Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Pink Button (the inside story)

 Sky cow

To get ready for the lead paint removal on the Dipper house, I decided to move furniture out of my bedroom which is closest to where the chips tested positive for lead and also has leaky windows.  Even though the contractor promised to seal the windows during sanding, I decided to move my bed and dresser into a room without windows subject to drifting lead dust, and drape the remaining furniture with washable sheets.

A bedroom slowly falling down the mountain and cracking on the way

Once the outside of the house looked freshly painted, I suddenly decided to paint my bedroom before moving the furniture back in.  Of course, it was a greater undertaking than I expected.  The house is slowly slipping downhill in this mountain landscape and every window and door in the bedroom had at least two cracks crossing the walls, while the window with the most fabulous view leaked during heavy storms.  I am an old hand at painting, but window repair was new to me.  I consulted fix-it guides and fix-it guys, went to the hardware store several times, and struggled with conflicting advice.

By my third trip to the hardware store, I was in desperate need of some courage.  Fortunately, it was Johnny Cash's birthday and I sat in the parking lot for awhile listening to the man in black sing about brawling and prison and love on the radio.  When I finally marched into the hardware store, I insisted the clerk lend me his utility knife so I could cut a sheet of moisture- and mildew- resistant sheetrock to fit into my car.  Afterall, I told him, the other hardware store let me cut my own sheetrock (a bit of an exaggeration) and it was raining outside.  Humming "I turned 21 in prison doing life without parole", I slipped a piece of purple sheetrock onto the warehouse floor and cut it in half.

In the first part of this pink button story, I talked about ranches and legends and the signs my predecessors left outside.  The inside of the ranch house has its embellishments too:  wagon wheel lamps, a copper tile backsplash in the kitchen, and a sliding glass door that was installed backwards and until I retrofitted it, couldn't be locked.

One item left behind inside the Dipper ranch house freaked me out.  A few days after first moving in, I poked my head into the attic through the overhead hatch door in the hallway between the bedrooms.  Looking around, I saw that insulation had been added to the unfinished floor, but otherwise the space was mostly empty.  Next to the hatch opening was a heavy but loose beam.  It had a rope tied around it.  I tugged on the rope and a hangman's knot flipped up.  I realized the beam was long enough to span the hatch opening.  I must have uttered a strange noise at this discovery because my son poked his head into the hall.  He too was freaked out when he saw what I was holding at the top of the ladder.  I shoved the rope and beam back into the attic, closed it up and tried to forget about it.  One can't hang oneself in a hallway I told myself; there were some strange tenants that lived here after Paul and Lola and it must have been a prank I told my son.

A few days later, a co-worker came by to check the wiring in the house for installation of a washing machine.  The house apparently never had a washing machine, although I found an old agitating wash tub with a wringer in the garage.  Since there isn't any plumbing in the garage, I assume Lola started wash day by wheeling the tub out to the hose, the one near the kitchen door pink amaryllis. I was hoping for a more modern setup, but every time the handyman opened a fuse box or electrical outlet, he groaned at the unorthodox wiring. Finally, I told him to zip it all back up and we would have to bring in an electrician.

To mollify his disappointment at not figuring out this old house, I asked if he could help me remove something from the attic.  He thought I was talking about a dead animal.  Nope just a rope, I told him.  He held the ladder while I went back into the attic and removed the loose beam and rope.  I mostly needed his moral support to face my imagined stories about this odd artifact.  While we both joked that a hangman's knot was not quite as bad as a dead raccoon, I untied the rope, commented that it looked brand new and never used, and stashed beam and rope in separate locations in the garage for future use on more practical projects.

I was surprised at how smoothly the replacement of the mushy window jamb in my bedroom went once I got the purple sheetrock.  To counteract the lingering effect of the attic rope and to thank a legend for his encouragement, I decided to glue a photo of Johnny Cash to the inside of the jamb before sealing it down.  Someday, some other resident may find that photo, and may wonder about their strange predecessor, however, this artifact should provide humorous rather than morose musings.

Thank ya' Johnny

In addition to the climbing rose on the garage wall, there are 8 other rose bushes around the house.  In April, when the does are bedded down with their new fawns, these poor bushes recover enough from the usual deer browsing that a few of the plants even get a chance to bloom.  They are all shades of pink.  One might guess that pink was Lola's favorite color.  Or, maybe Paul thought that pink was Lola's favorite color and so every birthday and anniversary, she would graciously accept another pink flowering plant.

The sky room

I painted the bedroom sky blue.  The view looks out the backyard, down a slope towards a pasture and across a heavily forested canyon.  You feel like you are in the sky when you walk into the room.  One day while I was painting, I realized there was a cow in the backyard.  They aren't supposed to be there but since it was only one cow, I let him mow my yard while I was stuck inside patching and sanding and painting.

 A white-washed ranch house

When the painters finished the outside, I walked around for a final inspection.  There were a few bugs stuck in the paint which is to be expected at this hilltop location in the country.  I was a bit annoyed that the painters had borrowed rocks from the garden pile, perhaps to anchor down the visqueen enclosure, and had neglected to put my rocks back.  But overall, the old ranch house looks quite good.  While walking around to pick up my rocks, I found a pink button on the ground by the kitchen door.  It wasn't my button, I don't wear pink.  I don't think the pink button belonged to the painters either, especially since they wore coveralls while they worked.  If you do laundry outside with an agitating tub and a wringer, you've got to expect to lose a few buttons.  Perhaps pink really was Lola's favorite color.
 Watching a storm arrive from the sky room

Legends, we like to listen to them, we like to create them.  Adaptation is an important survival skill for ranch living, not only to the challenging physical environment, but also to the changing cultural community.  We can borrow from the good parts of our history, and set aside the useless or harmful parts.  Perhaps listening to and making up legends helps us process our history and adapt to the change that is frequently occurring around us.  I think I will tack that pink button up on the freshly painted garage wall where the chicken door used to be.

 This legend hangs on a thread


  1. BEAUTIFUL!!! Cindy, you know you could put these in a book and publish them, yes?

  2. I've always wanted to write (something other than technical reports) and am so glad to have experiences that inspire me to write and the blog format for readily sharing them. This is my practice and sharing-mode for now and we will see what happens later. I'm glad you are enjoying them.

  3. Cindy - I just love reading your writing!

  4. Brooke: Thanks, nature does inspire. Let me know if you ever want to team up on an illustrated bird story in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

  5. A wonderful read. I like the house and its location. I like even more your orange cat. If you've seen my blog, you'll know why. As for the hangman's noose, I would have displayed it just like the pink button. A great conversation piece.

  6. Yes, Sinbad is a handsome orange cat - I noticed him right away when I checked out your blog last week. You can see a photo of Mango swimming in sheets at the Cast of Characters tab on top. I could have hung that noose from the wagon wheel light in the living room - people keep walking into it. County home decorating.


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