There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that receives it. ~Edith Wharton
Since we decided to raise chickens and turkeys this year, we needed a place to house the birds. My dad had a smoke shed, which we converted into a chicken coop, easy. However, the turkeys needed a place to call their own, equals building of a turkey coop, and fast to accommodate the rapidly growing birds. Needless to say, the big project of this spring was the construction of the turkey coop.
Did we go to the store to purchase wood? Not the Piper’s! Dad utilized the few trees that previously fell in the woods near his house, and sharpened the chainsaw blades to take down a few more trees. We called on my cousin Mikey to drag the logs out, and Mikey and his dad cut the boards for us.
Now building time! Dad and I didn’t start construction right away. We waited for Kyle to assist, knowing he’d enjoy the activity and wanted to participate in the building process. Except, every time we planned on working on the building, Kyle made other plans or the weather didn’t cooperate. Feeling pressured from the turkeys, dad and I began the project without our number one handyman.
Personally, it broke my heart to work on the turkey coop without Kyle. I knew he would’ve loved building it, and it would’ve been a great experience for him to spend quality time with his pap, not to mention the learning value. But I guess Kyle’s priorities are not with us at this time. So it was just dad and myself, the dynamic duo.
For the most part the erection of the structure went smoothly, no major incidences and no injuries, always a plus. Dad had it in his head before starting the project that it could be completed in a single day. Really? That’s what he said, but dad didn’t take into consideration his age and endurance, or lack there of. When we worked on the building, it was only for a few hours at a clip, not from morning till night like I would have preferred. No biggie, it simply took us a few days to finish as opposed to a single day.
Kyle did help with the roof. It took some coaxing to get him off his phone and off the couch, and let’s not discuss the argument about wearing a shirt and shoes. Once he surrounded himself in the construction materials, with a hammer in hand, and instructions given, Kyle became genuinely enthused. Truly! He even got up on the ladder to nail in a few boards. Reluctantly, I might I add, he climbed onto the roof and helped me nail a few boards in place so we had a small platform to work from. He was a little weak at the knees being up high, only about eight feet from the ground, but he braved his environment. Granted, it was a new experience for Kyle, for he’s never done anything like this before. Regardless, Kyle overcame his uneasiness and helped me hammer the boards until it started raining.
Before the rain hit, I stopped production to measure the void in the roof, to know exactly how much was needed to complete the area. I measured about forty-seven inches (nearly four feet). I handed Kyle a pencil, hinting to write that number down and to start subtracting till we had a pile of boards to fill the gap. I measured the boards on the ground to ensure the length was appropriate, about twelve feet long, before spouting out widths for Kyle to subtract. At first, Kyle gave me an inquisitive look and then starred at the pencil in confusion. If it was me, I would have used the pencil and a board to do my calculations. I guess that method is too old fashioned for my teenager. Once Kyle realized what I was trying to accomplish, he enthusiastically pulled out his iPhone and used the calculator function. Brilliant! Even though it’s good practice to maintain those basic math skills, but I wasn’t arguing. I wanted to put this project to rest.
It’s a guarantee that any story involving Kyle and myself contains a comical aspect or two, especially if you add my dad to the mix. We’re like the perfect Piper storm. I can’t do this story justice without addressing Kyle’s working attire. He did manage to cover his bare chest with a tee shirt. However, the rest of his outfit wasn’t exactly conducive to construction work, especially on a roof with rough wood. Instead of wearing his boots, he chose my mom’s winter booties. No joke! Why? If I had to take a guess, it was because they were slip on boots with no laces. Of course, why should that matter when he was wearing shiny basketball shorts. I bet his bare knees felt good dragging across the wood boards. Either way, Kyle helped with enthusiasm and no whining. That’s a big plus!
Now the true funny, and slightly frustrating part of the adventure. Once I got a few boards stabilized, I showed Kyle were to nail, to follow the seams to the opposite end. Not paying attention while I was adding boards and nailing them into place, Kyle was hammering like a made man. His hammering technique went something like this, a hit to the nail head, then followed by a few misses, to be proceeded by a hit. This rhythm continued for the duration of his labors. Although, I did appreciate his efforts, but what I mostly enjoyed was spending constructive time with my nephew.
At one point, Kyle freaked out, “Aunt Heather! I saw a spark!” Laughing, I responded, “What do you think happens when metal hits metal? You must’ve been swinging hard to create sparks!” Kyle smiled and seemed pleased with himself and continued pounding even harder, that is until dad halted production.
“Look at all the nails sticking out!” What? Dad was inside the turkey coop looking up at our handy work. Before I understood what he was talking about, dad began counting, “One, two, three, FOUR! FIVE! SIX! SEVEN! Heather! There’s SEVEN, EIGHT nails sticking out. Who’s missing the two by fours?” It took me a few minutes to realize what he was talking about. Evidently, the nails weren’t making contact with the rafters, resulting in unsecured boards on the roof and nails sticking out of the ceiling like a torture chamber. The light bulb suddenly came on as I looked in Kyle’s direction. My brain was able to put two and two together. Kyle was working hard, no doubt, however, he wasn’t accomplishing anything. He started off good, but grew sloppy. Instead of following the seam and making a straight line with his nails to adhere to the two by fours under the boards, he was simply hammering, sporadically. What started out as a straight line took a hard right curve to practically end up between two, two by fours.
Almost frustrated, yet finding humor in my little man, I showed him how he strayed. Dad yelled up to Kyle, “Buddy, if it’s not hard to drive the nail all the way in, then you’re probably not hitting the two by four and you need to move your nail over slightly.” Kyle’s response, which almost made me fall off the roof laughing, “I thought it was all hard hammering.” He said those words with complete sincerity. My little gamer was experience manual labor and physically feeling it.
Did dad really care about the missed nails? Not in the slightest, he very much enjoyed doing something with Kyle that didn’t involve electronics and his participation as a family member.
Once I got Kyle straightened out, pun intended, I heard him comment, “Boy Aunt Heather this is hard work. I don’t think I’d make a good construction worker.” Yes, it is hard work but one I’m very thankful that Kyle has the opportunity to experience. He’s right though, I don’t think construction work is his calling! At least Kyle’s a realist, like his Aunt Heather.
Not a lot of people know how to begin to build such a structure, let alone could tackle the job. I hope Kyle learned something from working with us. That valuable knowledge will be forever engrained in him, like the roots he was born into.
One more funny. While I was hammering in the floor, I hit and nail and bent it. Naturally, I continued hamming it into the floor to get it as flush as possible. That was the only nail I bent during the entire project. Did you know, dad kept commenting on that one single nail? Our of nowhere, he’d say, “These turkeys are going to have to be careful not to trip on that nail.” and “I hope our turkeys don’t get snagged on your nail” and “You already put a place for them to roost.” It was never ending! But pretty funny.
I’m happy to announce the turkey coop is finished and is still standing. During construction, I kept teasing dad about his fine craftsmanship (sarcasm) and he kept reminding me that I was the one who measured everything. To be honest, when we started out, the foundation was perfectly squared and leveled, thanks to yours truly. But something did go awry during the building process. It all worked out in the end. Our eight foot, by ten foot, by eight foot height structure welcomed its new residences about two weeks ago. To counter act the cold nights, we placed a few heat lamps and straw inside. The turkeys seemed pretty happy.
Okay, another funny. While I was pounding nails to build up the walls, dad was showing me how to draw the boards in tight. He said, “Here, use my hammer, it’s better.” You know what? It was better! It had a good weight and really drove those nails into the wood. So every time dad asked for HIS hammer, I would hold onto it and point the hammer toward the sky and yell, “The Hammer!”, like I was Thor. It cracked me up. Dad…not so much.
While working with dad, he began to reminiscence occasionally, mostly about Ryan. Personally, I love hearing the stories that I wasn’t aware of or I’ve forgotten. It feels good to talk about Ryan. We all miss him terribly. Dad commented that he built the smoke shed in about a day or two all by himself. He said, “Ryan wouldn’t help me build it. He was mad at me for some reason, I don’t remember for what.” That was so sad, but it’s called life. It also shows how tight we really are, that dad didn’t remember the argument, only fondly remembers Ryan. And Ryan would have been the first person in line to help dad out, for those two were buds.
Take my advice to reconnect with the family and do a major project together. It is really worth the time and energy!