The Man In The Lawnchair

Fall of 2014 I installed a metal roof for a retired farmer named Joe. (I hate roofs by the way/ keep that in mind).

I got the job because a friend of mine gave him my name.  Joe was having a hard time finding anyone to work for him because everyone in our area was busy. (or so I was told)  (I decided later, another reason he was having a hard time finding  someone was because he is a micro-manager.  He loves to park his lawn chair at the bottom of the roof, watch, and critique your every move.)

Joe kept telling me I was on probation, and if he liked my work, he had a lot more of it. (He did)  (3 more house roofs/ two that were  easy, and one that was a killer.)

I would say to the friend that recommended me,  ” Joe may think I am on probation, but the truth is, Joe is one on probation.  I will put up with just so much of his nonsense…. I don’t need the work.” 

Well, we finished that roof last fall for Joe and I was a hero. He loved me, love my crew, loved our work,  recommended me to his banker, and ordered the material for the killer 2 story farm house roof  with a leak.  He did get on my nerves, but at the same time, he was kind of endearing, in his own way.  I was able to handle him, when he started giving me guff, because I would give it right back. 🙂

Last Winter, my numero uno co-worker, who was my main climber, got a new job with his local water department.   Benefits, and long-term job security, couldn’t blame him.  The only other guy on my crew is an excellent finish carpenter/ sider, etc. but he would be the first to tell you, at a rock hard 280 pounds, he is not a climber.

I have been trying to find help since  March. I can’t find anyone that will come to work every day, so in the back of my mind, I am thinking there is no way I am going to be able to roof this two-story, tear off,  farm-house with an 8/12 roof pitch,  multiple valley/s an old chimney that had to be dismantled.

No way.

I don’t like roofing in the first place.

Just me and my non-climbing co-worker, it would be next to impossible.   So I stopped by Joe’s shop last month and tried to beg off on the job.

“Nobody else wanted to do the job either…. so you are stuck with it”  were his exact words.

I could have just told him “circumstances had changed”,” hate to do this to you”…”sorry”, and walked away, but that is not my style.   It was also an integrity issue, and so I thought, I will do what I can, and when I can’t go any further, then I will just have to stop, but not until…

So, I came up with a plan.  I  asked my son, and my former climbing employee (who is now a friend of mine) to help me with the higher, most difficult portion of the roof, on the weekend,  and the lower section, I thought I could manage (however slowly) with the help I did have.)

So I set last Friday/ Saturday as the days to tackle the high portion.  Just so happened we suddenly got a burst of hot humid weather, perfect for roofing in Iowa..(especially when you are on a metal roof/).  I can still handle the heat, and I am still pretty nimble on a roof,but this day pushed me to my limit…..and Joe was parked in the shade watching our every move.

My makeshift crew was only able to complete 1/2 of the upper roof that Friday and Saturday, which left me with just me, myself and I, and a ground man to tear off and replace the other half of the upper roof.

I told Joe, and his son, that either they find me someone who could also climb, or I was done.  (They have a renter who is in construction, who owes them money, who can climb, living just a mile up the road, it was probably time to give him a call, as much as they didn’t want to.)   I reminded them again for the umpteenth time, I had lost my crew from last year, and  wasn’t really in a position to be doing this job in the first place.

Tuesday of this week, their renter did show up.  We were able to finish the 2nd half of the higher portion of the roof….(although I did have to put up with the renter’s 14 yr old son who talked like a magpie, all day, who started calling me “Amish man” because I was wearing a straw hat) (The thought of duck taping his mouth shut did cross my mind a time or two) 🙂

Wednesday  through Friday, I worked on the lower 5/ 12 portion of the roof with a skeleton crew and as of this morning, I still have 2 more days left on the job…a relatively easy front porch roof, and then tidy up a few misc. details.

Between the heat, the height, the roof pitch, the lack of help, the wasps, the bats,  and Joe sitting in his lawn chair, I have been coming home mentally and physically exhausted every night.

Joe’s daughter in law (who lives in this house, sees her father in law, sitting in the lawn chair, under the shade tree, micro-managing)  said to me Thursday morning…

“So, tell me why in the world did you ever take on this job in the first place????” 

“Now that is a great question! ” I said with a smile.


12 thoughts on “The Man In The Lawnchair

  1. What a wonderful gesture on your part, to see a job through to the end, or at least be willing to go as far as humanly possible while still attempting to help this man. Common ethics and morality that would typically go donw as human kindness isn’t always the norm anymore DM, so I applaud you for your choices to see this through.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh those grouchy ones have so much to teach us, don’t they? Like a thorn in the side, a reminder of what not to be. Way to hang in there – literally!! That takes a lot of gumption and a good dose of your German stubbornness, too – a great post that’s a real testament to your work ethic, DM!! MJ

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Good for you to see the job through to the end. We know of one instance where someone was employed to roof a new garage extension. Six months later the owner ended up doing it himself with the help of a DIY leaflet!

    Liked by 1 person

    • dang. that would be frustrating. I do hear of crooked contractors once in a while. Only ever knew two first hand, always makes me wonder how they can stay busy, you’d think their reputations would catch up with them.


      • This particular builder apparently would have five or six jobs on the go at the same time and would do a morning or afternoon at one as and when it suited him. He did go out of business though, but not because of his unreliability.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Integrity means a lot. For good or bad, I am quite certain that is part of why Joe keeps giving you work to do!
    Well, all I can say is, now a double thank-you to you and MM for welcoming us to your house at the end of a week of THAT kind of job, even as our expected date of arrival kept changing. You seemed so relaxed and energized…who knew!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I worked for some years for a guy who would give your lawnchair dude a run for his money. But you hinted at the way to deal with that sort: give as good as you get, albeit with a smile. Of course, the fact that my grumpy one’s family called him Captain Bligh to his face made it easier. Like this fellow’s DIL, they had to cope with him, too. It wasn’t easy.

    And yet, he had a heart of gold. He died of cancer about three years ago, and I actually miss the old geezer. I never understood why he was the way he was, but as the saying goes down here, “Goat ropers need love, too.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Never heard that one before 🙂 (goat ropers need love too) Sometime my wife thinks I am the resident goat roper around I’m going to use that one on her. I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂


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