By Marty Russell
The great H.L. Mencken, one of the best opinion writers of all time, once said, “Any man who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood.” Amen to that. I am constantly assailed by readers who question my motives, logic, reasoning and, occasionally, my mother’s marital status at the time of my birth, which it just so happens was 54 years ago next week.
When I first started doing this some 25 years ago, that constant barrage of attacks on my positions and opinions caused me to question myself a lot until I realized that if you can’t trust your own work and ideas then maybe you don’t belong in this business.
I was thinking about this the other day as I was holding a 4-foot by 8-foot construction of 2x4s and plywood upright and trying to position it on a narrow 2×4 on the edge of a 12-foot drop straight down into a sea of poison ivy, snakes, chiggers and ticks. I kept thinking that everything would be all right as long as the foundation held. But this nagging thought kept popping into my head – I built the foundation.
Now many of you may be wondering, as I have, what the bloody hell a 54-year-old man is doing attempting to single-handedly build a house. To the best of my recollection, it was at my wife’s request. She fancies herself an artiste and, over the years, her easels, paints, canvases and what-not have gradually taken over a large part of the house. So I agreed to build her a studio, a 14-foot by 20-foot home for her hobby.
Unfortunately, we live on a wooded hill, a rather steep, heavily wooded hill, which meant the cabin had to be built on stilts to be level. One end is at ground level while the other end is about 12 feet off the ground. With my wife’s help, we’ve been building the walls in 4-foot by 8-foot sections with plywood sheathing already attached because of the height.
If you figure that a 2×4 weighs about 10.5 pounds and a 4-foot by 8-foot piece of sheathing weighs about 50 pounds then I figure each wall panel we put up weighed about a ton. And each had to be picked up and placed – very carefully – on a 2×4 base on the very edge of the foundation with a very large and scary void just 4 inches away.
As I said, I kept telling myself everything would be OK as long as the foundation didn’t shift or collapse under the weight of each new wall section. If it failed, then I had no one to blame but myself because I built it.
I’m happy to report that, out of 18 total wall sections, all but three are up and still standing. We’ll see about those last three and whether I make it to 54 or not.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University MS 38677 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org