One Man Milks a Cow With Ease

The Other Steals Her Butter and Cheese

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Hello, Muleteers, and welcome to Tuesday, and I mean that with an ardent enthusiasm.

True to my word, I have traveled to my hometown to work a few days on my brother’s new project, a garage with a bedroom above it. It’s been a long time since I got to do any framing carpentry, and I was just losing my mind with jealousy corresponding with him, hearing about the relative progress on this attached house addition. I simply had to fly here and take part in the fun, and it reminds me of how my friend James makes fun of me because I go and do arduous work with people as a form of vacation. You can read about this in part 2 of my latest book, Where the Deer and the Antelope Play, but he said it to me when we were spending a few hours splitting firewood in his very chilly barn, after we had been out in the freezing rain for a couple hours mending a stacked stone wall that an impressive Herdwick sheep had forcibly kicked over. In other words, on a dream vacation.

What I realized here, standing in my brother’s half-built garage, is that I really do treasure this specific activity: working hard with hard workers who like to work hard. I have fallen prey in the past to the idea that “amusement” is a quantity that must be purchased from people who provide it, based on the specialized talents that they make available to us via the “amusement industry”.

As fun as a roller coaster might be, what I have since learned is that nothing beats (for me) working hard with others, while we tell stories and appreciate each other on many levels. I made new friends on the garage project, and was also reacquainted with old work buddies from over 30 years ago. We did some great work, and we also made some mistakes, but none that couldn’t be corrected. “You can’t see it from Route 80” is a common refrain. There is something alchemical about making an accurate circular saw cut in less-than-ideal conditions, or laying out floor sheeting using math that works…eventually. We all have our own peculiar techniques, but we all get the job done. Often, we need two or three or seven of us to pitch in together, to sling heavy sheets of plywood or hoist up massive joist trusses and laminated beams. Seven of us would utilize a scaffold to place one end of a beam atop a nine foot wall, then a giant man named Nate who played football for Wyoming would elevate the other end of the beam above his head while the six other men would giggle, because he had lifted it above our reach, and thus our ability to help, but he actually didn’t need it. Doing good work is fun, and when you’re done, you have a garage and you have friends.

Three proud Offerman laborers. I’m in the top 3! Matt, my bouncing baby brother, Ric, my Dad, and your satisfied donkeyish correspondent. Photo: Pat McEvilly

Friends and neighbors generously come by and donate hours of their days without thinking of asking for a cent. My mom makes lunch, namely Italian beef and local bratwurst, with pickled veggies from their bountiful garden (cukes, peppers, onions, with fresh dill), and homemade cookies and muffins for dessert.

My family engenders a lot of good will, simply by behaving like good neighbors, and it shows when acquaintances come by to pitch in and share in the sense of good health that comes from working together to take care of a portion of the community. Matt, my brother, works at the local craft beer watering hole, Iron & Glass, where the volunteer garage crew members will be well-treated by him, certainly, but a few free beers, or a milkshake of any sort, is not what brings all the carpenters to his yard. It’s fellowship, except however you say that without genderization. Companionship.

This has been a word in support of behaving like a community of good neighbors, rather than isolationists. I am absolutely guilty at times of putting my (figurative, solipsistic) walls up, but I love to be reminded by occasions like today that doing the right work, the good work, with others, with affection, is the best amusement of all.

Love,

I’m making this post available to everyone. I hope the enjoyment that I got out of my work in the Illinois sun is somewhat palpable, and maybe it will inspire you to tackle a project that you’ve been putting off. Don’t be afraid to invite your neighbors, and don’t pay them their beer until the last SkilSaw is unplugged and the last ladder descent has been achieved.

Thank you for all of the great questions from the last post, I can’t wait to dig into them. If you want to ask a question, leave it in the comments, and let me know where you’re from, please and thank you.

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Absolute heaven. Look at all of that proper safety equipment! 📷: Matt Mailman