I lifted the first eighty pound bag of cement into the mixer.
“No problem.” Heavy, yes, but not unmanageable.
……..seventy one bags later? Different story.
I helped my father pour a concrete slab yesterday and ended up lifting, mixing, and pouring a little over two and a half tons of concrete, eighty pounds at a time. 5,360 pounds of it to be exact.
The mere act of moving today provokes creaks and groans from various parts of my body, and an outright scream of pain and fury from my lower back.
I probably ought to mention that I most likely ingested and inhaled about four pounds of concrete dust too. I’m worried about blowing my nose and accidentally shooting out a window.
…It had been quite a bit of time since my father and I had worked on a job of some kind. He is a genuine jack of all trades, and rarely needs assistance with any of his projects. At just a touch over sixty and as stubborn as he is, even if he does need help, it’ll be a last minute call. Well, he was at least smart enough to know that hoisting 72 bags of concrete throughout the day yesterday would probably finish him off, I got a call and was happy to help.
When I was a kid, he usually had my brother and I around to ‘help’ on various projects. More often than not, our assistance wasn’t as necessary to him as the exposure to work and tools was to us. As a result, both of us are fairly able to muddle our way through a myriad of handy jobs, and have a competency with a number of tools. I remember once, I was holding a light for him as he replaced a panel box in the basement. I asked him how he learned how to do all the stuff he was doing, and his response I’ll never forget. “By doing exactly what you’re doing right now.”
It was true too. He’d watched his father and uncles work their way through repairs and builds in an era when people weren’t so quick to call a repairman or a contractor- mostly because they were too poor to do so. As a result they were forced to learn about carpentry, plumbing, electricity, cars….you name it. As he watched them, so too did I watch him, and now my boys watch me. Who knows, maybe they’ll learn something too.
Yesterday was a good day in spite of the resulting pain and soreness. As we worked, we got more efficient with the mixer and our process. I’d cut open a bag and dump it into the mixer. He’d add water as needed and watch it as it ground to the right consistency. I’d get the wheelbarrow, and dump it into the form. As I did that, he’d add water to the mixer for the next batch. As soon as I dumped, I’d start the next bag, and we’d start the process all over again.
We’d do this three times, then take a long board and smooth out the loads we’d dumped. Then start over. The whole thing got so mechanical, that we automatically flew to our next jobs without thinking about it, never really stopping to talk about the system we’d created. We’d fine-tune things here and there, like where to put the wheelbarrow, or how many loads we’d dump before we’d screet out the piles.
The whole thing ended up flowing very smoothly as he got more proficient with mixing batches of mud to the consistency he wanted, and I perfected my techniques for opening, lifting, and dumping the heavy bags.
My only complaint is that my wife didn’t bring The Narrator by to ‘help.’ He’d said he wanted to come by and see what we were doing, but they ended up going grocery shopping and not getting onsite, which is too bad, because it really could have been one of those ‘watch and learn’ moments, and he could have gotten a massive charge out of hosing off the concrete or adding water to the mixer.
Next time perhaps.
As of right now though, I’m going to look back at yesterday and be happy about having had the chance to work with my father, and get genuinely dirty doing the type of work that I hadn’t had the opportunity to do in a long time.
Side note- I got a phone call from another University wanting me for an interview…..so yeah, I’d call yesterday a damn good day. Even if my spine and muscles are threatening to walk off of their respective jobs.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find a place to curl up and convince my body that I was not, in fact, trying to kill myself yesterday.