Monday, November 28, 2022

Clayton and Krystal: Mission Creep

Krystal’s phone rang. Looking at the Caller-ID, she saw it was her new friend, Betty, from church.

“I hate calling people on Sunday afternoons because it should be a family day” Betty apologized. “But I have a problem and I hope your husband can find some time to help me with it.”

“I wanted to get ahold of you before all of his time was scheduled” Betty said.

“What is the problem?” Krystal asked. “Maybe it is something I can help with.”

“I need to have the wood-stove pulled out of my shed and installed” Betty said.

“Nope. I can’t help. That is definitely a job for Clayton” Krystal said.

Hearing his name, Clayton’s eyebrows went up.

Handing the phone over to him, Krystal said “It is one of my new friends from church and she says she needs help.”

Clayton wasn’t sure how he felt about being put on-the-spot but figured the least he could do was listen to her problem.

“I have a wood-stove in my shed that I need to have set up in my parlor. I have stove-pipe and the hardware and the original instructions. What I don’t have is the strength to move the stove and….my doctor doesn’t want me to climb up on ladders” Betty said.

Clayton could tell by her voice that she was “not a spring chicken” as Ed would have said.

Clayton looked over at Ed and said “Can we take tomorrow morning off from the wood-lot? One of the neighbors needs help putting in her wood-stove.”

Alice elbowed Ed and said “Of course you can take a day off to put in a wood-stove.”

Clayton showed up at Betty’s house just as the sun rose on Monday morning.

“I never installed a wood-stove before but I can read instructions. Can you give me a walk-through of where it is going and where all the parts are?” Clayton asked.

“No problem” Betty said.

Clayton’s heart sank as saw the scope of the task.

Betty’s house was a 115 years old and it had been at least fifty years since they had heated with wood. The wood-stove was a brute with an 8” exhaust pipe. Betty wanted it installed near the center of her “parlor” and the chimney pipe run horizontally out the exterior wall and then up beyond the roof.

Against all odds, Betty seemed to have all of the required hardware, thimbles, hangers, tees and elbow.

Carefully reading through the installation directions, twice, he determined that she did not have the fire-bricks for lining the wood-stove and that she needed a fire-proof pad on the floor. The directions gave Clayton an appreciation of the functionality of 10’ high ceilings in old houses like Betty’s.

Clayton was in the building supply store in the next county to the north when he got a call from Ed.

“Hey, my buddy Bernie came over and he wants to look at your skid-steer. Are you OK with that?” Ed asked.

Clayton was trying to do the math in his head of the cost-effectiveness of buying a bottle of concrete accelerator versus buying quick-set concrete.

Betty had been unbending that she wanted a one-piece, concrete pad for the wood-stove to sit on. She told him of a neighbor how used bricks that had used concrete flags, laid up dry to isolate the stove from the floor. Over time, the flags had worked apart and an ember had dropped between them and ignited a fire.

Not only did she want a one-piece, concrete pad but she wanted steel mesh in it so if it DID crack, the crack would not grow wider.

On the other hand, there were some things Betty was very laid-back about. When Clayton asked if he could move the horizontal run of stove-pipe over 9” to get directly beneath a joist, Betty was fine with that.

Clayton was resigned to the fact that the two-hour “move her wood-stove out of the shed” job had grown to two days. Fortunately, Fritz, her husband had kept his tools meticulously cleaned, oiled and organized.

“Yeah. Yeah. Sure” Clayton said, distracted by trying to keep all of the pieces of his shopping list in his head.

Next Installment


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  4. Wait - what is Bernie doing to Clayton's skid steer ? ? ?

    1. Yeah, that's one of those distracted answers that can lead to all manner of undesirable things...
      Boat Guy

  5. There are no two hour jobs.

  6. Ahhhh ... the "just" word. used by people that have no idea of the complexity, work, time needed or the effort required. "It will just take a minute", "It is just down the road", "It is just a ... (whatever)". How could you possibly refuse such a simple, trivial request? And always asked with a smile and a pleading look.

    Ask me how I know!

    The answer should not be an automatic "NO!" but after a careful consideration of the problem, a detailed explanation of what the job involves with a generous time allowance should be forcefully impressed on the asker.

    "Just" should be classified as a four letter swear word.

    Phil B

  7. Not to stick my nose into your fiction haha, but there's a much better way to do the fire brick under the woodstove. Here's how we do it in Colorado: Under the stove, in an area about 3' by 4', clear the flooring down to the underlaying decking. Then lay down a corresponding sized of galvinized sheet metal. On top of that we lay brick pavers, the type you'd use on a patio with an interlocking design. The sheet metal will stop any sparks plus it probably reflects up some heat. The problem with using concrete is that it will really take a beating from the daily use of fire starting materials, reducing kindling with your hatchet etc. It's gonna look terrible after a few winters and I don't know how you'd repair it. Bricks are easy to replace. Anywho, that's how we do it on our side of the mountain!

  8. Oh, yeah, the short and simple job. Some years ago, we needed our old toilet replaced when it wouldn't stop running and the internals weren't available anymore. It was a 5 or 7 gallon flush tank, bolted to the wall. I could have replaced it with a hacksaw and a hammer in 45 minutes, but I wanted the install to be reversible at all points. Nine(!) hours later, we had a new, low flow toilet.
    Stay safe