The High Art of Elevated Dumbery

Some people think you can just do dumb things without any forethought, but learning how to do dumb things responsibly takes years of diligent practice. And some people, realizing how difficult it is to do dumb things responsibly, try to avoid doing dumb things all together. My wife is one of those people. She just let’s me do all the dumb stuff and then reaps the rewards. 

For instance, last week a smoke detector started chirping in the middle of the night and was disturbing her slumber. With a sharp elbow to my ribs, she then disturbed my slumber and said, “Fix it.” 

Our old farmhouse has twelve foot ceilings, and I didn’t feel like going to the barn to retrieve the ladder, so I did what any reasonably trained person in the art of doing dumb things would do. I erected a makeshift tower using chairs and advanced engineering practices (big chairs on bottom; small chairs on top), climbed it like King Kong, and then used a plunger to extend my reach and twist down the smoke detector. Then I went back to bed. The next morning when my wife woke up and saw the chair tower still standing, she was deeply impressed and said, “That was really dumb. I’m surprised you didn’t fall.”

What my wife didn’t realize, however, was that I had been building and climbing chair towers ever since I was a little boy searching for hidden Christmas gifts. Not only did that tower represent years of study in the art of doing dumb things, but it stood as monument to my specialization in elevated dumbery, or the branch of doing dumb things from heights. In college, my friends and I dedicated several Friday nights to studying elevated dumbery. In fact, whoever decided to add brick latticework to the side of the freshman men’s dorm at Wingate University should have just put a three-story rock climbing wall. 

Anyway, after years of careful study, I’m proud to say I just recently composed my magnum opus in elevated dumbery. It takes the form of a traditional limerick, but uses a few variations in meter and rhyme to really emphasize the dumbery. I call it, “Ladder in the Front-End-Loader.” It was inspired by my ongoing attempts to clad our old farmhouse in hardie board. Prepare to be impressed:

Ladder in the Front-End Loader

A man was re-siding his house

to impress and delight his spouse.

He couldn’t reach the gable,

so he lifted and made a ladder stable–

and somehow lived to write this magnum opus. 

Pavlov’s Dad and a Paranormal Baby

He’s here!–our new bundle of sleep deprivation in the old farmhouse. He goes by the name Thomas. He doesn’t really cry that much, except when others are trying to sleep, at which point he breaks into a chorus that sounds similar to, “Whaa! Whaa! Whaa! Your Boat!”

Welcome home, Thomas!

At this point, a week into his life, I suspect Thomas will grow up to be a famous psychologist because he’s already conducting a Pavlov’s dog-type experiment on his mom and dad. I now associate the sound of Thomas wailing with the act of laying my head on a pillow, so much so I begin to drool from exhaustion anytime I hear him cry. 

I’ve quickly learned a baby cry is a very effective sound. It’s a sound that demands action. The only problem, however, is I usually have no idea what the appropriate action is. I’ve asked Thomas to be more specific in his demands, but his method of specifying is only to cry louder. 

The hardened nurses at the hospital only taught us the straight-jacket method for dealing with a baby’s  uproarious demands. Basically, you treat your baby as if he’s a deranged criminal destined for Arkham Asylum and tightly wrap him in a blanket so he can’t move his arms or hands. The tight swaddle has bought us a few moments of respite at night, though Thomas is already growing proficient in Houdini-like feats of swaddle escape. 

Nurses Swaddle Straight-Jacket

Thomas can also perform another magic trick: making pacifiers disappear. I’m not sure how he does it, but he’s already lost two pacifiers. I can’t find them anywhere–it’s as if they just vanished into thin air. I’m starting to wonder if Thomas is in cahoots with aliens who are abducting his pacifiers. Or, now that I think of it, there’s probably a more likely explanation: the Bermuda Triangle that centers over our farm and makes quarter-inch wrenches and hammers routinely disappear also applies to pacifiers. In fact, his lost pacifiers are probably floating around right now in another dimension with my lost tools (for more lost tool jokes see my post How To Fix Stuff on a Farm). 

Anyway it’s good to know my brain can still think critically on such little sleep. I was starting to worry I was going a little loony, with the involuntary drool and all. I’d sure hate for Thomas to grow up thinking his dad was bonkers. 

Dad isn’t bonkers–he just looks that way.

There’s No Ain’t in Paint

Applying new paint is now only slightly more fun than scraping old paint. Painting used to be a blast, back when you had paint fumes for entertainment. But in their old age, paint manufacturers have become sticks-in-the-mud (rumor has it, Sherwin Williams never cracks a smile now, and Benjamin Moore has become a stoic philosopher) and now only sell low-fume paints so you can’t get high off your house siding. Without fumes, painting is officially a joyless activity that takes you to some pretty dark places. Yesterday, sun glaring, I was standing on a ladder painting the gables and started thinking about water, which strangely led me to think about water-boarding. I found myself wondering, Why didn’t the CIA just give enemy combatants old farmhouses to scrape and paint? 

My general philosophy is to let paint flake off the house naturally before repainting, but my wife says that’s unsightly. Built in 1897, our farmhouse has so many layers of lead paint adhered that I’m pretty sure it’s bulletproof. I’ve yet to see a bullet hole in our house, and I’ve inspected every square-inch of it with a paint scraper. Repainting the house is my goal this summer, which is why I’m completely against my wife setting goals. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried diligently to get out of painting, but she just repeats her new slogan whenever I approach and open my mouth. 

“I ain’t feeling too…” I’ll start to say, but before I can finish telling her about my feelings, she just says, “There’s no ain’t in paint.” This is only slightly more empathetic than her previous slogan: “You can’t spell paint without pain.” 

Of course, I’ve already tried the Tom Sawyer bit. But children these days are more streetwise than Mark Twain’s time. You’d think climbing a twenty-foot ladder with a sharp paint scraper would appeal to adventurous kids, but so far none of the neighborhood children have wanted to paint my house. They just stay inside and play video games. It’s sad really, the work ethic of children these days. 

Pretty close to an enhanced interrogation technique if you ask me.

What’s your least favorite farm activity or chore?

A Grilled Cheese with That

In the northern part of our county, the old Costner farmhouse burned down. Nobody was hurt, but six fire departments were called. It was a big shindig. Word got out quickly and a crowd assembled forthwith. And yet, despite good turnout, our local food truck failed to show. It’s normally ubiquitous at big gatherings, so I expected it to arrive griddles blazing, ready to capitalize and serve artisanal grilled-cheese sandwiches to the gawkers. Myself, I’d have gotten the five-cheese on rye with rosemary garnish.

Turns out a seventy-five-year-old man had been squatting in this dilapidated farmhouse–who knew? Apparently, the whole countryside knew; it was kinda of a well-known secret. The old man accidentally started the fire with a propane heater.

Only the absentee landowner was surprised to hear about the squatter. In fact, they were surprised to hear about the farmhouse. No doubt, representatives from the REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) had intentions to get out and walk the land before they flipped it to developers, but they just hadn’t had time to make it down from New York. In any event, they were glad to hear that an eye-sore on their property was now gone.

Personally, I cringe when I hear “eye-sore” used to describe a dilapidated farmhouse like the Costner house. It wasn’t trashy or even really junky, just old and derelict. If anything, I think old farmhouses add to the landscape. Though I like watching stuff burn as much as the next fella, I hate to see old farmhouses go.