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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

Sunday, September 14, 2008

"Unsettled" Chapter six: Looking Down the Road

It has been over three weeks since I’ve written a chapter in the “Unsettled” series. Worse yet, it’s been nearly that long since I’ve been able to put two coherent thoughts together about this story which is all too close to me at this time. Sometimes the writing process reflects life itself in that the story is lost in the turning pages.
.As mentioned in Chapter five... My brothers and I felt like Noah’s sons that first year. Our free days moved to the rhythm of axes chopping notches and Dad's mallet driving eight-inch spikes into timbers.
By winter, Dad bought a tractor with a front loader. It was a twenty-year-old Ford with a new coat of blue paint, which hid all the hints of its hard use, but it was up to the task of clearing a road that wound down the center of the land to an open patch above the creek. In time there would be other roads, trails really, just wide enough for a car: one that went around the upper ridge to the sledding hill and another that followed the creek bed to the base of the same hill. ...........................This photo was actually taken after we finished the barn.
These roads were yet to come, but Dad had envisioned where they’d someday be, and it was only in those paths that he harvested trees for the logs that would become the barn.
Through late fall and winter we felled more than forty trees, and with the help of the front loader, we pulled as many stumps. On days when all went well, we could cut and haul three or four logs from dawn to dark. There in the clearing at the end of Dad‘s road, stacked by length, was a pile of giant “Lincoln Logs.” Dad knew where each one would go in the frame, which were posts and cross pieces and rafters, and he’d built the barn in his mind many times before the day we set the posts.

To be honest, until those posts were dropped with a thud into the holes we'd dug, these puzzle pieces were just long, heavy logs to my brothers and me. And though we'd never say it aloud, we were tired of logs and splinters and chain-saw flecks in the corner of our eyes, tired of the chain-saw's growl in the air and its oily smell on our clothes. The day we set the posts, however, Dad's chain saw was quiet, and our eyes were clear as this incredible thing began to take shape from a scribbled drawing in Dad’s pocket.
.With the help of our car’s headlights, we worked well into the night, and stood the last post in place between what would eventually be two double-doors. The last ritual of work was covering the tractor with a heavy sheet of Visqueen weighted down with fence posts. This final task always brought a smile because it meant we'd be home at Mom's supper table within a half hour.

Picking up our tools, the four of us headed toward the glare of the lights. Walking backwards to study the day's work, I saw our shadows growing larger on the posts and dancing like ghosts in the dark woods beyond. It was then I noticed something for the first time: the wrapped tractor was in the very same spot we'd been parking it from the start four months before... except now it was perfectly situated within the posts of the barn.
“Look, Dad." I said, slipping into the back seat. "The tractor's right where we've always put it but now it looks like it goes there. Did you plan that or did it just happen?”

“Did I plan that?" he laughed, "Tom, the first night we parked it, way back in the fall, I put it in the spot I knew would be its stall.”

It was too dark to see his eyes in the rear-view mirror, but I could tell he was smiling, proud that an unstated accomplishment so many months in the making had not gone unnoticed. Through the many years ahead, my brothers and I learned that this was the way Dad worked; it was such thoughts that passed the hours when we were too tired to talk. He was always thinking down the road--including the roads we’d yet to build.

One of the most remarkable things about those years is not so much the many things we did with Dad, but that we did them week after week for no pay and with little complaint. I say “no pay” because we were never given money for our labor--no more than is exchanged on a family farm. That is not to say there was no reward, for there is great pride in having a part in such work. Great satisfaction in seeing a dream take shape. Like Noah's sons, it was just something we knew we had to do.
By early summer the barn was done. The tractor and all our tools were safe inside, waiting for the sound of a key in the lock, the creak of the door, and the clank on cement of the cast-iron stop that held it open. Sounds that came before Saturday's sun had risen... and heard again long after it set as we locked up the barn to go home. ......................That's me on the left; Dave's holding Jim (not yet one year old).

A few years later, long after the barn was finished, the township building inspector paid us a visit. With the help of aerial photographs, authorities had discovered that our property had a large structure on it for which a building permit had never been filed. (Dad was a die-hard Republican, but when it came to things like the government telling a man what he can or cannot build on his own land, he was a bit of a Libertarian.) The inspector told Dad there would be a hefty fine at least and, at worst, they'd make him tear it down. After all, even deep in a woods where no one sees, a man can't just go around putting up un-inspected buildings. But when Dad opened both sets of big double doors revealing the sturdy log structure, the man stepped back gum-smacked and scratched his head.

"A building is a building," he said, trying to sound stern, "but they do give me some latitude on these things." He looked closely at each weight-bearing post and the general craftsmanship of Dad's work. "Tell you what... If I call this a building, there will be all sorts of paperwork. Let's keep it simple. Whatdoyasay we don't call this a building at all? Let's say I call it a 'work of art. No permits needed for works of art.'"

He winked and walked away.
I wrote of our dog who was named after these experiences in this related post.Next week Chapter Seven: "The Virtue of Reality"
Followed by Eight: "Dig a Little Deeper in the Well, Boys"


Blogger Tammy said...

Wonderful story!
It's late now, so I only had time to skim a bit your last few previous chapters but I've really enjoyed what I've read...you have such a great writing style.

I'm sorry if you are facing grief in your family at the moment...

15/9/08 1:00 AM  
Anonymous quilly said...

Wonderful. With each installment the story gets richer.

You have reminded me of the time my cousins and I approached my uncle about being paid for working in the hay field. The neighbor boys were working along side us doing the same job, and every night they were sent home with money. We took our case to Uncle Bud.

Uncle Bud listened to us over the top of his newspaper. He didn't frown or scold, he paid heed to every word we said. Then he said, "So you want paid do you?" And we all chorused, "Yes." He smiled and nodded. "Fine," he said. Then he turned toward my Aunt in the kitchen. "Honey, the kids won't be eating here." And while that was still sinking in he turned back to us and ask, "So, do you have any thoughts on where you're going to live?"

Needless to say, we suddenly had a change of heart about getting paid.

15/9/08 2:27 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I guess it's not so much a stage of grief as it is the tasks that come with it. Somewhere in the comments of one of the earlier chapters, I mentioned that my siblings and I are "closing down" the estate in preparation of what will be a "sale" as soon as is prudent (though we're in no rush). We're meeting to work there this Saturday.

It is my hope to leave a draft of this manuscript in the library cornere of the house when it changes hands. Thank you for your concern.

Yes. It was exactly like that. With the benefits of meals, and clothes (and eventually a college education) came the duty of family-first work.

15/9/08 5:26 AM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

So you were part of a work of art.
What a wonderful chapter in your life.

15/9/08 6:01 PM  
Blogger the walking man said...

Tom...see the thing is I look at this and wonder how much did you learn from this? Are you a fair carpenter and planner? You certainly know how to remove a tree & stump, clear a plot of land.

My folks never engaged in this sort of thing...too many MA's and PhD.'s floating around. Want to learn about polymers and cutting edge extrusion, my father was the man. saw a board?...He'd look at the saw and ask "which end is the business end?"

Well worth the wait keep 'em coming as you're able.

16/9/08 6:01 AM  
Blogger Donnetta Lee said...

And your writing isn't just writing--it's a work of art. Fabulous story.

16/9/08 9:59 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Dr. John,
My cousin Jack is a Country Music writer and singer. He wrote a song called "Work of Art" that used this metaphor as a love song about building a home. I'll try to find a way to link to the song.

I was learning trades all the while and didn't know it. There's not much around the house I can't do--and Julie usually has a "honey do" list to prove it. My favorite store is Menards (that's sort of like Home Depot or Lowes). The funny thing about Dad is that his day job was high-tech with MaBell down in Detroit. This was his "outlet." The older I get, the more amazed I am by the diversity of his skills and ambitions.

Thanks. You're too kind, but as the old shaving cream commercial used to say, "Thanks, I needed that!" =)

16/9/08 10:24 PM  
Blogger heiresschild said...

what a rewarding "work of art" Tom. wink! wink! love it!

17/9/08 11:08 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Hey, HC,
Good to hear from you again. Thanks for stopping by.

19/9/08 12:42 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

"Dad was a die-hard Republican, but when it came to things like the government telling a man what he can or cannot build on his own land, he was a bit of a Libertarian"... this is a perfect description of my dad! They were two peas in a pod and never even knew each other. He too, could fix anything, I wish I had worked along side him like you did with your dad- then I would be more of a handylady! You really got an education on those Saturdays and that is a blessing indeed! "A work of art"... stated perfectly. Great post... worth waiting on for sure.

20/9/08 8:07 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I laugh at how much our fathers had in common--the similarities go back a couple years in these stories and posts.

I hope these chapters can do justice to the things we learned through these experiences with Dad and Mom. These chapters do focus more on Dad, I realize, because from early morning to late at night on Saturdays we were with him. Mom brought out lunch and was waiting at home with a late supper. Jim and my sister Kathy were typically not with us. Jim was too little, and Kathy was a girl who would be leaving for college in about a or two.

Some good chapters are ahead!

27/9/08 12:29 AM  

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