Here is Jonny standing in middle of the floor of the garage at the end of the day yesterday. That garage floor gave me fits. Allen and I had followed the instructions exactly, snapped chalk lines, and Luke and I tamped sandy gravel to the lines — only to realize that the concrete contractor must have made a mistake. Surely we were four inches too high: once the concrete was poured, all the door cut-outs would be blocked. I was in a panic on Sunday when I couldn’t reach anyone to confirm my suspicions. Allen, as always unflappable, suggested I simply leave it and have the concrete contractor fix his problem. Instead I spent all Monday digging out the extra gravel, re-leveling, raking, and re-tamping the floor.
Oh well. It’s always good to feel you’ve earned your peanut butter sandwich for lunch. And it’s always fun to work with Allen. He brought the excavator over to “scratch” the tamped surface with the bucket and rake off some gravel to help me. I was tired and leaning on my shovel, wearing hearing protectors and lost in thought. Suddenly I looked up behind me and saw the giant bucket hanging silently at my shoulder, exactly like a children’s cartoon of an enormous dragon breathing quietly in the hero’s ear. I jumped a mile. I could see Allen shake with laughter. He is a tease.
At other times I’d be in a fog, raking, and a wrapper from a peppermint candy would float down on my head. Big smile from Allen, high in the cab. I think he knew I was running out of steam. At one point he gave me a hug. He’s not anything like my own father, but Allen is very fatherly. I love working with him.
Here’s the mudroom floor, also tamped and ready to pour. In the background, you can see Allen building the retaining wall with the excavator and Larry with the backhoe carting away load after load of “trash rocks,” boulders too small for the wall. Eventually we will bury them.
While I was grunting to level the garage floor, Allen was building the retaining wall to divert water away from the house and give us a flat backyard. Allen was unhappy not to have the kind of machine he uses at work, which has a hydraulic thumb on the bucket, but I thought even with the more rudimentary equipment he did a beautiful job.
It’s really amazing to watch Allen working. The bucket almost seems like an extension of his arm and hand. He manipulates it effortlessly. He laughs when I call him a genius but he truly is. Once in November when I was shoveling in the bottom of the 8′ water trench, a giant loose piece of wall ice started to come down near me; almost before I saw it, Allen had pinned it with the edge of the bucket and then crushed and flipped it away.
These photos were taken just before sunset, when Allen had been working for 11 hours straight, a third day in a row. Did I mention he’s 70 and has had quadruple-bypass heart surgery? I worried about him, but you can’t fuss at Allen when he is intent on finishing a job. When he parked the excavator, we had a lovely 250-foot retaining wall.
The wall is 4′-6′ high down its length. (DH wished it were higher so he could have a long bouldering traverse for climbing practice.) I will probably install a post and rail fence along the top to keep people or animals from falling over, and to protect our well and transformer from vehicles below. Meanwhile the cabin and shed, which are on skids, will eventually be moved down the property to face the opposite mountain view.
Allen was slightly frustrated because Larry couldn’t keep pace with him. Of course, Allen probably had his own son in a tractor while in diapers. (Damon is equally gifted with heavy machinery.) One of Allen’s granddaughters, who is 12, drives excavators onto trailers for Damon to load. I said, soothingly, “Oh, Allen, be fair. It must be awfully hard for anyone to marry into your family.”
Allen widened his eyes at me and twinkled. “Now you want to marry me?”
It was a great weekend. A lot of work; some rain, sweat, and blackflies; and a lot of laughs. Today it’s back to real life.