By Joe Rector

As I’ve stated on several occasions, my skills as a carpenter or plumber or handyman are limited. It’s not so much that I am unable to learn those skills; it’s more that no one ever taught me them. I still keep trying to complete projects, but many times they either take too long, look terrible when I finish them, or I have to hire someone to fix the additional mess I’ve made of things. I’m just stubborn enough to keep trying. With YouTube, I’ve learned to do some things; other tasks call for more skills and knowledge than I have.
The leaves that fall each fall overwhelm my yard. They pile up in flowerbeds and along the house’s foundation with each wind that blows. I wanted to keep most of them from gathering around the basement door of my house. I scrounged around and found a couple of pieces of lattice. Neither was wide enough to cover the opening, so I used zip ties to connect both pieces. Next, I tried to stand the lattice up by weaving stakes through it and then driving them into the ground. I didn’t count on the ground being as hard as concrete, nor did I have any idea that a hammer would splinter the stakes beyond use. Admitting defeat, I slid one side of the lattice between concrete blocks and hooked the other side to a post from the deck. The thing is serviceable.
I was successful enough to replace the deck flooring with Trex. I also put down new treads on the steps. However, the lowest one has a bow in it. I’m not sure why. I screwed the Trex to the stringer as I was supposed to do, but for some reason, a bend in the thing is there. If I place a brace under it, something else will go haywire. Every time I approach the deck, that bow is the first thing in sight.
My brother’s daughter Mindy bought an older home in Fountain City a few years ago. She keeps a list of projects, and Jim and I tackle some of them. For what seems to be half a year, Jim has been stripping inside doors. He removed layers of paint and smoothed the surfaces. I went with him to hang the basement door before cold weather set in. We found the hinges and put them on the door and the frame. The door wouldn’t shut, so we took it down, used another set of hinges, but the darn thing still refused to close. We took it down again and thought, argued, and cursed. Mindy suggested that we go home and that she would hire someone to hang the doors. We both said, “No way!”
After another fifteen minutes, we realized that the problem was our having put the hinges on backward. Jim and I felt absolutely stupid, but at the same time a sense of relief came in having figured out how to hang the doors.
On the way home, Jim and I kept talking about how dumb we were. I told him to look at the bright side of things: we learned how to do something that we would never forget. That proved to be little consolation to him, and I didn’t buy it either.
Most of the projects I’ve completed are sad-looking things. I tried to dry-pour a concrete slab. It didn’t work like the YouTube video promised. I tried to cut a place out of my workbench for my chop saw. It was cock-eyed. Still, I’m stubborn enough to keep on trying to create something that looks right. My desire to be a “craftsman” hasn’t cooled, but the costs of materials could make me yell, “Uncle!”