My childhood was quite an unusual and interesting one (read: fun). Some might even say amazing. I spent much of it learning unconventional things from a true-to-life DIY'er, my dad. He has challenges like anyone else, but despite the looming roadblocks, he always finds creative and innovative ways around problems, to this day. If you're wondering, yes that is me in the photo, at around age ten I think.
One memory in particular that stands out in my mind was the time when we moved into a split-level home in a decent neighborhood amidst the temperamental spring-time weather. Oddly enough, the previous owner of our home had never taken care of the backyard very well, which contained an ornate Japanese-style garden complete with a large 12 foot square (approx.) pagoda we called "the shed."
Next to the shed was a rock about three feet in diameter if I remember right, which we affectionately dubbed "the meteorite." Even stranger, was an irregularly shaped concrete Japanese fish pond with severely chipped paint set down into the yard about two feet deep or so, right next to "the meteorite." Beyond the pond, there was yard of overgrown grass all the way to the other side of the yard, which featured a dying pear tree and grape vines that actually had seeded grapes in summertime.
The problem with this ill-kept former Japanese shrine of a backyard was that my father (being the handy DIY'er that he is) wanted a garage to further his evil plot of DIY world domination or something, as any self-respecting DIY'er in America would. The shed, the meteorite, and the pond were all squarely in the way of building a garage at the end of our driveway on the right side of the house.
Being a productive member of the middle-class, and not being made of money, my Dad decided to do what he could to clear space for a garage to be built where the shed was, at as little cost as possible. He didn't build the garage himself out of practicality but clearing the way for the garage to be built took enough DIY magic of its own.
Instead of calling someone who happened to own a giant crane and could complete the job in a matter hours, my Dad decided he would use brains, namely his and mine, as an ample substitute for the required brawn to complete this massive (by my estimations as a 10 year old) undertaking with almost no help. My Dad went to work, and borrowed three or four telephone poles and a 2" thick nylon rope to help with the project. How you "borrow" telephone poles and from whom I will never know, but I guess you could say my Dad had "connections." Not connections with a giant crane, but connections none the less.
Moving this pagoda (shed) is much harder than it looks at first, as I learned in the coming days. It was much like going on a bear hunt, in that you can't go over a meteorite, or under it, you have to move it. Did I mention it was muddy and raining the entire time we attempted this feat?
To begin this giant game of prehistoric Tetris, we had to move the meteorite out of the way of the imminent "transit of the shed" across the yard. Using larger dowel rods (circular shaped wooden poles) and wooden planks, we used a automotive jack to raise the meteorite onto a 2x10" plank and began the lengthy process of inching it across the yard. A bunch of the borrowed 2" nylon rope was wrapped strategically around the meteorite and connected to the chain-link fence's main support pole via a come-along. This provided fairly smooth transit across the soggy, muddy yard long softened by the springtime rains. After a day or two of winching, tightening, readjusting, and replacing the wooden dowels every few feet to keep the planks rolling along, we made it to the other side of the yard with the meteorite. Ever moved a meteorite? I have. Once that was done, it was time to exhume the offending and extremely paint-chipped concrete pond from our beloved backyard.
To do this, my Dad hooked the large nylon rope to the back of our family vehicle, our van. He then connected the other end of the rope to the rear edge of the pond, farthest from the van. My Dad had me dig underneath the pond a little bit to insert a full length 2x4 board as a pry-lever to coax this concrete pond out of the ground "nicely" as Dad put it. He got in the van, and slowly starting tugged on the pond with the van in drive tightening the rope around the edge of the pond, with me yanking on the ply-lever of a board with all my ten-year-old might.
More than once the pond raised up out of the hole slightly, and enough for me to jab my board into the opening further, only to slide back in and rest on my board, causing it to nearly knock me off my feet as the board came at me very quickly. Most of these attempts on my life by the pond's momentum I evaded effectively. I was hanging by my monkey-arms from the 10' board and bouncing with all of my weight trying to get the least little nudge that would begin to exhume the vehement pond. With a sudden movement the pond shot out of the ground and took off skidding after my van-driving Dad, trying to take out its wrath on him, while almost clocking me up the side of my head with the 2x4 and knocking me back. The pond was out, we had won the fight, and in my mind, we had picked up big points in the war between man and inanimate objects. Mankind, I thought, should be grateful we were on its side.
Now with the pond defeated we began work on removing that mountainous shed that stood in the way of every man's right and dream, his own garage, and more importantly, his own space for stuff. This was serious, because now my friend, it was personal. I wasn't about to let my stand-off with concrete in the "Battle of Pavement Pond" be for naught. The shed must move over!
We raised the shed on jacks, and inserted the borrowed telephone poles. The word "inserted" I use lightly, since this took several hours for each pole. Jacking up one side, proping up another, then pushing the pole with all our might through the mud, rinse and repeat. Once that was done, we inserted tire irons (usually used to remove the lug nuts from the tires on your car) into drilled holes and some pre-existing ones to literally muscle the shed over to its new home using primitive yet effective Egyptian methods. One of our problems was that the shed was all rotted-out underneath, which made inserting the telephone poles very difficult at best.
In the end we triumphed over the thing that stood between us and the bliss of the garage (read: man-cave) to be built on that sacred ground we had just cleared. In the rarified air of our back yard that day, I saw my father for the DIY hero he really is, and how nothing can defeat you if don't let it (warning: life lesson). Sure, my Dad could have given up his dream in exchange for a mediocre existence as a garage-less man, but he didn't. He showed me true strength and wisdom that day, as well as critical thinking, his indomitable spirit, and how to live, courageously.
I will never forget his example, and the uncommon notion that nothing can elude me if I press on, push harder and work smarter than whatever I am up against, true to the DIY attitude and spirit. When my adult life gets hard, I think of him and his quiet tenacity, out-thinking any problem he comes up against. His example is what I live by today, and it is what makes me good at troubleshooting and other problems of considerable difficultly.
Thanks Dad, I appreciate all you've taught me, and I owe you one.