Friday, July 29, 2011

Earning luxury

When I was 7 or 8 I was helping my family build a new fence. I was too small to swing the sledge hammer or pull the barbed wire or to do any of the fun jobs like hammer the nails. My grand father, father and brother got those jobs. But I still wanted to be helpful so I got to carry the can of Green Pentox and the paint brush. My job was to paint the bottom of the fence posts that go in the ground so they wouldn't rot.

Preparing for fencing was an annual job and whether you wanted to help or not, you did or had to anyway. We all would head out to the wood lot and find the hackmatack trees (a.k.a. tamarack) and cut them down. The fun job (I use the word fun in that cruel way like piling 8 cord of split wood is fun or hauling 1000 square bales off a field in 30 degree weather is fun) was peeling them. The men (my oldest brother included) got the best jobs, again, and ran the chainsaws and hauled the branches out of the way. The rest of us, under my grand mother's instruction got to peel the logs. Except she had this nifty peeling tool to peel her logs nice and easy. There were only 2 of those tools so my mom got the other, leaving me and my other brother to use a hatchet and our fingers. If you think getting sap on your hand in one little spot sucks, don't ever, ever, ever peel hackmatack trees. My hands turned instantly black and sticky and my fingers hurt from the dirt and sap building up under my nails.  One thing I was sure of is that after all that I did not want those fence posts to rot, because I didn't want to have to get more.

The fence we were building was along side of an embankment that ended in a ditch. The bucket of Pentox was a big gallon paint can. For a little girl like I was, it was heavy. The ground wasn't exactly level. It was recently cleared and mounds and hollows were left from pulling the tree trunks. Weeds and shrubs were growing in with the new access to sunlight. I moved ahead of the men having the post painted and ready by the time they had the previous pounded into the ground. 

I was doing a great job and keeping up. I liked being helpful. I liked the feeling of pride and accomplishment that came with it. A sense of being of value to the family.  Right up until I slipped, and fell down the embankment, landing in the ditch with the entire can of green Pentox poured over my head. Pentox Green is green. It's a stain. It's designed to penetrate the wood. It penetrated me. Despite an hour in the tub with my mother scrubbing me raw, I was green. A bright orange red head with green skin. I looked like some kind of leprechaun. It lasted weeks before finally fading away.

Today, I use black spruce, untreated fence posts, that I buy, already peeled and sharpened. I can swing the sledge hammer if they rot. I gladly will.  It's a luxury I think I've earned.

1 comment:

thordora said...

I'm sure you're happy there's no pictures? :p

I dislike those trees, and that's only from casual brushes in the woods...