Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Clayton and Krystal: Hardscaping and gin-poles

“Where did you learn about cement work, young man?” Betty asked. “I thought you did landscaping.”

“Landscaping is most of what I do. But I also do ‘hard-scaping’” Clayton said as he jiggled the mud to settle it and work the air bubbles out.

“What is ‘hard-scaping’? Never heard of it” Betty said.

“Anything in the landscape made of concrete or bricks. Patios, barbecues, retaining walls...things like that” Clayton said.

Of course she wanted a fancy job. Clayton set the wire mesh and mixed the concrete. He opted for the accelerator and mixed that in. He poured to within ¾ of an inch of the top of his form.

Then, an hour later, he mixed S-type mortar and added red tint and accelerant. Betty wanted a dusty-rose “picture frame” to match her wallpaper.

Clayton pressed milled, wooden moldings into the goop to give it a pleasing profile and bring it up the final ¾” and provide the lip around the perimeter to capture errant embers that might escape the stove.

Then he gave Betty strict instructions to not mess around with the pour.

Exiting his truck back at Ed and Alice’s, he heard his skid-steer running back in the swamp.

Cursing, he jumped back into the truck and drove down the two-track to the swamp.

There, he saw Ed driving the skid-steer and another geriatric patient down in the swamp doing the damnedest thing with a couple of lashed poles.

Ed shut down the skid-steer as Clayton pulled up. Ed’s big smile melted off of his face when he saw Clayton’s anger.

“Just what the fuck do you think you are doing with my skid-steer!?!?!” Clayton demanded.

Ed just looked at Clayton. His face was impassive and he didn’t say a thing.

“We will talk later” Ed finally said.

“Bernie. I think we are done for today. Thanks for your help” Ed said.

Bernie shot Clayton a quick glance and then melted away like fog under the morning sun.

Cooling down, slightly, Clayton could look around and he noticed that the skid-steer was not where he had left it on Saturday. In fact, it looked like Ed and Bernie had turned in a fair day’s work.

And it hadn’t been just the easy ones, either. Clayton’s memory was that the next patch of logs were a mess of jack-straws and a barrier of snags.

“Maybe better we don’t talk until after we have had something to eat” Ed said.

Then Ed walked back to the farm-yard, not wanting to be in the truck with Clayton.

Dinner was conducted in a strained silence.

A half-hour after eating, Clayton said “OK, I had time to calm down. What happened today?”

“Bernie came over. He used to be a lumberjack and a millwright. He was showing me how to use gin-poles” Ed said.

Clayton scratched his head. “What’s a gin-pole?”

“Well, that is what I asked and Bernie said it would be easier to show me” Ed said. 

Same idea, but instead of attaching to the far end of the log, Bernie attached to the near end which lifted it up over obstructions and pulled it forward.

“It is kind of like using a post sorta like a pole-vaulter. You plant one end in the ground but loose enough so it can pivot. You point the other end toward the log, but at an angle. Then you run the line around the top of the post and angle down toward the end of the log. When you pull, the post pivots and lifts the end of the log up.” Ed said.

“I can’t see it in my head” Clayton said. “Wouldn’t the post just fall over?”

“That is when Bernie showed me about lashing two posts into an upside-down V” Ed said. “He just ran the tow-cable around the V where it was lashed and then down to the log. Worked like a charm, even where there weren’t any live trees to rig to” Ed said.

“You are going to have to show me” Clayton said, intrigued in spite of himself. “But it can’t be tomorrow because I have to go back to Betty’s and finish up.”

“I was wondering…” Ed said. “Iffin we were careful, can we keep using the skid-steer?”

“This weather isn’t going to last forever” Ed said.

Conflict warred within Clayton. “I don’t see what the hurry is. We are almost done in the swamp” Clayton said.

“We are almost done pulling the logs out of OUR swamp. But lots of folks got woods filled with dead ash. In fact, Bernie is one of those folks. An’ there is a lotta folks gonna get mighty cold this winter if they don’t have something to burn…” Ed said.

Clayton looked over at Alice. She was letting the men thrash this out. But he could feel her judgment hanging in the balance.

Clayton exhaled.

“Do you promise to take it slow and take lots of breaks?” Clayton asked.

“About that” Ed said “I was thinking about Carl, one of my other coffee-drinking buddies. He has woods on his property too. Maybe Carl and Bernie could take turns with the riggin’ ‘cause that is heavy work and I do all of the skid-steer work.”

“Would you be OK with that?” Ed asked.

Clayton knew he had lost the battle. “Just be careful. I can replace the skid-steer but I can’t replace you or your buddies.”

Next Installment


  1. He can replace the skid steer For Now. It'd be better to not have to.

    If he had to borrow money for the lawyer, Can he replace the skid steer?

    1. No, he could not replace it even with a used one.

      The upside is that they are hard to break. You can send it swimming or drop a tree on one. You can feed it bad fuel or run it dry of lubricating oil or coolant.

      More likely, they will break fittings or tear-apart the bucket.

      There is still a lot of expertise out in the sticks on 3-cylinder diesel engines but the experts are dying off quickly.

      The biggest cost would be down-time.

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  2. Thank you for the illustrations ERJ. Like Clay, I have a lot of trouble seeing these things in my mind.

  3. In my line of work, when we knew there were bureaucratic obstacles that added no value, we often concluded that it was 'easier to ask forgiveness, than ask permission.' What was Ed's excuse? Either way - he should have asked permission first.

  4. I always wanted to try raising a tower like that. I saw a guy use 4x4s lashes like that to pick up a Bridgeport mill. He left it hanging and manually pushed the trailer under it. Then just lowered it down.

    Old tow trucks used the same idea as do winch trucks out here in the oil field. I have fevered dreams of making a set of gin poles for my Ford F150 Kurtz.


    1. Since it is Clayton's skid steer it would be justified if he insisted that only he drive it.
      He can't be available for every charity job at others people's convenience.

  5. I like Ed and the old guys, gitter done. Woody

  6. I've used what I now know are called "gin poles" to yank some massive stumps. Railroad ties for the a-frame, and doubled telephone poles for the, um, "gin"? 65 ton cable for the line.

  7. Well done! And Clayton's growing up... :-)

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