sink trap. That took another hour.
Never one to give up on me, my wife bought a set of Time Life books on home security, new living spaces, masonry, paint and wallpaper, outdoor structures, doors and windows, weatherproofing, and plumbing. I have a book called “How To Do Just About Anything.” I would settle for that.
But when I got ready to put up wallpaper, I went to a paint store and borrowed the owner’s self-done videotape on successful wallpapering. It was the only copy he had. I accidentally recorded “60 Minutes” on top of the wallpapering instructions.
Why am I telling you all this? Because writing about one’s frustrations, I believe, can help relieve the resulting stress. I just attempted another project, and it was not altogether successful. Now the radio doesn’t work at all.
But I feel much better now. Thanks for the therapy.
Phil Hudgins’ column is published in many newspapers around the Southeast.