New Building --Old Building

I really did not want to admit that my Olympic comparison and contrast paper was so bad, but it was. I hated it when I started it and I hated it while I was writing it, but it was my paper. I did not really care whether the athletes were paid or not, but it was an idea, although obviously not a very good one.

During the one-and-one-half-hour drive home, I have tried to think about something-- anything to write about but have managed to come up with zero. I considered city life versus country life, but Donna is writing about country life. Lori is writing about her family's gardening adventures, and I really dislike city life and would be miserable trying to write about it.

The next thing that I thought about was "To Be or Not To Be." Was I ever desperate? About this time I decided that I should have stayed in Valdosta to watch the Torch runner. I possibly could have compared the torch being carried through the small town of Nicholls at night to the torch being carried through the small city of Valdosta during the day. Then I decided that beating the sight of the Olympic Flame blazing against the hot, black, southern, night sky of Georgia would have been awfully hard. Lord, I AM running out of ideas. I did not realize that my life was so empty of comparisons and contrasts.

What am I going to write about? I wondered.

"Write about something you know," Dr. Mark Smith advised.

Well, while washing the supper dishes, I discovered that it was before my very eyes--my comparison and contrast subject: the new building versus the old building.

The old building was unique to almost everyone who saw it. It was built out of logs and had begun as a tobacco pack house. It had been converted to a storage building when our house was built some years ago. It had a tin roof, no windows, a back door that was nailed shut, and a wide front opening with no door, and a homemade ramp which was made from a piece of plywood placed at the door opening with the other end placed on the ground. The main problem with the old building was that it was worn out. The logs were rotten to the core. The roof was rusted and the huge logs on the sides were breaking apart. Everyone entering that building literally put his life in danger. Every time I walked through the door opening, I could visualize the headlines in the local paper!

"Local third grade teacher killed when storage building collapses," it would read.

My husband and I discussed the need for a new building and decided that the time had arrived. I wonder what our neighbors thought when we moved the Jeep with its original 1970 Willis motor and our grill on wheels from under the car shelter to a spot beside the shelter. I wonder what they thought when we started moving all the contents from the building and began placing them under the car shelter. I really wonder what they thought when we set the old building on fire. We decided that burning it would be easier than tearing it down and having to move the materials to the city dump. The old building became much like most of my ideas for this paper--ignited, burned, and turned to ashes.

The next job was to measure for the new building. The original idea was to make the new building 18 feet by 20 feet, the same size as the old one; but for some reason known only to my husband and youngest son, the building began to grow. The new building would be 20 feet by 26 feet. While they measured, staked, and put up string, I began to worry about the sanity of my entire family. Had we gone mad?

Next was the part that my husband said he could not do. He knew that he could not lay the cement blocks and pour the cement for the foundation and floor. So we called Jimbo to the rescue. Now Jimbo knew his stuff. We hired him on the spot. Jimbo brought his Mexican helper over to lay the blocks, my husband and three sons hauled the free sand from the creek bank and filled in the inside area of the building's foundation, and, finally, the cement mixer--the truck--arrived. Jimbo spread the cement out, leveling it as he went. The foundation was completed.

My husband and I then made "the journey." Prices for building supplies were too expensive in Douglas, so we borrowed a farm trailer from a neighbor and away we went to West Lumber Company in Valdosta. I have three sons, and I have made the mistake of taking them to a toy store, but that experience could never compare to taking my husband to West Lumber Company. He became a wild man. The clerk's salary must have been determined by the amount of his sales because he kept agreeing that my husband did need this and this and this and this. I choked as each swirl of my pen wrote the numbers on the check for our building supplies. I commented that we were still under budget as my husband and I were driving home with my husband's prize and my gold proudly placed on the borrowed trailer. I should have known by my husband's lack of comment and the look on his face that was not to be the case.

The sides of our new building would no longer be made of logs but would be made of four by eight feet exterior sheeting. My husband and I had thought that we would put a window on each of the two sides of the building and one window on the back of the building. My husband and three sons agreed on the building plans except that my youngest son, the policeman, refused to put a window in the back of the new building. He felt that this would invite a thief to break in and steal the contents of the building.

I remember pondering the irony of the situation: he is worried about someone's stealing the contents of the building, the same contents that were in an old building that had no door and are now under the car shelter that does not even have sides on it.

The problem was soon solved. The men decided to put a window on each side and two in the front. Now we would have to buy one more window because we only purchased three, and we certainly did want the front of the building to be balanced. I was wondering if my "family" was still balanced. On our second trip to West Lumber Company, we bought the extra window and the roofing supplies.

About this time, I noticed the roles of helper and boss being exchanged. My husband became the helper and my youngest son became the boss. My husband had no problem exchanging roles because he admitted that he was afraid of heights. The roof soon went on. My three sons laid the shingles although Chris had to do the edges while the two older young men sat and scooted across the roof and refused to go near the edge.

Unlike the old building, the new building had four windows, a shingled roof (one of my requirements), a double door in the front, and a cement ramp so that I can drive my lawn mower in and out of the building. The contents of the car shelter have now been moved into the safety of the new building. The Jeep with its original Willis motor and our grill on wheels have been moved back to the car shelter, and life is back to normal at our house. The neighbors are delighted to see the new building finished, which could lead to another story, probably a totally different version than what this one is. Our new building is now a beautiful new and improved version of the old building.

Joan Elrod