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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Friday, August 15, 2008

Unsetteled: Chapter 4

"Up and At'em"

The alarm clock rang with a deep metal clang that would bring Joe Frazier to his feet from the corner stool. But unlike a boxing-ring bell, Dad's Big Ben kept clanging until his finger shot intuitively through the dark to the little steel button on the back. Five to five. Time to wake the boys for breakfast.

But the three of us boys heard the noisy ring. Our beds were side by side a foot apart in the room beside Mom and Dad's, and the alarm, like an audible spatula, had turned us over-easy in bed. Our heads took cover under pillows, but we were awake.

“Up and at‘em, boys!” came the whisper at our door. We did not yet know it, but those five words just after the din of Dad’s alarm would begin the next few hundred Saturdays of our lives.
The purchase of the property was final--went without a hitch just a few days before, and we were as excited as Dad for this day to come, this first day to work on the land, but the fact is the day had not yet come. Morning was a few hours away, and somewhere in the night our bodies had unharnessed the enthusiasm that kept us awake at bedtime. As we sat with bed-head hair around the kitchen table, rubbing the crusties from our eyes, the anticipation slowly returned.
I have never been shaken awake before dawn to go fishing, but I think our groggy gleeful whispers that first Saturday morning were akin to those of fishing buddies in a cabin shared with sleeping wives. In our case, the "sleeping wives" were Mom and Kathy and little Jim who, knowing the clanging alarm did not apply to them, were still sound asleep. Later, much later, after they delivered Paul's papers, they would be bringing lunch out to us, but that would be at least another eight hours after the bowled breakfast Dad set before us.

“Eat hardy, boys, this'll have to tide you over ‘til lunch time.”

“What are we doing first?” Paul asked with a mouthful of cereal.

“Well, you know those weed scythes I bought last week? First thing we’re going to do is clear the old drive as far back as we can so we have a place to park the car, but that won’t take long at all. The old two-track is pretty clear for a hundred feet or so. Then it ought to be light enough for us to start surveying and clearing the south lot line.”

"Clearing like clearing a trail?" I asked. "How wide?"

"Not a walking path. Just clear enough to see through the transit."

"What's a transit?" I wondered aloud.

"It's that little telescope thing in that wooden box downstairs," Dave said.

"Yeah, that's it," Dad said, "It's not a telescope, but you've got the right idea."

Paul added, "It goes up on that wooden tripod with the pointed legs."

“How long will it take to survey?” Dave asked.

“Shouldn't take long," Dad said peeling a banana. "Depends on how much brush is in the way, and how many times I have to sharpen the chain saw. My goal is to get half-way to the creek by lunch time and to the creek by dark. Tom, you'll do most of the weed whackin', and Paul you'll be using that new post-hole digger--just push, spread, and pull like I showed you. Dave, you'll back fill the posts--spell off with Paul if he gets tired, and Tom and I will keep moving ahead, cutting posts from the trees in the way, and marking where to put 'em. Shouldn't take long."
They didn't say anything, but Dave and Paul's eyes met on the second "shouldn't take long." Their eyebrows twitched upward and back into place so slightly that Dad did not see. For the moment he seemed content to watch how effortlessly his knife dropped banana slices on his cereal.

The creek was about two-thirds of the way down the south side of the property, 900 yards, three football fields. We did not make it half-way by lunch time, but we did reach the creek by dark--two Saturdays later! The east line across the back of the land was shorter, and since a developer had already cleared the trees beyond, it was basically a matter of sinking posts.
Clearing the lot lines was the first project we completed with Dad that fall, and in doing so we soon discovered three things: First, the weed scythes were no match for this land--nor was Dad's first chain saw. He had to upgrade (and in the months ahead he developed an arsenal of saws for trees of all sizes). Second, Dad was the hardest working man we'd ever seen. And third, he was a good man, a good worker--honest as the day is long--but he was lousy at estimating how long "pioneer work" took to do,and each Saturday it seemed we bit off more than a day could chew.


Anonymous quilly said...

I am enjoying these visits inside your family. You tell the stories so well, I feel as though I were there with you.

15/8/08 12:08 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

That "alarm" you have when I have a new post works great. These weeks of summer I'm writing less than I'd like to. Next chapter is about the raising the log barn, and eventually I'll get to the cistern well that started this whole idea. =)

15/8/08 4:24 PM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

I don't have an alarm. I just check every day.
I just love the story. It's kindof your Little House on the Prarie except it's in the woods.

15/8/08 6:21 PM  
Blogger the walking man said...

As I was reading this Tom "Sailing To Philadelphia" By Mark Knopfler was running through my mind.

16/8/08 3:35 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Dr. John,
I do appreciate your patience and that you check in on me. It helps keep me going.

I'm flattered that anything I've written brings another work to mind, but I must confess I wasn't familiar with that song until you mentioned it and I listened to it on-line.
Funny thing about the line Dad was surveying and marking with posts... we never strung a fence or wire. He just wanted to have the posts there to mark the line. By the time we lived on the land most of the posts, which were made of random 6" trees not suited for the task, had rotted in their spots. Some still stand.

16/8/08 8:04 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Tom~ OK, Quilly, I want one of those alarms... if such a thing exists. I check several times a week but if I had an alarm- WOW... somebody tell me how. Or was Tom just commenting on how fast you commented?

My mom still has her wind up clock just like the one in your story. My night caring for her was Friday, and as I wound, I thought about all of the hands that had done the same on that very clock. My mom, my dad, my sisters, her sisters, and all of the many caregivers over the past several years. The loud tick, tick, tick, just as consistent and unchanging as the day it was purchased; unlike the many hands that have wound it. So, when I read this, I couldn't believe you had written about the very same clock.

"Biting off more than you can chew" was really just the sign of an eternal optomist! Your dad had a vision, a talent to be admired. Add hard work to that mix, and you have a dad anyone would be proud to call their own.

Great post... keep 'em coming!

17/8/08 9:32 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Reading this post reminded me of the many hours spent clearing the land on Neebish Island (in Michigan UP - Close to where pastor Bill grew up. Pastor held bible studies on the island when he was a teenager)-where my step father built his retirement home.

We cleared the land for the barn, house and drive by hand; shovels, picks,ax and chain saws. He refused to allow a tractor on the property to speed up the process because he was sure they would take down more than what was necessary.

I do not recall the number of years it took us, 2 or 3 days a few times a year to get it done.

However, the results are 10 acres that look like a beautiful state park.

For different reasons it has been several years since I have been able to enjoy it - maybe it is time for a quick trip...

17/8/08 10:09 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I'm not sure what Quilly was talking about in some comments several weeks back, but he had gotten some sort of notice that I had a new post only to see it taken back down. (It was a draft that I had posted to "copy-fit" the photos--something I do to prevent single words being separated from the sentence.) Anyway, that was when I learned of the "alarm." I may be wrong.

But speaking of alarms... isn't it funny that you know this clock so well. You've described it to a "T."
The ticking, the winding--I'm sure it's the same Big Ben. One other detail neither of us mentioned is the glow-in-the-dark numbers on the face. We used to hold them up to the lamp to make them even brighter in the dark. Don't see that much anymore--the probably discovered that the glow paint was radioactive or something that causes cancer. =) Thanks for the encouragement. We've been very busy with all the elbow-grease projects at my daughter and son-in-law's new house.

Yes. It eventually was like the place you mention--a park--and it sounds like you know the kind of work it takes to get there. That's all to come but only the highlights of the major projects.
I do think you and Judy should just schedule a trip up to that place. Put in on the calendar for when the leaves are in full color. Wouldn't that be great!

18/8/08 8:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post reminded me of something that I'd forgotten! Back in 1988, The Hub and I had decided to build yet, another house on an extremly wooded lot. To save $$$ we decided to clear it ourselves. He would use the saw and I'd stack the logs. These weren't just small trees but old oaks. It was very hard work and to be honest I barely remember it to this day (the mind is protecting me???) I do know though that we pretty much did it ourselves. I think we staked it out too---the area where the house would go---just to see how it would go.
This subdivision was hit 3 years ago by a devastating tornado--whiping out ALL of the trees and even destroying some of the homes completely. "Our" house (which we only lived in a few years) was only slightly damaged. But it's so hard to drive through there to see what can happen with these storms---oh the power they have!
Love to read your stories here POI!

19/8/08 12:05 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I was re-reading comments and my response and caught some typos. First of all, as you probably know, Quilly is a she [I typed he] in beautiful Hawaii. She takes great pictures and has quite a fun blog. Second, I wanted to acknowledge that you were right about why Dad always bit off more than he could chew. He had a vision for where he was taking this lifetime project and had only Saturdays (he didn't work--hard work that is--on Sundays... recreational work he would do, but nothing loud (chainsaw, tractor, etc.) or that would break a sweat.) Sometimes he took vacation days to work.

It sounds like the logs you're thinking of were like "firewood logs." We had lots of those, too. But these logs were 20 to 30 feet long. We could not be lifted by hand. We dragged them with the tractor and rolled them into place. The next chapter explains it better.

20/8/08 3:32 AM  

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