Monday, June 22, 2009

Wall to Wall Fun or the Mad Mixer

Power and stupidity make a great recipe for disaster. But don’t let me get ahead of myself.

I’ve been building a wall out of cinder blocks for, oh, maybe 2 years now. Up to last week the only thing a casual by passer would notice would be a row of blocks in a ditch with rebar protruding into the air, like mini calf and ankle impalers. I would argue that the concrete holding the blocks in place needed to cure over the winter and the summer heat would compromise the drying of the mortar mix, but since that logic eliminates the only two seasons most Californians experience, I finally broke down and began building The Great Wall of Redding.
Avoiding the self-checkout lanes (I mean really, why would I act as a cashier and not be compensated for it?) I stand in line with my fellow DIYers at Home Lowes to purchase 50 blocks and the equivalent of a million bags of mortar mix to be loaded, one bag at a time onto the bed of the ‘ol Ford F250HD.
Apparently counting is not a required skill from employees at our local store so when asked how many blocks had been loaded off the pallet, “I dunno” was an acceptable answer, except for me, who paid for the portable back-breakers. Having to rearrange the haphazard laid blocks in the pickup bed in order to count them, the process continues until I ask “so how many are we up to?”.
“I dunno”. Recount begins. Fully loaded the truck actually has a pleasant ride instead of the usual bumping, skipping, bone jarring dance across potholes and bumps.
Arriving home, my dream of having all my neighbors lined up to transport the blocks and mortar to the back yard was quickly dashed leaving the task to me and my wheelbarrow. After endless trips back and forth, I’m finally ready to fire up the cement mixer my neighbor gave me under the condition that I bring it to the dumps when I’m done. As soon as I plug it in and flip the switch, I notice a ladder appear propped against the fence, like a scene from Lord of the Rings where the fort is under attack and my mixer donor ascends the rungs to hurl an offer of help.
“Howdy Neighbor. Need some help?” (as a matter of fact yes… where were you an hour ago when I had to lug all this stuff back here)
“No, I think I’m fine. Thanks anyway.”
“Here, let me show you how to mix the mortar and get the right consistency.” (Huh? I’ve already laid the first run of 20 blocks by myself. Does it look that bad?)
“Oh, OK, come on over”.
Up to this point the mix process was add water to mixer and then add mortar a scoop at a time to ensure a good mix, but my neighbor had a better idea.
“Just dump the whole bag in. I’ve done up to 3 bags at a time.”
Following his suggestion (after all,it was his mixer), every ounce of the 80 lbs. get dumped in which instantly turns into a clumping soup with water skimming across the top.
“The mixer doesn’t seem to be mixing” I astutely observe.
“We need to stick a shovel in there to help stir it up. Do you have an irrigation ditch shovel? The blade isn’t so wide to get caught by mixer tangs."
I seemed to remember having one to dig the footing from a couple years ago and soon found it buried in the tool shed.
“Just stick it down the middle of the (spinning) mixer to help mix it up”
As the shovel descends into the dragon’s mouth, the mixer fangs clench around the shovel handle and begins to violently shake the spade in broad, sweeping strokes, in perfect cadence of the spinning mixer. Instinctively, my racquetball trained reactions cause me to duck at lightning speed as the shovel handle swoops above my head, but not so for my dormant neighbor.
Before an alerting utter could be made, the dragon-mixer plants the shovel handle broadside into the knight’s chest, driving him backwards and off his feet. With a desperate attempt to break his fall, the knight gallantly grabs onto the rotating handle as it spins away from his chest. His fall is broken, but so is his reasoning, for at the speed of the rotating drum, the dragon lunges at the knight, pinning him helplessly to the hillside and attempting to roll over his body. With not-so-lightning speed, I kill the fire breathing beast by pulling its umbilical power chord.
Two days, an x-ray, a shot of cortisone, and a bruise from foot to knee later, the gallant knight once again ascends the wall ladder and shouts instructions to me while mixing mortar my way,
“Ya know, I got to think’n. You shouldn’t put in a whole bag at once. You should put water in first and then slowly add the mortar mix”.

1 comment:

  1. Erich, that is too funny. Really good story, thanks for sharing that epic adventure. Why do I get the feeling the tale of "The Great Wall of Redding" isn't over yet?