Maiello: Defeat the Press
Miami Fans Mistakenly Chant "Let's Go Eat" During Playoff Game
Dick was having a bit of fun about female carpenters, so I thought I'd tell a bit of a vignette about that.
If I were a carpenter
Not really a lady
Would you marry me anyway?
Or call me crazy?
My new friend and I needed jobs. I’d moved to Breckenridge, Colorado and lived in a house with four men, and had been thrilled to make a girlfriend at the local Gold pan saloon on a night a friend was entertaining the crowd with his guitar. Actually, right about that time I had gotten so tired of the men in the house that my then boyfriend and I bought a pre-cut 18-foot diameter tipi from a company in Ridgeway, and I sewed the sucker together. We cut and skinned lodgepoles for the frame, and the three of us made it home. The third was my parent’s spaniel, the Lincoln Log Dog, the handsomest and smartest dog who ever walked the earth; many friends included him in the greetings of their letters to us. His name was sometimes first, to say the truth.
We lived a couple miles apart from each other near the base of Hoosier Pass at close to 11,000 feet, surrounded by high peaks that could make you feel either secure or claustrophobic. I was in the latter camp, although walking up those peaks to see the sub-alpine flowers was a pleasure: mountain blue mountain forget-me-nots, fuscia moss campion, pale pasque flowers; but a person always had to come down from the mountains to real life.
And in real life, we needed jobs. Betsy took us to a restaurant/bar with some goofy mining town name, and we got on as waitresses. Now this was one of those towns where men outnumbered women about four to one, and the men were, shall we say…rather piggish. Upending a plate on a man who had just suggested lewd propositions was frowned upon in this particular Gold Nugget or whatever restaurant, but one day some cretin pinched me in the ass while I was waiting for drinks at the bar. I untied my apron, threw it on the bar and left; I never even went back for my last check. (Idiot.)
Betsy wasn’t hard to convince we needed different jobs, and with her lead, we cooked up the idea of working as a construction clean-up team. We spent a couple humiliating days going to building sites, but finally happened upon The Broken Lance condominiums. A new project head had just arrived to bail out a stalled project; and he just happened to be an adherent of Science of Mind discipline: he fairly oozed positivism.
Walt was sixty-ish with curly white hair, slightly bowed legs and a wrinkled but mobile face that grinned easily all the way to his eyes, but we learned it could also cloud up blackly with lightning coming out of his eyes. He adored us on sight, and adopted us in time.
Clean up after the crews we did, and what utter slobs they were, especially the dry-wallers, who left broken slabs of gypsum board everywhere, often with globs of drywall mud crapped onto it and the floor. We’d schlep stacks of it out of the units and walk it down plank ramps to dumpsters, then head back for more. And more.
Walt taught us how to sweep the gypsum powder off the concrete floors, demonstrating with a push broom. “See?” he said; “just let it bounce a few inches forward, then haul it back a bit and push again, and it doesn’t raise a cloud of dust?” He was proud that in his past he’d cleaned up after dances at the VFW or something; the man had pride in his work. ;o)
As women, it was clear that to succeed in a man’s job, we’d need to work at least twice as hard. We did. We put up with plenty of shit from the guys on the crew, but by and by they grudgingly accepted us, though sometimes when Walt would yell at some hapless screw-up, “You’d better get it together, or I’m gonna fire you and hire a girl” things would get a little dicey again for a bit.
We’d be ravenous by lunch time, and supplement our sack lunches with goodies the local mobile lunch wagon, the Mother Truckers, stopped by with. They were three bawdy earth-mother dirty fucking hippies, and sometimes didn’t show up at all, and boy, did they hear about it the next time they did! “Fuck off, ya idiots, or you won’t get any lunch,” they’d warn. Hardball hippies.
I can’t remember now if we’d been lobbying Walt to do other work or if the clean-up was mostly finished for this phase, but one day he took us to the head carpenters and said, “Put these girls to work; they want to learn carpentry.”
Well, Merle and Earl blushed crimson, averted their eyes, and nodded their heads slightly. They were probably in their late forties, but it was hard to say. They were small but stocky, with faces round as moons and stick-out ears that made yuou want to pick them up by their little jug-handles; their Can’t-Bust-Em white overalls had shiny brass fittings and always looked freshly laundered. We later discovered they probably were: ‘the boys’, as Walt called them, still lived with their mom.
They seemed to be confirmed bachelors, and the female of the species must have been terrifying and confounding to them; they seriously couldn’t look at us without blushing, and their utterances were tongue-tied at best. Mainly they gestured.
Merle jerked his head toward a unit, and we followed like his puppies. “Fur out this wall,” he indicated, and nodded to some plywood pieces, some nails and extension ladders.
He huffed air out his nose, but finally deigned to explain what we were to do, and the Can’t-Bust-Em boys departed, glancing at each other with slightly raised eyebrows and a hint of rolled eyes.
We did as asked, but it wasn’t much fun learning the proper use of a hammer so high in the air, but after some false starts we got a system going: one held the boards and the other nailed them up. Dents didn’t matter; it would all get dry-walled anyway. Walt stopped by once, offered a couple good suggestions, winked once, grinned that shit-eating grin of his, and left.
We must have passed the test, because the next day Walt and the boys came and motioned us to follow them. We went into an empty ground-floor unit still open to the air at the front. Saw horses, tools and stacks of one-by-ten pine, boxes of screws and electric drills waited for some project. The pine smelled good; all clean and resinous.
“You’re going to build the balconies,” said Earle. Blink, blink. We were? Oh, that Walt; he figured we could do anything; we weren’t quite as convinced, but…here we were. “You girls know how to screw?” Hmmm. Hard to know if we were supposed to laugh at that…or not. Glancing at their faces showed not much in the way of smiles, but a bit of sparkle in their eyes...
So we drilled holes and jig-sawed diamonds and sanded decorative slats by the hundreds, then learned how to fit them and screw them into the dado-ed 4X4 rails that the boys had made, and volila! Balcony rails!
Installing them onto the little porches was both festive and scary: all hands were on deck, and it was a pretty large crew. Everyone was drafted except the acoustical tile ceiling guys who wore stilts strapped to their feet and walked around like extra-tall carnie figures without tipping right off them; I don't know how they managed it. Yikes.
Walt must have been thinking this problem for days, but he finally had some guys cobble together some planks they placed a little wider apart than the railings we’d built, and assembled teams. After careful explanation, we picked those suckers up and marched them up the planks to a few guys waiting above who tacked them into place, and would bolt them in later. Damn, everyone was so glad for the success. I can’t remember how many times we repeated the process, or how many units there were, but we kept manufacturing them for weeks.
Now word must have gotten around town that some ‘girls’ were working construction at the Broken Lance condos, and sometimes cars full of gawkers would come by to cat-call to us out the windows. We got pretty used to it, and fairly used to giving them the finger, albeit silently for the most part.
One afternoon we stood screwing (V-v-v-v-t!; screeeeek!) and a pale yellow car stopped and gave the obligatory honk. I remember looking up, saw from blurry faces and waving hands, and must have given an offhand wave, then got back to work. Lotsa screwing to complete by the finish date Walt had promised the owner/investors.
I hitch-hiked home that evening and saw a strange car in the drive. As it turned out, it was the pale yellow Olds, and I discovered when I went into the house that it was the self-same car that had stopped by the condos earlier, and just happened to have been my future goddam in-laws and future husband. There must have been some angel on my shoulder that told me not to flip them off… It was bad enough in their eyes that I was carpenting, but their first look at their son's girlfriend being a bird-flipping girl carpentress may have been one bridge too far, I think.
So Stardust and Betsy learned some woodworking, which was similar to sewing clothes: it’s all about measuring and cutting, and nailing or screwing and gluing. We learned how to hit the saloons on Friday nights with our pay, and jive and bullshit and to give as good as we got with rough talk and insults; and I like to think they learned that women could be good at more things than they used to believe.
I just peeked online, and found a picture of those condos, though our balconies have since been replaced, probably long ago.
But here’s to Walt the Positive, and his dear wife who wanted to take us shopping in Denver because we looked so fookin’ ratty all the time in our funky jeans and work shirts. You guys rocked! And thanks for blowin’ all that confidence and sunshine up our..er…skirts?