Dateline: June 1st, 1982
|Pictured in Old Paint (our VW bus) on our wedding day|
We relocated from San Jose to a 16-by-20 foot cabin, its windowless openings boarded over with plywood, a structure with no power, no plumbing, no running water, no heat and no refrigerator. There were no cupboards and there were no stairs to get up into the loft.
When we awoke our first morning, it was still dark, it was drizzling outside, it was miserably cold and we had no way of heating our little cabin. GlutenFreeMama looked over at me, her face an open book, Chapter One reading, “What have I gotten myself into?”
Due in September with none other than HeadSodBuster, she looked as though she had just awakened from a deep sleep, and found that her heaven was actually-not quite hell-but certainly, purgatory. I mean, we were warm as long as we stayed in bed, but that was not going to get breakfast cooked, nor heat in the cabin.
Though we actually did have two stoves, one a 1920’s vintage Superior stove, which still resides in this kitchen, the other a conventional four-burner range, we relied exclusively on our trusty Coleman stove in the beginning. Before I could convert the gas stove to propane, and hook it up, I had to install the pipe to get the gas from out front to the kitchen, and I needed some propane.
|My finest moment: blazing up on the DMZ|
They could draft me into the military,
but they could never draft my soul.
I was a grocer, an army veteran, an auto parts clerk and a professional student; I was not a hands-on, handyman sort of guy. Everything I accomplished in the early days came from on-the-job-training. Just as my father Robert had helped me with the foundation of my little cabin the previous summer, I was able to rely on family for technical advice.
My bothers Matt and Tom had helped me build the cabin, along with neighbor Rex. What I mean is I helped them. I had never handled a Skill-saw in my life before that summer but I was a quick learner. I had my first lesson the day I made my debut on the “crew,” working down in Brooktrails on a spec house.
Told I needed to cut the twenty-foot-long, 4-by-12 chunk of green fir, to a length of 19 feet, 8 inches, I proceeded to cut it an inch short. It was a simple logistical error, a 4-by-12 having to be scribed on both sides of the board, in order to cut it. The depth of a Skill-saw blade is only 2 3/4 inches and in flipping the behemoth over to scribe the second line, I had marked the wrong side of the framing square.
When I realized what I had done, I went to Rex and informed him. Not only had I cut the girder too short, it was the last one on the site.
“No problem,” he said, drawing out the word “problem” as was his custom. Reaching into his pocket for his truck keys, he flipped them to me saying, “Take my truck into Willits and get another one.” He didn’t yell at me or make me feel like a heel; he just sent me to get another one.
I learned as I went along, especially since I had others who had gone before me, to help me.
|Ah, Home sweet home|
As stoked as we were to have busted out of San Jose, right now, with this mizzle (mist crossed with drizzle) making our lives miserable, I was ready to trade my kingdom for a fire. In answer to my quandary came my knight in shining armor, Bro Matt.
“How’re you guys doing?” he inquired brightly into our dim interior, that dreary first morning. Moving right along when he sensed all was not well, he went right for the jugular, “Kind of chilly in here. Let’s see now; what do we need to do to get some heat in here?”
Triple-walled stove pipe extended down into the kitchen, but stopped just below the ceiling. That was it.
“It looks like we need to start by finding you a stove. This old Superior you have here requires a custom piece, so let’s go find something we can use today.”
We hopped into the Limo, the name for the old Dodge truck, and drove up to Papa’s barn, where Matt knew an old Tin Lizzie was stored.
“This old dog came up from La Puente,” he informed me. “Not a damn thing wrong with it-it will do perfectly.”
We loaded it into the back of the Limo and headed over to neighbor Rex’s spot. Rex was off somewhere but that did not stop Matt from taking me in tow, and heading out behind the house. Beneath an old storage unit, we found several three-foot lengths of somewhat rusty, six-inch stovepipe, that would work just fine.
I took Matt’s word for everything, even though I secretly may have had my doubts about that funky-looking wood stove and that crusty-looking stove pipe. When it came right down to it, starting the fire using wet manzanita wood, proved more challenging than getting the system up and running.
|This is not the one but it could|
In that tiny cabin, the old Tin Lizzie worked its magic, and the cabin was transformed within minutes into a snug little cave.
I can’t begin to describe the feeling that overcame me at that moment, when the heat from the manzanita battled back the cold effortlessly, and a seemingly impossible task was dealt with so easily. If we could take it one crisis at a time, and be content to get something in place until it could be refined, then we were going to make it.
I needed to know that early in the game, and there it was.
Well, the game is in the fourth quarter for me, and I’m good with that. The score is in my favor, no matter how I look at it, and who could ask for a life to end any better than that?
|When I bought Old Paint, the engine was in the back seat.|
|GlutenFreeMama and lil HeadSodBuster|
|Bro Tom and the author of Mark's Work|