Up on the Roof

by Catman

Tags: mt/ft, Fiction,

Desc: Fiction Story: A college degree seems to be the only way to find a job these days. What happened to the Hard Work method used by past generations? Can a working man still make a living?

I grew up in a small town of less than two thousand mostly older folks. The young people had to leave to find jobs, they would graduate one day and be gone the next. One of the neighbors I did yard work for told me, James my boy, only two good things ever came out of this town and that’s the highway going north and the highway going south. With a shortage of young people to do hard work, if you were willing to do it you could stay busy. I learned a lot of skills from old guys who had the know how, but did not have the energy. In our town I was the plumber, carpenter, electrician, painter, cement finisher, roofer, gardener, and mechanic. I traded labor for an old pickup and started driving when I was somewhere around twelve. I suppose the Law would have stopped me if we had any but if you drove like you had a little sense nobody said anything.

I did get my license when I was sixteen and Mom was glad that she didn’t have to drive the twenty miles to Home depot in the next town to get supplies for me. It was a few months after getting my license that Mr. Arnold passed away and Mrs. Arnold told me that if I would get her house ready to sell that she would give me his pickup and camper. The pickup was a three year old Chevrolet ¾ ton with a slide in camper and I told her it was worth more money than I would charge her to fix up her house. She insisted so I told her to talk to at least three or four people that she trusted to see what they thought. We came to an agreement that she would talk to Reverend White and my parents, if everyone agreed then I would do it.

The meeting with Reverend White, Mrs. Arnold, and my folks didn’t last put a few minutes. Mrs Arnold told them that she was going to do it and although she would listen to what they had to say, she wanted me over at her house in the morning to help her sort out what she wanted to keep and what she wanted to sell or give away. The next morning at 8 o’clock I was at her house and we had coffee while she told me how it was going to be. Then we walked around and she pointed out all the damage to be repaired and what she wanted changed, upgraded, and remodeled. When we got to the garage she told me that everything in it was mine and she didn’t want to hear any backtalk. She also gave me two gun safes and everything in them. All of the camping and fishing equipment was mine. She wanted me to get my stuff moved today, as in right now, so I backed my old pickup to the garage door and started loading. I moved it all to my 40 foot shipping container that I used for a shop and unloaded it. I got my moving dolly and put it in the back of the truck and went in the house to talk to Mom about maybe putting the gun safes in my room. She didn’t like it but agreed that it was better than my shop. Dad went with me to get the safes.

While we were loading the safes Mrs. Arnold pulled out a dresser drawer and handed it to me, the combination numbers to the safes was written in ball point on the back of the drawer. I wrote them down and put the piece of paper in my wallet. When we got them unloaded I ate lunch before going back to the Arnold’s house. When I got there, there were several cars with the trunks open and ladies from the church were carrying clothes and other boxes out. I got drafted for that project and helped until they had a load. One of the ladies pointed at a pile of stuff and told me that it was mine and needed to be moved. I loaded it and told them I would be working in the garage if they needed me.

The garage was a two car, and the walls had been covered with 3/8” plywood, the ceiling with Sheetrock, and the whole thing painted white. It was now a light shade of nasty and trimmed in spiderwebs. There was a large plastic trashcan, a broom and dustpan, and plenty of dirt. I had to stop and haul some furniture to one of the ladies house and two loads of assorted stuff to the church. Mrs. Arnold gave me the keys to the house, the pickup, and the camper. She said she would be living with two other old bags in the city, and there was way to much stuff in that house so she hopped to just take her clothes, pictures, and a few mementos. She would talk to them tonight and see if she needed to bring bedding, towels and that sort of thing. We talked about paint colors and she said basic off white was fine but she wanted it to look nice. I told her that for the price she was paying it would be nice inside and out. I took my old truck home and had Dad take me back to get the pickup and camper.

I was in love with the truck the moment I opened the door, it had an automatic transmission which meant that Mom could drive it to Home Depot and pick up supplies for me. When I looked at the odometer I thought I was looking at the trip odometer. The truck only had seventeen thousand miles on it and I think all of that was between here and the lake. The seat was adjusted all the way back and it took a few minutes to get it and the mirrors adjusted. I took it home and parked it next to my shipping container shop. Mom and Dad came out to look it over and climbed in the camper. Mom told me to leave it here and she would clean the camper out. It has a tiny cook stove, refrigerator, and a port a-potty. Dad told me I could get camper jacks for not much money and remove it so I could use the truck for work and school. He told me he didn’t think the school would be happy to see a camper in their student parking lot.

I worked non stop on the house for over five weeks. I had to replace the roof on the garage but the house had been shingled in the last few years. I painted the inside of every closet and cabinet, and the entire house and garage inside and out, installed a shower and tub surround, new kitchen sink and faucets, new counter top and back splash. The hardwood floors cleaned up with steel wool. Both screen doors were replaced. I rototilled the yard and planted a mix of rye and grass seed. Patched the cracks in the driveway and called Mrs. Arnold to have a look and see if she wanted anything else done. She was happy and the house sold within a couple of weeks. This was going to be a short summer and I was way behind on a lot of yard work. Dad and I got around to getting the gun safes open and there is enough firepower there to take over a small country with.

The last two years of high school went by and I worked and saved my money. I walked across the stage when they called James Charles Reed and I knew I was not going to college. I had enough work to make me happy and I had never got to use my camper so it went back on the truck and I made plans to take a trip as soon as I finished painting a house across town. I didn’t finish it because it blew away when our little Burg was hit by a Tornado, wind, and hail storm. Almost every house in town needed a new roof and within days there were insurance adjusters and roofing crews everywhere.

A guy pulled up in our driveway and said he had heard that I was a roofer and he needed help. I told him I could put on shingles put didn’t think of myself as a roofer. He told me that I could make between eight hundred and a thousand a week easy and maybe more depending on how fast I was. His name was Willis and I liked him so I told him I would give it a try. He had the contract for fifteen houses in the area that were covered by the same insurance company. He said I didn’t need to bring any tools, he furnished everything and he would show me how to make big bucks on roofs. I didn’t make very big bucks on the first two houses I worked with him, but by the time we finished the third one I could see some of what he had been talking about. He has a pickup and camper about like mine and he also has a dump bed trailer that he hauls the old shingles to the dump with. He has a shingle lift, air compressor, hoses and nail guns and follows the storms around wherever they hit. He said that when a big storm damaged a lot of roofs that the price of roofing went up in that area until all the roofs were replaced. He said he didn’t like to stay in one place because the money was not as good as following the storms. The insurance company that he worked with paid the going rate and did not try to cheat him. He said when you got out trying to deal with home owners they all wanted you to cut rates or screw the insurance company or some other bullshit every time and he just was not going to do it.

By the time we got the fifteen houses finished there had been two more added to the list and Willis and I had decided to go into a sort of partnership. He called around and found a place that had dump bed trailers and I shelled out seven thousand bucks for one. Then I had to have racks and lock boxes made and installed for another eight hundred. Then a shingle lift for twenty five hundred, another twenty five hundred on a compressor, hoses, nail guns, extension cords, and a few special tools. He showed me how to live in a camper, hit the roof at daylight and work until dark, then do it again. Sometimes he stayed in RV parks that had washers and showers. Sometimes he filled his water tank at the house we were working on, parked on the outside of town, used his outdoor shower, and dug a hole to empty his potty when needed. He had about ten or twelve things that he knew how to cook in the camper or he ate at whatever place he could find. He spent very little money for anything but business.

We went to Kansas and hired some local helpers and worked two houses at a time. One of the helpers had a pickup with a trailer hitch and we put him and one other helper working ahead of us tearing off shingles and hauling them to the dump. We paid them by the square so we were not worried if they wanted to take a coffee break because it came out of their pocket. After expenses we cleared twelve to fifteen hundred a day for each of us. By the end of the summer I had around twenty changes of clothes and could survive by myself. I got along with the insurance company and they told me I could contract direct for them because they would not have enough work in one place for both of us. I had made almost a hundred and twenty thousand dollars plus two cash jobs that Willis and I had contracted. When we finished up I went south and Willis went west.

I stopped by to see my Mom and Dad and Mom had a fit when she saw the inside of my camper. She unloaded everything and cleaned it. She asked me if I had ever washed the sheets and I told her that I had but just didn’t remember when. Dad wanted to know if I had made enough to make it worth my time. When I told him he said it took him three years to make that much. I explained that I wouldn’t be making that much until another big storm hit some unlucky town or I went to work for a larger insurance company. I wanted to work my way south so I could work through the winter. I had to show Dad my book keeping system and he gave me a lot of tips on legitimate expenses. Two days later I pulled in to Breckenridge Texas and started looking for a helper. I had two jobs to do and found a guy that was not very fast but he did stay at it. Once I had the shingles tore off, the moisture barrier down and the shingles on the roof I could knock them out pretty quick.

I got the first job ready and took the helper to the second job and left him with the trailer, tools, and water and went back to the first job and got most of it done before dark caught me. The next morning I went to the second house and the helper was raking up what was left in the yard. He rode with me to the dump and then we used the lift to get the shingles on the roof. The lumberyard had stacked them in the driveway and he had to carry them a little ways but I was placing them on the roof so it worked where we were not waiting on each other. We went back to the first house and finished it, then back to the second. I needed a better system and thought back to when I started. The difference was that I had a truck and could do whatever needed done at the time it was needed. I really needed to find a helper and train them up and pay them enough to follow me around the country. Yep, I could really see that happening, at about the same time that hell was completely froze. I had the guy feeding me shingles and I lined them up and nailed them. All he had to do was lay the shingle in place and I was still waiting on him. We got through with the job without me killing the guy and I took him to the bank, went through the normal shit of identification, account number, home address, and forty more questions, got him paid, and took him back to his car. I also needed a better way of paying people. I had accounts with two of the largest banks with branches in almost any town. I would ask Dad next time I called home.

I called the insurance company and sent a picture of each house along with the work order number. They wanted to send me to Dallas but I told them I was not going anywhere near Dallas and they would have to use the locals. Willis had told me that in big cities the jobs were spread all over the place and if you didn’t know your way around you would get in trouble parking the trailer, hauling miles to the dump, and might get arrested for living in the camper. I got eight jobs in Abilene with one needing immediate attention. I checked the GPS and told them I could be there in a couple of hours.

I went straight to the first job and talked to the woman. She had to call her husband to make sure I could start work in the morning. The shingles, paper, and nails were setting in the front yard and they even sent the right nails. I asked the woman if she knew where a Day Labor company was and she said that her husband hired guys to do yard work at the church outreach building and told me where it was. I found the place but the choice of help didn’t look all that good, a couple of drunks, a fat guy that couldn’t get up a ladder if his life depended on it, several really dirty guys, and a girl. I turned to walk out and the girl jumped up and caught me before I could get out the door. She was dragging a backpack that was almost as big as she was. She was a few inches shorter than me and weighed maybe a hundred and twenty pounds. She said she could do the work before I even told her what the job was. I explained what the job was and that she was not big enough to handle it. She grabbed both my arms and said, please, that she had no money, no home, and she was hungry. I told her that I was going to eat and I would buy her a burger but I would bring her back because she couldn’t do the work.

While we ate she told me her name was Teresa, pronounced Ta-Ray-Sah, she was from Seguin which was close to San Antonio, she was trying to get to Denver but hitch hiking had not worked well for her. She asked about the job and I told her she would have to lift and carry bundles of shingles, and many other back breaking things that I just did not think she could do. I started thinking that she might be an underage runaway. I told her if she could prove she was over eighteen and had a drivers license, I would give her a chance, but if she couldn’t do it she was gone. She said her license was in her backpack. When we got in the truck she handed me her license and she was almost a year older than me.

The next problem was, she had no place to stay, no work clothes, and no money. Walmart fixed her up with work pants lose enough to work in, a three pack of T shirts, socks, gloves, and canvas shoes. I told her she could sleep in the truck or in the camper, the choice was hers. We found an RV park, walked to a restaurant, and talked about all kinds of things. I found myself hopping she could do the work. We got to the house about 7:30 the next morning and the people were up and the guy left for work. I got the trailer parked where we could push the old shingles off the roof and into the trailer. I got the grain scoop shovels, and the hoes, short nail bar, and push broom. I climbed half way up the ladder and Teresa handed me the tools to throw onto the roof. We started on the backside and peeled the old roof from the bottom to the top. The shingles hung together pretty good and we rolled it over the top and into the trailer. She caught on to how it was done but it took us all morning to clear the roof and pick up what had missed the trailer. I told the woman in the house that we would be back after we dumped the load and grabbed a burger. I hadn’t been to the dump but I watched the GPS while Teresa drove. It was just north of town off highway 283 and not as bad as some of the landfills in Kansas where you had to give them your life history before you could unload. Teresa had to pull up and get straight a couple of times but she had backed a trailer at some point in her life. She said it was a boat but she hadn’t done it many times.

I showed her how to dump the trailer and had her drive us through a drive up burger place, it was the same one we had breakfast at. I thought I might stop here a lot because it seemed to piss the girl taking orders off when the trailer didn’t place an order as it followed us through the order lane. I made sure I checked our order before we left the window just in case she was real pissed. We parked at the job and climbed into the camper to eat. We got the paper down, the flashing in, and the shingles placed. I watched Teresa pretty close, to make sure she didn’t try to do something that would get her hurt. She could read a tape measure and said they were taught in school when she took sewing one semester. She thought the chalk line was cool and liked using the electric staple gun on the paper. She hadn’t complained when she was loading the lift and the bundles of shingles weigh maybe 75 pounds. She knew the names of all the tools so maybe she would be alright.

We went to a Mexican food restaurant after work and I told her that I didn’t know there was any lakes around San Antonio, she said there were several small ones and the Guadalupe river had boats in some places. She still wasn’t ready to tell me much so I didn’t push. She did ask me how I got in the roofing business and I told her about Willis and our partnership. I told her the money was just large enough to keep me happy and tomorrow we started making money. She asked why we didn’t make any money today. I told her it was just part of it but tomorrow she would hear the cash register ring all day long. I had to explain that we got paid by the square and that three bundles made a square. I told her that we also got paid for each square we tore off. Then I told her that if she would stick with me until we were through in Abilene that she could probably buy a used car and drive to Denver. She asked how nice of a car could she buy and I told her she would make eight hundred to a thousand a week if we busted ass. She said let’s bust some ass boss.

We finished the house the next day, I told her how much her share was and asked her if she wanted to stay awhile. I told her the faster we worked, the more we made. When we finished our eight houses I showed her how to call them in. She could send the pictures and job numbers in half the time I could. Longview Texas had been hit by a hail storm and the insurance company had about twenty five claims. They were sending another crew but wanted us to go also. This time we would call in each job as we finished it and would be given the next one. That way the crew that worked the fastest got the most jobs. I told them we would be there tomorrow morning and headed for the interstate.

I had first thought that I would have Teresa run a crew but then thought that if we could buy another pickup, we could hire a tear off crew to work ahead of us. She was super fast at placing shingles but when we switched off to rest, she was not quite as fast with the nail gun. We talked about how to best handle a tear off crew that would be replaced every time we changed locations. We came to the conclusion that there was no good way, and it would be pot luck at best. We made contact with the other roofing crew which consisted of two guys from Shreveport. They told us they could do two houses a week because they had found a local guy and his teenage son to do the tear offs. Teresa asked them if we could use the same tear off crew and they agreed that we could and told us they were paying them $50 a square. We got the guys phone number and went to look at the jobs. Most of the houses were fairly large with just a front and back, no valleys or gables. The shingles were setting in the driveways on most of them so we picked one and talked to the lady and told her we would start in the morning.

The guy who did the tear offs said he would meet us at the house at 6:00 the next morning and Teresa called the insurance company and told them which house we were working on. The guys came prepared and knew what they were doing so I told them I would pay them $50 a day for the use of their truck and trailer. They wanted to know how many houses a week they could plan for. While the four of us worked on the first house they told us the wife and mother was a RN at the hospital and since the father had lost his job he and the son worked clean up, yard work, or whatever paid and they preferred cash. Their dump trailer was bigger than ours and using both trailers we had all the shingles removed, the yard cleaned up and the bundles of shingles on the roof. We followed them to the landfill, dumped the shingles and went to lunch. Some days we did a complete house and others took a day and a half. We wound up doing 18 of the 25 and our helpers were able to pick up enough left over shingles to do their house with. Normally we just leave the extra shingles at the house so it was no loss to us.

I thought we might be out of work for a while but the insurance company had us doing a few houses in small towns mostly in the Texas Panhandle. We had a lot of problems with the wind, you didn’t roll out the roofing felt then staple it, you had to hope you had it close to lined up and stapled as you rolled it out. We were glad when we finished them and we decided to take a break and go to the Gulf Coast, sit on our asses and watch the boats go by. Teresa called the insurance company to let the girl know where we were going and that we would put our equipment in storage when we got there so we would have it with us.

We did watch the boats at Port Lavaca, Port O’Connor, and Seadrift Texas for almost two weeks. It was fun, the RV parks were a little high priced but the people were friendly and would answer questions that I’m sure they had answered a thousand times. We would have stayed longer but the lady at the insurance company needed us in the Killeen, Temple, and Waco area so we stopped in Victoria and picked up the dump trailer. The towns are close to each other and a big hail storm went through the area. Several were damaged bad enough to leak so we had to put temporary plastic tarps over them until one of the crews could get to them. We did have some luck though, a young couple stopped us and asked how they could get hooked up with the insurance companies. I told them that I had spent a few months working with one of their contractors before they gave me any jobs.

We agreed to take them on as sub contractors for the duration of the available jobs. I looked over their equipment and other than the trailer being a modified 8 X 16 two axle flat bed that someone with some welding skill had turned into a dump bed, they had everything needed. The guy named Evan told me the hydraulics had no trouble dumping a full load of shingles. He said that Vera’s father had built it for them. They were from Palestine Texas and had been in the area since yesterday trying to hook up with a roofing company. We went to a pizza place to eat and I told them how we had worked with two guys in Longview with them using both trucks and trailers, tearing off the roofs and staying one house ahead of us.

During the three and a half months we worked with Vera and Evan we listened to their dreams of opening a fence company. Evan had worked two years in Shreveport Louisiana for a fence and carport company. He said he started at minimum wage and that was all they were ever going to pay so he quit. He met Vera in High school and she went with him to Shreveport and worked at a builders supply, but in Palestine they worked every kind of job you could imagine including roofing. I had never done much fence work and Evan said the only way to make money was to buy materials in truck load quantities and that was what they were going to use their money for. This started many an evening in the RV park talking about our lives, our families, and why we are where we are.

Evan and Vera never had even thought about going to college because their families couldn’t afford it. They had always just hoped to get a good job and get by like everyone else they knew. Teresa said she had planned to go to college but her parents divorcing, and pretty much telling her she was on her own ended any chance of that. I told them that I had always been self employed starting at about ten years old and had never once that I could remember had any thoughts of going to college. I had never had much use for most of the things I learned in school. Math was something I used, Shop was something that I knew more about than the teacher did. I had learned about wiring and plumbing from books and had maybe as many as a hundred books on the building trades. I had no plans to stay in the roofing business but wanted to stay with it until I had enough to go home and start buying, remodeling, and selling houses. Teresa said she would go with me if I would buy her one of those fancy tool belts like the house flip lady on the DIY channel has.

When we finished the houses we went to Palestine and stayed a week helping Evan and Vera clean and repair an old metal building that was going to be their shop and home. They had been living in a fiberglass shell cover on their pickup so whatever they fixed up in the building would seem like a five star hotel. They survived it, had a good time, and saved the money for their dream business. You can do most anything if you really need to and they proved it. Over the next eighteen months that we stayed with roofing we worked with a lot of people, some good, bad, fast, and slow, but we never met anyone as determined as Evan and Vera.

We reached the day that we had enough money and for damned sure had enough roofing and I once again offered Teresa half of the money if she wanted to go find her folks. She never did get over being told to hit the road when they split, I’m sure she could have found them if she had tried but they had no way of finding her. We had been home several times to visit my parents and they both told me I couldn’t find a better match than Teresa so I had no problem taking her home with me.

My Dad suggested we form a corporation to protect ourselves against lawsuits so with my parents Teresa and me as the legal partners and officers we became JT Renovations Inc. And Teresa got her fancy tool belt filled with new tools, some plaid shirts, and tight Levis. Mom told her she needed a new Three quarter ton crew cab pickup with our logo on the doors. While they were buying the pickup Dad and I were looking at some vacant houses that were probably vacant for a good reason. I knew most of the houses in town from working on them at some time or other and these were vacant because the owners had died or were in nursing homes. Many times they had no kids or their kids did not want to live where they grew up. I think I am the only person from my class in school still living here. On paper Dad is our Financial Officer and he was good at it, he complained about the price of everything.

The County Seat is located in another small burgh southwest of us, the city to the north of us is actually in another county. Sometimes that’s a good thing and other times a pain in the ass. Dad had to work so Teresa, Mom, and me made the trip to check on the three vacant houses. Mom knew the lady at the Tax Office and had to catch up on what each had been doing but after ten minutes we told her what we wanted. There was several years taxes owed on each property but the lady said that as it was, no one was paying them. If we made an offer of paying the back taxes plus $500 on each house that we would probably own them. The advantage to the county was that someone would now be paying the taxes. She totaled them up with the delinquent charges and we could get all three for 21 thousand. That was a hell of a lot less than I had thought and I’m sure that Mrs. Ramsey saw the surprise on my face. Being the talker that she is, she told us there were maybe fifty properties that could be had because nobody wanted them. I told her we would write a check for the three and if she could make us a list of the others we would look at them. She took the check and property information to the Judge to either approve or reject and he came out to talk to us.

He asked if we understood that the properties were in various stages of neglect. I told him that I had lived there all my life and had been in all three at one time or another. He said OK but no money back on the deal, they were now our problem and be sure to pay the new taxes by the end of January. Just that quick JT Renovations owned property complete with the County Judges signature. Mrs. Ramsey who insisted that we call her Janie because everybody did had printed out a list of property with delinquent taxes. She had marked through a few and said that the taxes on them was not yet three years delinquent. She also told us that a few of them were farm properties and that we would have to see what the judge would set the price at. We had to wait another hour for all the paperwork but left with the deeds to all three. The next stop was the Electric company to get the power turned on. They wouldn’t do it without an inspection and it took us a while to convince them that we needed power to remodel them. They finally agreed that if someone was at the property they would send a man to re-connect the wires. Water was the same problem but on a more local level. Our water department had pulled the meters to use somewhere else and had to buy some new ones. We would have to pay a re-connect fee of a hundred and fifty dollars per house and they would have them installed within three days. Natural Gas was the same deal only worse. The guy told us they would hook a leak down gauge on to the property gas lines and was just pretty sure that they would not pass because they had been built back in the fifty’s and he would bet they were rusted out. We agreed they probably were and would replace all the gas pipes in all three. He said that we should replace the water pipes also because they were at least as old and would destroy any remodeling that we did. Maybe this wasn’t going to be as easy as watching the shows on TV.

It became clear that we had the easy part done, we spent hours figuring out how to make each house look like something that somebody would want before we even thought about starting. Dad wrote out an ad for us to post on the internet and take to each plumbing and electrical supply to find licensed people to work for us. Once we found them, they knew other trades people like tile, flooring, landscaping, carpenters, and painters. The electrician was a one man operation and spent several hours talking to us while he and Dad grilled steaks and talked football. He convinced us to buy an enclosed trailer and stock it with everything needed to wire houses including the breaker panels and then wrote out a list of what it would take to wire a three bedroom house complete. He said he had used the list for enough years to know that he didn’t have to make many trips to the supply house. He told Teresa not to waste her time figuring out what light fixtures to use in each house, find the ones she liked, buy them by the case and use the same ones in all the houses. I could tell she didn’t like that idea too much and she told him she would stock the trailer but she would get the light fixtures she wanted because it was the only place she could make changes in the electrical. He smiled and told her don’t let the contractors push her around, if she was going to be in charge of how the houses looked she needed to be aggressive about it.

My old bedroom was small when I was a child and it sure didn’t make things easy when Teresa bought a new desk top computer and loaded it with floor plan, landscape, and house color programs. Mom told her she needed to find an office somewhere. There was an old brick building that at different times had been a bank, lawyers office, and the towns administrative office. It was now just an old building that Teresa decided would be our office and home. It got Mom and Teresa out of my way so I could get started on the houses. One of the tile contractors was a Mexican guy that Teresa had talked to mostly in Spanish and he had told her he could find her plenty of rough work laborers so I called him and got four guys and two pickups. I brought my dump trailer to the first house and had them strip them of all drywall, cabinets, and plumbing fixtures. We went through a bunch of dust masks and gloves. One of the houses had an add on that had been built out of used lumber fifty years ago and it had to be torn down and the doorway covered with a plastic tarp. A couple of old storage sheds had to go and then I put two of the guys tearing off the old shingles and the other two cleaning the yards, removing dead shrubs and trees, the remains of old fences, and filling in an old storm shelter. These guys needed the work and did whatever I told them to do and wasted very little time getting it done.

I loaned my help to Teresa more than I wanted to and hired two guys that claimed to be carpenters that had lots of remodel experience to help her with the back half of the building. She was turning it into an apartment and leaving what had been the ladies bathroom for the office to use. When I asked why there was a half wall around one corner of the office she told me it was going to be the real estate office. She had talked to the woman who sold us the building and she had enough time as a sales person to get a license to run her own company, But, she didn’t have the money to do it. So now we have a real estate broker to handle all our buying and selling for a lot less money. I told her I liked the less money part but I needed to go to the city and pick up a load of windows.

Speaking of windows, now there is something that pisses me off. What was standard back when these houses were built ain’t even close these days so you have to rebuild the opening to fit the closest thing you can find. If you go with a smaller window then you have problems with the large hole in whatever siding was on the house. One of the guys had worked as a plumbers helper for a few years so I loaned him to my plumber so I could keep them all working. While eating lunch I explained to all the guys that loaning them out did not mean that they were less important than the others, it just meant that all of us would have to do whatever was next. If you could only do one job then when it was finished, you were gone. They all said they understood and would like to stay with us. When the electrician started on the last house I called for the delivery of the drywall materials and the crew from the city was fast and skillful.

One of my helpers said his brother-in-law told him about a Bobcat skid loader for sale with a bucket, blade, post hole digger, and a rototiller. He said he had worked part time for the company several times and had used the Bobcat so we went to look at it. I bought the Bobcat, attachments, and trailer for twenty five thousand parked it at the first house and went to tell Teresa about my new toy. There was a truck and huge air compressor parked on the side of the building and a guy was sand blasting the bricks so I parked across the street with the other cars. The office area of the building was finished and painted, a guy was installing phone and cable TV lines which I found out was really for the computers to hook to. The floors have a turquoise and silver marble looking polyurethane. Yep, it looks like she has been busy too.

I told her about the Bobcat and attachments and she grabbed my hand and led me to the back door. There is a parking area that at one time was paved. It was now half covered with dirt and trash. She told me to bring the Bobcat and clean the parking area and the alley all the way to the next street. I told her the alley belongs to the town, and she told me they had told her if she wanted it cleaned then she would have to do it. So I moved all my laborers and the Bobcat and got it done. The building is located on a corner lot on main street. On one side we have a street and on the other is a large parking lot that Teresa says belongs to our building and it is in need of repair. She said the sandblast guys would bring a street sweeper truck tomorrow to clean up their mess and she was paying them to sweep all around the building and the parking lot.

As the houses were completed we were running out of work for our crew so we went through the list and bought two more that were a little ways outside of town. We would be lucky if we could save the frames, floors, and roofs. The foundations were solid and the floors level. No way of knowing if the wells were good until we had electricity. They were both on propane gas so we had to have the lines tested with the leak down meter. I had no idea what to do on the wells but the plumber said he would call a guy that he had done a few jobs with and get him to come check them. He had a big generator mounted on a trailer and he just hooked them to it and turned on the outdoor faucet. He let it run for about 20 minutes with the faucet wide open then filled a sample bottle to have the water tested. The second one we did not get so lucky and the pump would have to be replaced which meant pulling all the pipe and the pump. I gave him the OK and he said it would be a few days before he could do it.

I got the guys together and split the crews with one carpenter and two laborers on each crew. I told them that we knew how long it took to strip each of the three houses we had done, so the hours should be about the same. If they wanted any time off they could just tell me and take however long they needed. I needed to get Teresa to go with me to the city and talk to the tile guy because we were waiting on him now.

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