Last week was spring break. I took a few days off from work to spend some time at our place in the country, to finally start construction on the playhouse I had been promising my daughter for more years than I care to admit. I decided to keep it simple, and make it 8 ft. by 8 ft. by 8 ft. high, i.e. minimizing the number of cuts I would have to make utilizing 8 ft. lumber. The spot we had picked out for it was in a small clearing in front of the house. For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to do the actual construction elsewhere. My plan was to build each section on the flat concrete surface of the little patio behind our cottage, and carry these to the site, roughly 50 yards away. For the base, I decided to use eight 2 x 4’s, which I would cover with two sheets of exterior plywood.
Shortly after starting on it, my wife and daughter thought they might run into town, but were a bit hesitant to do so. My wife didn’t think it fair, or safe, to leave me there working by myself. You see, our country cottage is sequestered in the middle of nowhere, with no neighbors within shouting distance, and we don’t have a land line. Plus, cell phone coverage is spotty at best out there. In order to get a decent enough signal to make or receive a call, it is often necessary to walk around for quite a while until a bar will pop up, and then make a best-guess estimate of the satellite’s trajectory to track it while holding one arm at 85 degrees and hopping on one foot. I’m not sure why the hopping on one foot is necessary, but it does seem to help.
So, if I managed to injure myself (and seeing the array of power tools I had laid out, coupled with my inherent and inescapable clumsiness, her concern was not without merit) I could find myself in a rather unenviable position. But I assured her I didn’t mind them going, and said I would be extra careful not to chop off any important limbs.
The base went together easily enough, and now it was time to walk it over to the site, after which I would put the plywood over it. But with the 2 x 4’s being pressure treated (which they had to be, since they would be sitting directly on the ground) it turned out to be heavier than I had anticipated, and I found I could barely move it; the size didn’t help, either. Damn, I thought, what the hell am I going to do now? I remembered I had a platform dolly there, so I figured if I could get it on top of that, I might be able to wheel it over. It wouldn’t be easy, but it might work.
I managed to get it onto the dolly, but just barely. And due to its size, I was having a hell of a time keeping it from falling off. To make matters worse, the dolly refused to roll along the soft ground. While trying to hunch it forward and still keeping it on top, it suddenly wrenched out of my grasp, and down it came, right on top of my head. With each board weighing around 20 pounds, it amounted to 160 pounds dropping directly onto my noggin.
Everything went dark for about a second or three, but somehow it didn’t knock me out. Luckily for me, I am not only figuratively hard-headed, but literally as well. I once, in elementary school, fell head over ass down a flight of stairs, and only suffered a mild case of embarrassment. Years later I would be involved in an automobile accident when a tree jumped out in front of the car I was riding in, and although my scalp was split open from front to back by my head hitting the windshield (no seatbelt), I suffered no long-lasting ill effects—unless you count the shabby stitching the doctor did that night, leaving me with a long scar running the length of my head; but how was he to know I would later lose my hair? Besides, it does give me a rather sinister look that does come in handy at times.
As I stood there, dazed, shaking my head to stop the roaring and to clear the cobwebs, I was cognizant enough to realize two things: one, how lucky I was it didn’t knock me out (I’m not sure if such a blow could’ve finished me, but the thought crossed my mind) and two, I was a complete idiot. I then wondered how I was ever going to get it over to where I needed it. Taking it apart and rebuilding it at the site was not an option that occurred to me, apparently, as my next bright idea was trying to get it on the back of my truck, which I figured I could drive over close enough to manhandle it into place.
As I was trying to maneuver this behemoth onto my truck, it again slipped through my grasp, to land oh so delicately on top of my foot. Luckily, I was wearing steel-toed boots (unluckily, it landed just where the steel part wasn’t.) Where the previous incident had rendered me mute to express my outrage, now the words spewed forth. Completely losing what little composure I had left, and cursing a blue streak, I took the frame, and in a fit of rage, threw it to the ground, where it completely broke apart.
Sheer exhaustion and frustration from the morning’s events caused me to collapse on the ground. As I sat there rubbing my aching head with one hand, and gently massaging my throbbing foot with the other (luckily not broken), I looked at the pieces strewn on the ground in front of me. I came damn close to calling the whole thing quits right then and there. But then I thought of my daughter, who has been waiting so long for me to build this for her, and knew she would be devastated. I couldn’t give up. With a deep sigh, I picked myself up, loaded the pieces into the back of my truck, and drove over to the actual site, to start all over again.
When my wife and daughter got back later that day, I hadn’t planned on telling them of my misfortunes. But the large knot on my head and the limp gave me away. As I reluctantly regaled my tale, my daughter started crying, blaming herself. “It’s because I had to have a playhouse that my daddy almost died!” she wailed. I hugged her, and assured her that was not the case at all, that my injuries had not been life-threatening, just possibly crippling. And that it had only been through my own stupidity that I had suffered them in the first place.
The next couple of days I was so sore (never mind my head and foot, which only mildly bothered me—the constant kneeling down and getting up I had to do left my legs and butt muscles so overworked I could barely move the next morning), I wasn’t able to do any more, and had to leave it in its current state, which consists of a floor, with three bare wall frames. But at least I’ve finally got a good start on it. A few more trips down there, and I should be able to knock it out (and hopefully, avoid knocking myself out.)
Once it’s done and painted pink (daughter’s choice, of course) I look forward to having a spot of tea in it with my daughter and her dolls. In the playhouse that almost killed me.