Sunday, December 23, 2007

Was that Only Last Summer?

I've been promising pictures of the sunroom building project for several moons now. Tonight, on the full moon just after the winter solstice, many are gathered under old family roofs, but I stay on alone under my own roof. I am waiting until my church duties are completed before I too gather to the chosen family roof of this fast-passing year, and meanwhile, I am enjoying some quiet and tidying up some loose ends. Thanks to a nudge from Jim, I got browsing through pictures from the days when the newest part of our roof was only an idea awaiting a foundation.

It feels like these must have been taken more than just moons ago - feels more like several turns around the sun ago.

It was June 23rd. Garth and James were off in Calgary, having gathered with family by chartered coach to help celebrate his aunt and uncle's 50th wedding anniversary. I woke to the siren of the town fire truck, cheerily summoning the folk to the pancake breakfast. It was Fair Day in Arcola.

I burrowed back into my pillow, but something nagged at me. I tried to deny it, to pretend it could be something other than what I knew it must be, but finally I sprang from the bed with the mental admission that I was hearing thunder. Fair Day, indeed.

There was a huge round tarp in the garage, left by my Dad in case of just this circumstance. I dragged a rickety wooden ladder from behind the garage and propped it against the eave of the house where the porch used to be, forming a ridge pole for a makeshift tent over the exposed basement stairs. Then I looked at the partly rotted ladder rails, considered trusting them for a climb, but decided a sturdier second ladder was in order.

As I placed it, the thunder was getting louder, and I could see that the black cloud to the southwest was right on track for a direct hit.

Hammer, spikes, and tarp edges in hand, I started the climb.

The higher I climbed, the more weight of the tarp came up off the ground and into reaction against my effort.

Raindrops started slicking the aluminum ladder rungs. Lightning flashed closer.

I pounded on the wall and yelled at my sleeping daughter to come help. With the hammer and nails out of my hands, and both of us tugging, the tarp finally relented and rose the last few feet I needed. I spiked the top in place under the eave, added some spikes lower on the wall to hold the tarp out to the sides, weighted down the bottom edges with concrete blocks borrowed from the nearby fire pit, and retreated inside.

Then I looked out to see how the tarp was doing, and saw all the water from the garage roof pouring, not into the rain barrel that used to sit behind the garage, but instead into the gravel-filled base we had excavated for a new concrete slab there.

It's amazing what functional structures a person can concoct under pressure. That's a sawhorse supporting a piece of plywood, with various bits of recently removed eavestrough and downspout and connectors balanced and wedged until they conducted the bulk of the water away from the slab base... and into the hole where the chokecherry bush (seen lying in the background) had been removed to make way for the coming concrete truck. I bailed that hole out later. More than once.

The garden sure needed the rain. My kitchen floor didn't. (Well, maybe it did.) The porch removal had inadvertently pulled the eavestrough slightly out of position, not enough so you would notice and remember to fix it on a sunny day, but enough so that the roof runoff from a thunderstorm came sheeting down over the kitchen doorway.

Looking out and down from my kitchen doorway, June 23rd.
The black tarp covers the basement stairs.

If there was any south wind with a storm, the water came sheeting into the doorway, and pushing in under the rubber sweep I had added to the bottom of the door, which was only an interior door after all, and was never intended for keeping out such elements. More than once a hapless family member shuffled into the kitchen during or after such a weather event and found the river with their feet. It crossed the whole kitchen and disappeared under the electric stove, but nothing electrifying happened. We tried to remember to keep some rags tucked up against the door when weather threatened, but that was about as successful as our remembering to fix the eavestrough. It did get done, several storms later.

The tarp did remarkably well at keeping the basement dry. Everyone wondered, though, why I had chosen to drag two tarp edges up the ladder, line up the grommets, and spike both edges in place, instead of unfolding the tarp and leaving more of it on the ground. Everyone wondered, including me. I guess I just had it in my head that a half-moon-shaped tarp would be perfect for the job, and didn't realize that a circle would do just as well, with the other half of the moon spread on the ground. Hey, I was about to climb an aluminum ladder in a thunderstorm. I was actively setting aside my intelligence for a while.

It worked, and I got back inside, safe and soggy. I dried myself off and got into my marching band uniform. By the time Ruth and I were on our way to the parade marshalling grounds, maybe six blocks away at the south end of Main Street, the storm was a distant bank of fluffy white in the east, and the sun was softening the pavement. We survived the march to the fairgrounds in our bright blue polyester jackets and felt-look western-style hats, as we always do. This time someone had arranged to have water waiting for us!

Ah, water. We do need it.

And the garage slab base was none the worse for waterlogging. As my Mom said, it's a good thing concrete likes water.

To be continued...


Stubblejumpers Café said...

Been hoping to find you blogging frequently. I was in the Arcola area with a Katimavik group back in 1979 and myself and a friend billeted at the home of Herb Macdonald, who still, though he is gone now, has a special place in my heart. My friend and I surprised him at his 90th birthday party, held in Arcola. He always said, "The best is yet to come." And now that we have a blue heeler dog, I remember the weeks spent at Herb's on the farm, where he had a heeler named, if I remember correctly, Blue.

Kate, near Wadena

arcolaura said...

Thanks for stopping by, Kate! Did your Katimavik group work at Saskairie? I remember tagging along with the Katimavik group to a dance at the Fineview School House, and also to something at the museum/art gallery in Weyburn or Estevan. Not a lot of details come back to me, since I was only about seven or eight years old when we lived at Saskairie and the Katimavik group was there.

I am trying to remember Herb - I sure know the name. I'll have to ask Mom and Dad.

arcolaura said...

Oh, and thanks for the hint to post more about events and changes around Arcola. I've been meaning to do that all along, and I often have ideas of things to write about, but usually I want to include a picture and I just don't seem to get out with the camera.

CG said...

this was a fun post!

arcolaura said...

I had fun writing it, too, thanks!

Tim Hodgens said...


Happy New Year!

Hey, guess what? I was in Minnesota for my daughter's wedding and on the way to the church I went over a bridge...named...Arcola Bridge.

I asked my son-in-law if there was a person in the area it was named after. He said he didn't think so, and he only knew of it as the bridge that people used to jump off for fun.

Look it Wayzata, MN.

Maybe a long lost member of your clan?


arcolaura said...

Tim - surely not this bridge? I thought that was only a railroad bridge. Another one? Wayzata? Where 's'at?

Maybe we're talking about two bridges in the same locality. Have to check that some time.

Actually there are an awful lot of Arcolas out there. Thanks for the tip!

arcolaura said...

Hmmm. Same locality? Well, around the edges of the same metropolitan area. Close enough that one might guess the names are related somehow.

Google Map of Wayzata, MN and Arcola MN.

Tim Hodgens said...

Wayzata is east of Minneapolis. And yes the bridge is much closer to the water.

arcolaura said...

East? Well. I guess I should know better than to trust Google. Did your Arcola Bridge take you over the St. Croix river, too?

Tim Hodgens said...


No, the other east :)


Anonymous said...

There are TWO Arcola(s) in Minnesota.
One is the abandoned village of Arcola on the St. Croix River, now known as Arcola Mills which contains the restored and 4th oldest clapboard house in Minnesota.-Run by the Arcola Mills Foundation. One-half mile south of the there is the Arcola High Bridge.
The other is WEST of Minneapolis, now contained within the City of Wayzata (pronounced WHY-zet-tah), where the country club is.

arcolaura said...

Thanks! If we get around to visiting blog friends in Minnesota I'd like to see that house and the bridge.