Monday, February 18, 2008


Lin reminded me recently of the times I crawled under our “house trailer” and helped my dad level up after arriving at a new destination. Underneath I was save and secure working along side my dad, even though he constantly yelled at me to push here, pull there, and go get me this or that, or how I couldn’t “drive a nail up your ass with both hands! But, at least under there, I was still in our world and did not yet have to face all the new kids in a strange new world.

However, when the time came, there was no doubt in my mind that I could “set up” a trailer in short order!

Connie (wife #1) and Betty Anne were hairdressers and had operated a shop together that I christened “Two Hairdressers!” I think the name and the logo were one of the few things I ever got back from my college degree in “advertising!” (The photo is of the old location before the events below took place.)

Anyway, they paid high rent where they were and one day it was decided that they would buy their own lot and build their own shop. The whole idea sprang from an ad in the local paper about the Scottish Inns, a local manufacturing company that made modular motel and business units, was going out of business and having to sell their existing inventory.

The two beauticians decided that one of the little 12’X25’ yellow units would be perfect for a four-station beauty shop. So, bright and early on “auction day” I was elected to go and bring one home - alone.

The best I can remember, I paid about $3,000 for the unit, but I could have gotten it for around $2,500 had I not bid against myself twice! Hell, I’d never been to an auction before and I had no clue what was going on. However, I was determined to bring one home!

After winning the bid, probably because I frightened the other bidders by screaming out bids, even when it wasn’t my turn, I went forward to sign on the dotted line. You have a week to have the building hauled away and bring back the trailer frame it is resting on. Otherwise, the sale is revoked and the sale goes to the next highest bidder. Do you understand,” the auctioneer asked.

Well, I understood, but I had no idea who to call to pull the trailer, with the building on it, to our lot, or even how to get it off the trailer. Who do I get to pull it?

The auctioneer pointed over my shoulder to a shady looking fellow wearing a frayed and dirty yellow CAT hat, a sleeveless shirt, and very dirty jeans. Basically, he looked like “Larry the Cable Guy!” As I approached him he spit out a long brown line of tobacco juice and wiped his mouth on the back of his hand, the same hand he held out for me to shake!

Long story short, he was hired to do the hauling and then pull the trailer back to the Scottish Inn warehouse. The next thing for me and Squeaky (Betty Anne’s better half) to do was to coordinate the operation so that we could be ready to jack up and block up the building so “Larry” could pull the trailer out from under it. We picked a Saturday so we would have all day to figure it out!

On that faithful day, the day that almost became my last, the building arrived and Larry was anxious to "git’er unloaded" and be on his way. He worked under our command, though showing much frustration at our directions, but he finally squared up the trailer along the intended lines the building was to sit.

Squeaky and I sized up the situation and we deployed on the project while “Larry” watched us carry and stack blocks along the perimeter of the trailer, set up our two jacks on two opposite corners in the front, and distribute the wooden wedges used in leveling atop the cinder blocks. This alone took an hour of hard work and the sweat was pouring off us both.

The plan was to jack up the two front corners, build up a single stack of blocks, let the trailer back down on the stack, then move down about 10 feet and jack it up again, and continue down the length of the building until it was all about 2 or 3 inches clear of the trailer. We then planned to have “Larry” pull the trailer out slowly, and he could be on his way.

Following the removal of the trailer, we would then replace the corner stacks with double stack blocks all the way up…shim it, get the level bubbles close, and move on down the line. This plan worked well, at least for the trailer removal. The trailer was clear of the building and “Larry” honked his horn, waved his CAT hat, and was gone. We breathed a sigh of relief to be free of the trailer and the contractual obligation to have the trailer back in short order.

But now the long hard task of leveling and setting up the building permanently was ahead of us.

It was decided that we needed to get some support under the center of the structure before moving on to the permanent plan. So, I slid in under the building with no thought of danger, and began stacking block. Neither of us had noticed that the weight of the building was pushing the block stacks on one side slowing into the soft earth. Suddenly, and about the same instant, we noticed that the building was leaning hard to one side and was just moments from toppling off the blocks. Squeaky instinctively pushed hard against the side of the building, and at the same time I rolled to where I would at least be between two floor joists if it fell. Truth is, that would have meant I would have only been half crushed!

Strangely enough, Squeaky’s strength seemed enough to stop the slow tilt, or maybe he had some help from some angels, I don’t know! I took the pause in collapse to roll out from under the structure and jumped up to help him hold the building. The building seemed steady enough, so I also began to double stack blocks up about an inch higher than the bottom of the building. I then sat up one of the jacks on another stack of blocks, topped off with a cap block, and jacked until the building rested on the first double stack.

Soon we had one side, the sinking side, resting on four separate block pillars. We shifted to the other side and soon had everything resting comfortably and stably on double stacked blocks in permanent positions. The building, our pride, and my life were finally safe!

The building is still functioning today and rest beautifully on a complete block underpinning foundation. Every time I see it I’m reminded of what could have been.

Thanks Lin for reminding me, and thanks Squeaky for saving my life!


Scott from Oregon said...

Ha! My sister has a single wide garage that had a flat roof and a stucco front facade. The trouble was, it was eighty years old and had sunk in the adobe clay and was rotting around its perimeter. I decided to jack up the whole thing a foot, and then cut off the rotting studs and pour a small stem wall around the building.

I jacked the whole thing up onto two by fours, and the same thing happened. It started to fall over.

I was able to hold it up but then what? I was working alone. With a toe, I was able to drag another two by four to me, and it was just the right length to wedge between the leaning tower of pizza and the house. ONce I got it wedged and I could move around, I made more props and kept the building from toppling over...


Hammer said...

I've been under those things before setting up septic and leveling. It's not my favorite pastime.

I've seen one trailer and all fall into a septic tank. That was ugly.

Jerry said...

Glad you didn't get "mushed" under the trailer. We'd be calling you Mushy for sure.

Sounds like one of my Dad's projects.

Mushy said...

Scott - Great follow-up comment!

Hammer - Yes, I've dug a few septic tank and field lines too. We used to use 55-gal was good temp stuff in those days.

Jerry - Smashy...maybe!

Sarge Charlie said...

sometimes I wonder how the hell did we ever get old bro....

BRUNO said...

I used to have "balls of iron", too! Especially when it came to workin' under a car or truck, on a set of "all-natural-ingredients" jack-stands of cinder-block and wood.

Then one day, I awoke to find that those balls of iron had turned to LEAD, and were starting to corrode somethin' terrible....!

Mushy said...

Sarge - Ain't it the thought of danger or tomorrow.

Bruno - ...and hanging way too low!

Buck said...

Close and narrow escapes... like Sarge Charlie sez: it's a minor miracle we survived our youth, eh?

Debbie said...

God really does look out for us. His angels come in many forms, like Squeaky and Lin, maybe even Larry the Cable Guy?

I'm sure glad things turned out safely.

Debbie Hamilton
Right Truth

Les Becker said...

See, my dad would've just YELLED that building straight....

~Fathairybastard~ said...

Great story. Yep, the strength, or ignorance and brute force of youth got you far that day. Can't believe that place is still up and runnin'.

Lin said...

Darned lucky I knew this was a story from way back or I would have had a coronary!!! Considering all the stunts we've pulled, I've got to believe that angels helped get us this far at least.

That Larry sounds like the same guy who hauled our Rat into the canyon. And those auctioneers were scum for letting you bid yourself up like that and holding you to it - what a den of vipers!

Hey, how's our boy, Ron, doing?

david mcmahon said...

Drive a nail where?!!! We must be related. I'm a handyman to a certain extent, then I fall off the edge of a cliff!

Kathryn said...

So glad you didn't get mushed! Yipes!
I came over from authorblog. Love your blog! And love the poll on the side. I'm rooting for McCain as well. :)

Suldog said...

Thanks to Squeaky, indeed. We wouldn't have these great stories to read without his intervention.

By the way, don't know whether you intended this or it was typo, but I like it, either way! "Long story shot..."

Mushy said...

Thanks Sul!

Ralph said...

That bidding against yourself will get you everytime.
Looking back on our youth it does make you wonder how we survived some of the stupid stuff we "knew' we could do.

pat houseworth said...

Reminds me of the time at 10 years old that I was a minute from meeting my maker....crossing a deep feeder canal to the Gulf of Mexico in southwest cousin, who was 12, saved my sorry ass.....he later was killed in Vietnam while serving with the 101st Airborn.

I'll blog that one of these days........