Each night the Habitat people planned a different activity. On Monday night Miss America sang in an auditorium. I don't know if anyone went. It began at 7pm- we didn't finish working until 9 that night. Tuesday night was a piano recital; In three words: I think not. I don't know if anyone went to that either. Thursday night the town of Americus stayed open late. Volunteers got discounts at the stores that stayed open. Their downtown consisted of about two square blocks of small shops. I bought a hamburger at the fire department's cookout. After about twenty minutes of shopping at a baseball card store (buying Ryne Sandburg and Ozzie Smith cards :-) I was bored. I decided to walk back to the construction site- some of the guys were working late. As I was leaving for the day the guys who were staying late told me to bring beer if I came back. That was against the rules but what were they going to do fire us? The town was about a six block walk from the site with a small liquor store conveniently located along the way. I picked up a couple of six packs.
When I showed up the guys were just about done working. The lower kitchen cabinets had to be in place that night so the plumber could set the sink. Professionals (plumbers, electricians, tile and carpet installers) would pull all niters doing the things you wouldn't want amateurs doing. Certain things had to be completed each day before we could leave so the elves would be able to do their work. We sat on our porch drinking beer, laughing and making fun of the less skilled workers on our team. We toasted the workers working on the house next door. Their house was made from metal two by fours. There were quite far behind schedule. The drywall and roof sheathing took them longer since they had to use self tapping screws instead of nail. (Most volunteers could operate a hammer while surprisingly few could operate a cordless drill.) Their line of battery rechargers for the cordless drills that was a couple of feet long. A picture of them all lined up would have made a good ad for their manufacturers.
We were exchanging construction stories so I told them about my father. He is from the 'get a bigger hammer' school when things don't fit right. I had the other guys rocking with laughter telling them about the time he put in his kitchen cabinets. He bought some really beautiful cherry cabinets and installed them himself. He called me up and asked me to help. By the time I got there he was just about done. Everything was fine except that the end cabinet stuck out too far. It went about a half inch into the doorway to the family room. If you were walking into the kitchen you'd bump into the side of the last cabinet. Instead of taking them down or trimming the edge of the cabinet he rigged up a bunch of two by fours. I'd draw it but it was in 3-d. His structure was cube shaped filling the kitchen. When I got there he was using an eight foot long two by four as a lever. His structure was the pivot point pushing the line of cabinets. This embedded the first cabinet into the drywall in the corner! It was half inch drywall so he just kept on pushing his lever until the gap disappeared. I don't think you would see anything like it on This Old House. Fortunately he didn't damage the cabinets. If anyone ever takes them down they will wonder why the first cabinet is set into the drywall!
By the time the beer was gone it was dark and I had a million mosquito bites. There wasn't much humor that week working in eighty degree heat trying to build a house in five days. That night was truly memorable.
On Friday they had a kind of thank you show. Some of the new home owners performed. There was a little black woman who sang a song she wrote. She had a boom box playing some sappy instrumental music. It was a Whitney Housten like ballad. Later this enormous black woman (KoKo Taylor size- at least 200 pounds) belted out a song she wrote. She sang without any music and had quite a voice. The place went crazy when she was done. That night was the dedication. They had the thirty families get on stage. There were about a hundred and twenty people who now had new homes. I completely missed the OJ Highway show that was on that night. When I got home a few days later people could not believe I did not know about OJ. They wanted to know what planet I had gone to on my vacation. Naturally I said "To Georgia".
Copyright © 1997, Russ Allen; All rights reserved.
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