For Want of an Air Conditioner, Part 1

This column first appeared in the Shed Builder Magazine in February 2017. It is the first of three installments of this story. You can also find it in chapter 11 of my first book, Three Men and a Barrel.

                Our on-site truck is getting on up in age and miles and has been for several years. It is a great truck for going out on location and constructing a building. The tool bed allows us to keep our guns, hoses, saws, nails, hand tools, etc., stocked and ready. All the extra dents and dings give it character. By most measurements, it is a great truck. However, the air conditioner doesn’t work.

                In July 2014 I was assigned to join my crew leader – who shall remain unnamed – on an on-site job in rural Oklahoma. He loaded up the day before the job was scheduled, and early the next morning we set out for Newalla, OK.

Newalla is a sprawling place with an estimated population of over 9,000. There is one gas station. That’s all. I’m not kidding. I asked the cashier where Newalla was, and she said, “This is it.” It is a huge unincorporated area just outside of Oklahoma City, populated with folks who love rural life but work in the city.

As we arrived and began to unstrap, I had a feeling this job was going to be tough. The carry in was pretty long (I timed it and it took almost a minute, loaded, to walk from the truck to the build site) and littered with stumps, brush piles, and other debris. A tornado had come through recently and they were still cleaning up. Oh, well. You gotta do what you gotta do, right?

So, I grabbed the skids and headed on down to the site. I won’t bore you with the details. Basically, just repeat the first sentence of this paragraph substituting other building components for “skids” about a hundred times. We stopped for lunch, at Newalla’s only gas station, and then went back to work. While I had been carrying all the stuff in, my crew leader had been assembling the shed. After lunch, I joined him building and we made progress quickly. Soon, we were ready to put the trim on the end of the shed.

I should mention here that the back of the shed was about three feet off the ground, while the front was sitting on the ground. To say that we hadn’t brought enough concrete blocks would be an understatement. It was already clear that we would be returning the next day to finish blocking up the building, even if we finished everything else.

My boss climbed the ladder and began installing the rake trim. Uh-oh… The trim was cut for a 10’ wide building and we were building a 12’ wide. Unfortunately, we had forgotten our board stretcher and we didn’t have any extra material with us for trim. By this time it was mid-afternoon. In July in Oklahoma in mid-afternoon it is HOT! After visiting about it for a few minutes, we decided to load up and go home. (I’m not saying the heat had anything to do with our decision, but I’m not saying it didn’t either)

We determined that we would return in the morning, fresh and invigorated, with a helper. It would be easy to finish the shed the next day. After all, we were almost ready to start paint prep! Tools were put away, the backyard was cleaned and straightened, and away we went.

My crew leader – who shall remain unnamed – decided that we should bring our little F-150 the next day rather than the tool truck. Why? Air conditioning! If only we had known the consequences of choosing comfort over practicality…

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