Saturday, July 9, 2011

Just what every good renovation needs....

During June of 2011, there were a lot of "Severe Storm Warnings".   Occasionally a bit of hail arrived or hard rains, flooding and lightning.  The end of the month was no different... the warnings continued but this time the storms looked like they would all drop north of Quincy.  As people and storms often do... this one changed it's mind and plowed right on through.  As they hit Quincy, IL the local news stations talked it up - Quincy, Quincy, Quincy!  With radio on and keeping the storms in mind I left Hannibal for the usual smooth trip to Shelbina.  What I would soon discover was that there had been two tornados hit the town!  The first clue hit when I realized both the Caseys and Ayerco were closed.  Then I noticed a few limbs down at the library, but thought... no big deal.   Turning west off Center Street twice and finding both streets closed, it dawned on me that there was a problem.  I managed to find an opening on College Street by going the wrong way through the bus dropoff road at the grade school.  Finally, at the corner of College and Shelby, I could see the Benjamin House!
From a distance the house looked intact, but the yard itself was a war zone of broken trees and hanging limbs.  One 50' tall sycamore tree had been transformed into a telephone pole with a few sprigs at the very top.  The driveway was blocked by several fallen limbs and the power line was down with limbs toppled over it.  The back yard mirrored the mahem.

The house itself had battled bravely, marred by three exploded windows in the belvedere, a toppled chimney, and broken ceiling joists (that the fallen chimney had taken with it).  In most homes a chimney repair would be pretty straight forward.  With the added challenge that it is 40' from the ground and 2' from the edge of the roof.... not as easy.  That said, the roof and I have spent some quality time together over the last couple years so I dutifully called the insurance agent in the hopes that I could quickly help the house recover.

When the agent arrived he dutifully climbed up several flights of narrow staircases and proceeded to take a picture of the fallen chimney from the confines of the belvedere.  When I suggested climbing out a window onto the roof to get a better picture, the agent quickly declined and started down the stairs with a pace that rivaled Mr. Benjamin's abrupt appearance in Shelbina.   Something akin to "get estimates" floated over his shoulder as he left the house and I was left with a little extra remodeling in my already busy house plans.

The clean up was hard, but made easier by help from C.W. Wood's crew from the lumber yard and a couple of South Shelby's baseball pitchers - Chase Gaines and Wyett Proper.  There were two interesting moments along the way though....

The first came when I tied a log chain to a big limb hanging from the south-side Oak tree.  The theory was to pull out at the bottom and the top (heavy end) would topple backwards toward the tree.  Good theory, but when I began to pull, I could see the guys looking quizzically at the huge limb then at the chain-pulling blazer.  I played a lot of baseball and basketball, so my team instinct quickly told me that something was falling toward someone on the ground... much as a fly ball or a rebound might.  Unfortunately that someone was ME and I did not want to "catch a tree".  Like a participant in the Indy 500 my foot hit the gas pedal in the Blazer.  As I pulled away, a thud sounded right behind me. Whew, it had missed the truck by only 3 feet!

The second moment that stands out involved the replacement of the chain on the chainsaw.  Given the near miss car/tree incident and knowing my limitations I left this task to the professionals.  Chase being mechanically inclined quickly had the chainsaw apart to replace the chain.  While he fed the chain around the drive sprocket, Wyett guided the chain onto the groove in the bar.  Watching this take place I felt as though I needed to provide my own talents to the mix so, in my loudest and best imitation, I spewed a BBRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.  Their youthful reaction time had them both recoiled back like the saw had come to life in their hands before the third "R" rolled out of my mouth.  Needless to say, they gave me "the look" when I started to "LOL".   Old "1" - Young "0".

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't learn something from this project... some days it's how to plaster this or repair that... but most often it's bigger than that.  This week perhaps my lesson is that life often throws you an unexpected mess - cleanup may be hard but along the way it reveals your talents in a new way and makes memories that you are not likely to forget.

Thanks to all who helped us through this unexpected mess!

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