Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Morning Stories with Mookie - Episode 30

The Time Mookie Painted The Buildings On Grandpa's Farm

Back in July I was visiting with my Dad, and he was telling me about what parts of the buildings on his farm he had painted so far this summer.  My parents now live on the farm where my grandparents lived (and where my Dad grew up).  In recalling all the times he had painted the buildings, and the times they have been painted otherwise, Dad asked me how long ago it was when Grandpa had me paint them for him.  I thought for a moment, and realized it was pretty much exactly twenty years ago to the month.  The memories easily flowed back as Dad and I re-shared our stories (I'm sure we've told each other the same story several times).  Right then, I decided I needed to write down my story.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do and always will.

It was the summer after I had just graduated high school, and my Grandpa Glenn asked me if I would help him paint all the buildings on his farm.  I had never done any extensive painting of....well...anything really, but I thought it would be fun.  Plus, I had never helped my Grandpa with any big project like this before - so that was exciting too.  So with no hesitation, I say I will do it.

After I agreed to do it, Grandpa told me to make sure I "kept track of my hours."  I had a feeling that maybe that meant that he was going to pay me for my work, but I didn't ask because I didn't want to be greedy or unappreciative.  And if he didn't pay me... well..I got to help my Grandpa for several days - which in hindsight was the most rewarding part of it all.

Grandpa had 4 buildings to paint: a corn crib, a hog house, a machine shed, and a barn.  All of it was "barn red" with white trim.  It was a mildly daunting task as both the barn and the corn crib were not small buildings by any means, and required high ladder work.  While the idea of getting up on a rickety old 30-foot high ladder was intimidating, the biggest intimidation was that I knew my Grandpa liked things done a "certain way."  So really.....I just wanted to make sure I did a good job so that my grandfather didn't think his grandson was a dumbass.

Those high spots don't paint themselves....
I showed up my first day, dressed in clothes I know are going to get trashed: Old t-shirt, cut-off shorts made from old weight lifting pants, and old high top sneakers.  I'm sure Grandpa thought "What the hell?"  But I was ready.  First we started with the white trim around the hog house, most of which was reachable with little to no ladder work.  Grandpa said to make sure I do my "best work" on the front of the buildings and the parts that could be seen from the road.  Grandpa liked his farm to look neat and presentable, so I did the best I could even though my only real painting experience to that point was on model cars and planes.  After that, I did the white parts under the eaves and all of the trim on the corn crib.  This took a bit longer because it took me up a ladder about 10-15 feet minimum.  Paint paint paint.  Get down.  Move ladder 3 feet.  Climb ladder.  Paint paint paint.  The north and south ends of the corn crib were the tallest, and went up 25-30 feet.  While I am not afraid of heights, standing on a bouncy old wooden rung extension ladder that high in the air and reaching up painting over your head is not what I would call a walk in the park.  It took some getting used to.

I finished the white trim on all the buildings in a few days, and was ready to move to a new color - RED.  Grandpa had went and bought a five-gallon bucket of red barn paint, and a gallon of "boiled linseed oil."  Apparently the linseed oil helps make the paint "look better and last longer".  I had no idea about any of it, so I was in no place to ask questions.  He showed me how to pour the red paint into my bucket, pour in an approximate amount of the linseed oil, and then mix it.  His method of mixing was a two-foot long pole with a "T" end on it - attached to a drill.  So I had to make sure I mixed my paint with this little electric helicopter every time I got a new bucket of paint.  For the first day, Grandpa was watching to make sure I "got enough linseed in there."  After awhile, I wondered why he didn't just pour all the linseed oil into the five gallon bucket after I had taken a couple buckets of red paint out of it.  But again, I didn't feel like I was in a place to question the old guy.  I'm sure he learned this "technique" from his Dad, and I KNOW my Dad had heard it too in his years on the farm.  Grandpa had a way to go about everything, and that was the way we did it.

Over the next few days, I knocked out the hog house and the machine shed due to their low-to-the-ground nature.  The paint that was already on the buildings was old, cracked, and flaky.  Grandpa told me to swipe the brush a few times across the boards before really painting them, and knock off the loose flakes.  The end result of this action usually resulted in me being covered in paint and paint chips because the flaky chips would fly everywhere.  Once I finished those two buildings, then I tackled the barn.  While it was a big building, it was a fairly easy paint job and only took me a few days to do.  The barn was out in the middle of the cattle lot, and received no mid-day sun shade on the south or west side.  I was already sporting a good sunburn on the back of my neck and legs from facing the other buildings, but the south side work fried me pretty good.

The last building we tackled, was the corn crib.  This building was by far the tallest.  Plus, on top of the crib was a cupola.  Grandpa had already told me that he wasn't going to let me paint it, and that my Dad could do it.  This led to a funny exchange when Grandpa told Dad that he wanted him to paint the cupola instead of having me do it.  Dad of course asked "why" because he must have thought I was able to do it.  Grandpa's response was "I don't know what I would do if he fell off of there and got hurt."  To which my Dad responded with an exasperated "What about me??  What if I fall off???"  Grandpa's logic was that my Dad had done it before, so he'd be OK.

Grandpa decided he "needed" to help me do the north and south ends of the crib as they were the high parts.  He must have felt uncomfortable having me up that high, and likewise, I was pretty uncomfortable with the old guy that high up on a ladder.  On the 2nd day of painting north end (the high part), it was apparent Grandpa had done some painting after I had left the previous day.  When I was ready to pick up where I left off, I noticed that sections of the higher parts were miraculously "done." When I told him he shouldn't be up on the ladder painting that high, he dismissed my concerns with an "Aww I'll be alright."  He also said it with a smile that told me he was going to do it no matter what anyone said about it.

What made his work even more difficult was that he had chronically horrible knees from all his years of working on the farm.  He had gone to the doctor one particular morning about them, and then was on the ladder painting with me as soon as he got home.  It was getting close to Noon and my lovely "Grandma Mary" walked out to let us know it was time for lunch.  Seeing him up on the ladder - which she didn't approve of - she began to "pick" at my Grandpa like she always did.  He would return her nitpicking with his classic ornery behavior.  She had this priceless scoffing "Oh" noise she would make when she was perturbed about something - which most of the time was something Grandpa was stubbornly doing.

GMA:  "(Scoff) Gleeeennnn!  Get down from there.  You shouldn't be up there!  Listen, what did the doctor say about your leg?

GPA:  "He told me to get back up on that ladder and finish painting."

GMA:  "(Scoff) Oh he did not!"

Looking back at it, their bickering was high comedy.  I remember one time they both went a whole day calling each other an "ass" for some reason.  It of course was all out of love, and they were married almost 66 years before Grandma passed.  Every one of my immediate relatives has a classic story of their priceless bickering.

We eventually finished up all the buildings, and Dad "got" to paint the cupola shortly thereafter.  Grandpa asked me if I had been keeping track of my hours, to which I had.  He took my "time sheet" into his den, did some quick math and presented me a check with an amount that represented a very kind hourly rate.  While it was much more difficult work, it was easily better than working the Hardee's drive-thru.  Plus there was the reward of spending time with my Grandpa, and a job-well done.  Well, at least I hope it was. I always figured he would have told me if he thought otherwise, but then again he was a nice guy and may have just enjoyed our time like I did.

"Grandpa Glenn" passed away two years ago today (08/20/2010).  He was quite a guy, and truly one-of-a-kind.  While I have multiple stories about him, painting with him that summer will always stand out for me as one of my favorites.

Grandpa watching the ballgame (at volume of 9 on a 10 scale) and telling me about the Cubs game from last night.
This is the last picture I took of him - on 06/23/2010 - less than two months before he died.

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