Felons and farmboys

Call me crazy, but two of my favorite people groups to hire from are farm boys and felons.

Yes you have to be a little careful with the 2nd group, but in my line of work (construction)  it helps to have a little “fire”/ passion/get to it-ness  (is that a word?)

We had a new guy helping us out yesterday on a roof tear off from the  later category.  (The homeowner hired him directly because my crew is a little short handed)

He’s got a new baby. Trying to make something of his life.  Has what look like quite a few gang tattoos.  He did a pretty good job hanging in there.

At some point he mentioned being a felon, “Having done some crazy @#it when he was younger.”

I asked him how old he was?

25

I smiled and told him what my dad  would say.

Dad likes to say, “The human brain doesn’t really mature until you are 25.”  (I think it is a Dr Phil-ism)

My new co-worker looked at me and said,”That is correct, I would tend to agree with him.”

A couple of you regulars probably remember the story of Johnny, (the guy who stabbed me with the sawzall a few years back).

 Here’s a link to that story.  

I intended to write about working with a felon this morning but in re-reading that older post, it says what I wanted to say…

Well, I need to get ready for work.

I’ll leave you with a song I like to listen to once in a while that helps me stay in touch with my farmboy roots… 😉  Later! DM

 

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How would you approach this?

Twice a month, my wife and a neighbor  take turns driving to an Amish discount grocery store.  It is a combination, girls day out, and a chance to save some serious $  on the food budget.

When I got home from work, the last time they made the trek, my wife looked at me and said, “We were almost killed this morning in a traffic accident.”

Our neighbor, is in her late 60’s, does not like to drive in traffic, and creeps along when she is out and about.   Apparently, she (the neighbor) did not look to her right as she turned left out of the driveway.  The Amish store is situated on a paved road, below the crest of a hill..accident waiting to happen.  There is not a lot of traffic on it, but all it takes is one screw up.  Just as they were about into their lane, a blue pickup truck, flew in front of them, going at least 60 mph.  Both wife and neighbor were startled,  and neighbor sheepishly admitted she had forgotten to look to her right.

THEN,  as they were having this conversation, a semi barreled over the hill and passed them on their left…he too was flying, and had they been in an accident with the pickup truck moments before, there was little doubt in my wife’s mind, that the semi would have ran into all of them.

It is not my place to tell my wife, how to run her life, BUT I did suggest, she think twice about riding in the same car with the neighbor, if she is driving.

Wife had already made up her mind, that was the last time.  I suggested saying something sooner than later about the driving arrangement, before the next trip rolls around.  Both of us are pretty sure, our neighbor will not respond graciously when my wife breaks the news…Their next trip is coming up in a week or so…and neighbor reminded my wife on the phone yesterday, it was her turn to drive.  Wife didn’t say anything on the phone.

I always think, as much as possible it is better to have those kind of conversations in person, rather than over the phone, via e-mail, etc. etc.

Any suggestions on how to have that conversation and how you would word it?

As far as I’m concerned, she is an accident waiting to happen.  I can  very easily see this drive a wedge in our neighborly relationship.

Oh well.

Dealing With The Public

When I walked up to the Lowes contractor desk on Wednesday, I sensed tension….a lot of tension. (I am pretty sure I know why, but I am not at liberty to talk about it here.)

It had been a long morning for me as well.  My brain was fried.  I had one of those small projects where the homeowner hovered over me while I worked.   The icing on the cake was when it came time to collect.

Back story…

This was a small job.  The guy (let’s call him Bob) had been in the hospital for 6 weeks, almost died.  I worked for Bob last year.   In spite of his  sometimes cantankerous personality,  he’s grown on me, and when I heard he was seriously ill, I stopped to see him while he was still in the hospital a few weeks back.   He expressed a desire to have a little 16 by 16 deck built and wondered if I would have time  this Summer.

My thought was,  the guy had almost met his maker, and this was a great way to give him a little encouragement, so I worked his project into my schedule ASAP. Tuesday of this week we built the deck. Got done a day sooner than I had projected.  Asked him if he wanted me to come back on Wednesday because I had allocated two days for his project.

“That would be great,” he told me!

His parting comment to me when he handed me the check Wednesday was, ” Boy, I didn’t realize this deck was going to be so expensive.”

(When I work for Bob, it is on a time and material basis…he buys his own materials and I work by the hour.)   I looked at him and thought, you have got to be kidding me..….

He didn’t get the area ready for the deck like I had suggested…so in addition to building the deck, we also ended up leveling off and packing 6 ton of lime. That shot an extra hour and 1/2  the first day.

Here’s a picture of the deck after the first day:

And here is a picture of the finished product:

So Wednesday after lunch, went from Bob’s place directly to Lowes to order material for landscaping job to be done later this Summer….

Did I  mentioned I was tired? 😉

I asked one of the ladies standing @ the counter if I could set up a delivery for 100 bags of red mulch, 80 landscaping blocks and matching caps.

Well, they didn’t have enough red mulch to  do my order…they did have another product on hand but that would be another $.67 per bag…= $67 more… and this was a bid job…..oh well.

Because this was going to be a larger order, I asked if there was any chance they could work with me on the delivery charge?

The lady said she would have to ask the store manager…which she did, and he said, they would deliver for $25. (a $40 savings for me.)

“Could she  match the $3 price?” 

“Well I will have to check with the store manager again.”  she said.

“Don’t worry about it,” I said.  (I just wanted to get things ordered and head home.)

There was some confusion @ the counter, as they tried to ring up the order.  They could not find me in their system  as a contractor.   I get regular e-mails from corporate, so I was pretty sure I was.

I could see one of the older estimators sitting @ his desk listening to me try to get things sorted out and he said, “Why don’t you just come here to my desk and I will help you.”

I had all of my notes with me, from when I’d originally looked up Lowes prices on-line…(the red 2 cubic mulch at that time was selling for $2.50 a bag…not $3 and certainly not $3.67)

So he and I  found the skew numbers for everything…and sent me on my way.

When I got home, I realized he’d sold me the mulch for $2.50 a bag.  He didn’t ask the store manager.  He just did it…a $117 savings and I did not raise my voice.  I didn’t whine, I didn’t rant.  I didn’t say, that’s not fair….nothing.  I was too tired to do any of that…. 🙂

There is definitely a lesson in all of that somewhere  😉

My heart goes out to those of you that work with the public on a daily basis…not just one cranky old codger @ a time (like me and “Hovering Bob”)…but dozens of personality types a day.

It has to get exhausting.

Guess who I am going to work with next time I need to get an estimate from Lowes…

Be nice to the customer service reps, the receptionists you talk  to, and yes, even the medical bill collectors. (I have a story about that I could tell you, but this is already getting way too long.)

Have a good weekend. DM

 

Iowa Nice

Daughter # 2  (Kathy) was heading home from work a year ago about this time of day when it happened.  She noticed the car in front of her begin to fish-tale.  Then quoting now, “chunks of rubber began  flying off.”   Kathy didn’t know who was behind the wheel, but instinctively pulled over to see if she could help.

Out stepped a young Korean woman, her hands were shaking.  Her name was Ling.

“What just happened?”   Ling asked Kathy

“Your back tire blew” she said.

“Do you have someone you can call?” Kathy asked.

Ling pulled out her phone, but because they were in a low spot, she didn’t have a  signal.

Ling was a music major, heading for a recital in Dubuque.  Kathy offered to stay with her until they could figure out what to do.   Kathy called a local towing company she knew.   They ended up taking car back to the shop to address the tire situation.  (Don’t tell anyone I told you this) but Kathy offered to pick up the tab on the tow. When the tow truck driver realized she was doing this, he knocked 50% off the total and told her, if she  brought him in a plate of home made cookies  he would call it even.

After the spare was put on the car, and a couple of the other tires  rotated, Ling was back on the road.  Kathy and Ling kept in touch periodically throughout last year.

Last week, Ling’s parents were stateside for  graduation.  They wanted to meet “the angel” who had helped their daughter the year before, and go out for lunch.

As a parent of three daughters myself, I can very easily put myself in their shoes.

 

Kindness is alive and well in Iowa.

Yea Baby…..

Earlier this winter, Jason asked me if I would be interested in bidding on a project no one else was interested in.

When we got to the job-site, I saw why.

There was between 40 and 50 foot of sidewalk needing  to be jack hammered out, then carried   75 to 100 ft by hand.

8 ton of concrete = 16,000 pounds.

There was not enough room to get a skid loader in.  Heck, we could barely get a wheelbarrow in between the bushes and the property line fence.  Everything would have to be done old school….ie.    Manuel Labor.

These kind of projects stir something inside of me.

The  challenge maybe?  🙂

Well, I got the job…..

Tuesday  was our first day.  The demo went better than I’d expected…so by early afternoon, all 16,000 pounds of concrete was in a pile next to the curb.  It was raining  Wednesday, but because there would be a check waiting for me once the concrete was gone, I, we pushed  and got it loaded.   My son John has been helping me…one of the things I really appreciate about all of the guys who have worked for me the past few years (That includes you Chris if you happen to read this) 😉  is these young men have had great attitudes  in spite of working conditions…not a hint of grumbling.

Growing up,  dad would say...”Don’t ask someone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself.”

___________________________

Well today was “pour the new sidewalk day.”

I woke up this morning @ 4 AM.  Adrenalin, already coursing through my veins.  We couldn’t bring in the new concrete the way we removed the old…all of it had to be wheel-barrowed down a series of ramps and inclines.

Couple of hundred feet.

On top of all of the logistical challenges we had placing the new concrete, would you believe we got a cement truck driver with an attitude problem…..

Yep.

I sensed it right away….didn’t say anything to the rest of the crew, but 20 minutes into the pour, Jason came up to me and said “The guy is a “blank-ity- blank.”  and he had half a mind to tell him to his face.

I suggested waiting until we were finished…

Minute later Jason commented on the aroma of the lilac bush we were working around.

“Focus on the smell of the  Lilac instead of the blankity blank truck driver, grasshopper.” I said with a smirk… 😉

“You are just like Splinter,” he said to me…

“Yes, and you are like Raphael the Ninja turtle.” I replied.

We laughed,  got all 16,000 pounds of new concrete placed without a hitch.

Splinter  Image by Google

I left that project around lunch time, stopped by our local Menards to get some landscaping block samples.  Would you believe, the guy at the contractors desk who waited on me, also had a bad attitude.   Since I was still basking in the afterglow of getting that concrete poured, there was no way, I was going to let that get under my skin…and it didn’t.

I did get home early (and exhausted.)

Told my wife at supper time, today felt like I’d run through an obstacle course.

I can already tell you, I will sleep like a baby  tonight.

Later- DM

Apiary Update

When I suggested to my wife in December, I was “starting to feel a stirring” to get into  honeybees…I prefaced my newfound interest by promising  I would not spend money we did not have. 😉

(I’m learning)

There is definitely a knack  to dreaming dreams and not letting money (or the lack thereof) from stifling ones ability to plan.

I got a little cash for Christmas, so I used that to pay for the six week beginning beekeeping class offered through a local community college ($35)

Out in my wood shop, I had some 1 by 12 pine boards just sitting around, got on-line and found some Do It Yourself plans for building the hive boxes.

Mid February,  I met with a woman who wanted to learn how to prune apple trees.  She spent the morning with me pruning, and over the course of our time together, shared, she herself had a small apiary, and if I did get honeybees, I was more than welcome to use her honey extracting equipment come August…

In addition to the cash from Christmas, I had a small reserve of petty cash from people who have tipped me  over  the  past year….normally, that is my coffee fund (Starbucks/ french roast/ beans/ not ground) but feeling as strongly as I do about getting a bee hive (or two), I decided to dip into that.

I did some work last Fall for a local electrician who offered to sell me one of his nucs this spring  (A Nuc is a new bee colony with 3 to 5 frames of bee larva, eggs, etc).  It is a great way to get a jump-start on raising a new colony.

So after totaling up what  two complete hive boxes, frames, smoker, gloves, bee hat, hive tools, bees would cost, the total came to $900.00.  I created a go-fund-me site a few weeks ago with a $1000 target goal.  (Go-fund-me and all of their related fees costs just under 10% of what you raise, so I figured, by the time I paid the fees, if $1000 came in, I would be set, and still live within my budget.

So yesterday, I sold some free range eggs to  someone locally. Our four free range hens have found their egg laying groove again.  They are laying more than we can eat, so I have started to sell them on a limited basis.

The four hens have  not cost us a cent since before Christmas.  100% of their daily food intake has been coming in from  foraging.  I do not have an electric water heater for them this winter either (normally that runs $30 a month in electricity), and when you’re watching pennies, $30 is not chump change….Instead, I use two plastic coffee cans and make sure they have access to fresh water a couple of times a day…birds in the wild, if there is no water, will eat snow, and I’ve noticed the hens are doing that as well.

I am selling the free range eggs for $2.50 a dozen….so when I went out into the shop yesterday to get the $5.00 for the two dozen eggs…this is what I saw:

To date,  counting yesterday’s gift, $370 has come in..which will pay for all of my initial gear, and the forty  frames for one hive…enough to get started.

I have kept my promise.

I have not spent $ we do not have.

Lest you think I am a mooch, I/ we, have also been on the giving end of the equation, multiple times over the years.

I have a very detached attitude about money.  I can give it away and receive it with equal grace.

Rodeo Clowns

As I was pulling through the security gate Wednesday @ Menards, a semi with “CDL in a day” written on the cab was exiting in the other lane.  He was pulling a 28 ft flatbed trailer.

Sharp looking rig.

I got the phone number and called him, to ask about costs, scheduling, etc.

If you’re a regular reader, you know  I have been attempting to get my  class A CDL license. (That would enable me to drive a semi or large truck, and  dovetail nicely into my skill-set.  If  when construction work slows down I could always pick up some hours hauling grain, bulk milk etc.

Tim (the owner of business/ CDL in a day) texted me  yesterday. He had a cancellation and wondered if I had time to  practice driving then take my test at the D.O.T  on Saturday?   (today.)

Absolutely!

So yesterday,   I showed up at his shop to spend an hour (ended up being three) prepping for my driving tests.

I debated  whether or not to tell him about my last experience with the CDL instructor, 

I decided to let him know about  the other instructor and his hollering at me.

Best decision of the day.

Tim told me, he himself had tried to get his CDL through John.  Had spent $450  and never did get his license.  I didn’t want to slander John, (even though the whole experience did leave a nasty taste in my mouth), so I just listened.   Tim went on to tell me,  I was not alone.  He has had several pupils come to him for instruction who have  also spent  hours and hundreds of dollars with  John, none of them ever passing.  (And all of them talked about getting hollered at)

The day I spent an hour with John, we spent 1/2 the time sitting with the truck idling, while he talked about horses, rodeos and a rodeo clown.

Tim had  heard the same stories, the same yelling.  We laughed.    My conclusions about John as an  instructor were not so far off after all.

Getting back to yesterday…

So there I was,  a slightly traumatized class A CDL student getting back in the saddle.  (Yea me)

Since my last lesson, I have watched video’s on YouTube, spent an hour with my neighbor driving his semi, and saw yesterday, a 50 percent improvement in my ability to up shift (go from low to high)…

BUT when it came to downshifting,  I was still grinding gears/ forgetting to flip the high/low button..etc.  At least three times, when it came time to downshift, my mind went completely blank…

Blank.

Imagine being behind the wheel and being responsible for 26,000 pounds of steel,  going 55 MPH in traffic.  You are still  confused with  how to bring this mass of metal, rubber and glass to a predictable, safe stop… (that is a peek into my brain)

Hour number two, I had a bad case of cotton mouth.  Haven’t experienced that since I was in 8th grade  wrestling.

Have you ever experienced cotton mouth?  You’d know it if you had.

Hour number three was brutal.  More road time/ plus the skills portion of the test (straight line backing/ 90% backing and parallel parking which I did OK on).

I texted Tim last night, thanked him for the lesson but had decided not to test.  Then I e-mailed the company I had tentatively gotten a job offer  with for seasonal truck driving and told them, I had a change of plans.   It was not going to work to drive.   I have already spent 5 hours of one on one instruction, plus several hundred dollars and it just isn’t clicking.

I would be a liability on the road.

I am going to put the goal of acquiring a class A CDL on the shelf for now.  I gave it my best shot.  I’m sure if I had a truck up on blocks/ and a day to practice I would have it mastered…but I don’t.

I feel no embarrassment or shame in taking a step back.

I have a right to change my mind.

I gave it my best shot.  When I got home yesterday, I felt emotionally like I had been in a ring with a silver-back gorilla. (or a rodeo clown) 😉

As I was processing out loud this morning with my wife, she reminded me, I had quote “been in the arena.

 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; … who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Teddy Roosevelt from his speech The Man In the Arena

That’s how things are currently rolling (or not)   out here in the heartlands of Merica.  Later!  DM