A carpenter on his knees

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(Host) Commentator Willem Lange recently spent a whole morning on his knees. But he wasn’t praying; he just couldn’t get up.

(Lange) Carpenters spend a great percentage of their working lives either up in the air or down on their knees. I used to think the aerial act would be the one to do me in, and my insurance agent concurred. But at the moment, kneeling in a bed of crushed stone painting the skirt boards of a clap-boarded house, I think it’s the low-down stuff that’ll finally get me.

It’s a fairly warm morning, as October mornings go. Not quite late enough in the year for real Indian summer: time of year people who work mostly outdoors get a little pensive. The sun still has some power during the early afternoon, but these morning hours, watching the thermometer inch upward, presage whole days when it won’t even get close to freezing; and eight hours – the space between daybreak and dusk in January – seems like a week. All these thoughts pass through my consciousness like a long, wavering line of geese – but the geese, at least, are headed somewhere.

It’s the painting that does it: the endless, deadly dull reciprocation of the brush. How can anybody do this for a living, day after day? No stimulation, no challenge, no problems – except an occasional flying bug immolating himself in a wet patch. I move over two feet, knees crunching in the gravel, and yawn. Why should I be sleepy? Huh!

Mother poked me awake at 3:30 this morning. “Listen!”
“Hmh? I don’t hear nothing,” I mumbled.
“You’ve got your good ear on the pillow. Roll over!”

Eyah. There they were – wild geese. Flock after flock, a few minutes apart, honking in the dark before the rising of the waning moon. I heard them in a half-sleep for almost two hours, till the newspaper came and the dog woke me up. Now, at ten in the morning, the moon is a slim, bright crescent overhead, and they’re still going past, a flock every 20 minutes or so.

Six feet more to go – just under this bow window – and I can get to work on the rotten wood around the front door. Reminds me: I’ve got to cut up the last of the logs out behind the house. They’re starting to grow mushrooms on the ends, and I’d hate to waste ’em. Half a day with the saw and the maul ought to do it. Then I’ll have four cords in. We’ll never use it all this year. Well, the stock market’s still going down, and the war drums are heating up. Nothing like a war to get your mind off your other problems. Campaign ads are gettin’ dumber than ever. I’ll be glad when that’s over.

Whoops! I missed the bottom of that board. There! That does it. And it’s noon already. Lunchtime. How time does fly when you’re enjoying yourself! Now, if only somebody’d come along right now and help me get up off my knees….

This is Willem Lange up in Etna, New Hampshire, and I gotta take a break.

Willem Lange is a contractor, writer and storyteller who lives in Etna, New Hampshire.

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