Sunday, October 7, 2012

Decline and fall of the extension ladder

It was a pleasant thing, to wake up to the sound of birds singing and leaves rustling in the gentle Fall breeze, but the pillow felt harder than I recalled.  And then I wondered why I was taking a nap on the deck of my workshop. And why there was an extension ladder leaning at an odd angle nearby.

 Oh, yeah.  Something slipped out from under me while I was on the way up to the shop roof, ladder rung in one hand and a leaf blower in the other, bent on blowing the newly fallen leaves off the tar paper so I could start nailing down the permanent roof on the weather porch I was building over the barn-door end of the shop. There was that strange moment when I realizing the ladder wasn't quite under me anymore, and that hard moment when treated deck board met 66-year-old hip, shoulder and noggin, in that order. So I decided just to stay still a few moments.  What of it?

I've got a few bumps and scars from mishaps along the way -- the Elm Street pavement in Greensboro when I went flying out of a moving car as a child, the Page High School asphalt under my finger nails when a teenage prank went awry, a scary fall when I was working construction during college years and a brief bloody encounter with a woodworking joiner that sent little bits of my finger tips in surprising directions.  Now there's an ugly bruise and an annoying knot on my shoulder, but all I can think of is how lucky I've been in every one of those scrapes: No bones broken, only one concussion, perhaps some animated and colorful cussing from time to time. 

About 40 years ago my father-in-law< Hal Strickland, and I decided to go halves on a 32-foot extension ladder. Neither of us wanted to pay the full price for a ladder we'd use only a few times a year, but sharing the cost made it work.  One day he was up on the ladder in Greensboro trimming some limbs when the upper extension -- which he had failed to securely hook over the rung sides -- started collapsing. He rode it to the ground, breaking his hip in the process. We rushed over to Wesley Long Hospital and when we walked into his room, he looked at me and said, "My half of that ladder is now yours."

The ladder that went out from me the other day was not that same ladder, but I'm thinking about giving at least half of it away. I know how Hal felt.  This may be a lovely Fall, but I've had just about enough fall to last me a long time.

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