Brotherly Projects

By Joe Rector

Thanksgiving weekend offered most of us the chance to sit back, kick our feet up, and spend the time watching football, eating leftovers, and taking naps. However, that’s not the Rector way. Jim and I had jobs to do and set out to complete the “to-do” list before the work week began. It’s not so different from what we’ve always done.

As boys, Jim and I spent some of our time with jobs our parents meted out. They were afraid that we’d cut our feet off with the lawnmower, but that in no way kept them from giving us pointed clippers with razor-sharp blades and instructing us to cut the high grass and weeds around the house, flower beds, and trees. At other times, Daddy dispatched us to the garden to pull weed from the strawberries. In either case, we worked side-by-side.

Sometimes we undertook projects that required a variety of tools. We’d carry shovels and hoes, along with wrenches and screwdrivers to the edge of the yard. There Jim and I dug holes or attempted to build “cool” things with a collection of old boards, marbles slabs and assorted items retrieved from the old chicken house.

When we became adults, our commitment to helping each other continued. Most of the time we joined forces to pack U-Haul trucks with possessions for moving. Back then, we substituted skillful packing with strong backs and determination. The work was long, and sometimes our tempers flared, especially when we had different ideas about the best ways to fit everything in a truck that was too small.

When mother fell sick, we took turns staying with her at night. After she passed, we spent time going through a lifetime of collecting to separate the wheat from the chaff of mother’s belongings. Arguments were few, and those that might have occurred came more from grief and loss than from anger.

Neither of us is an expert in things that require the use of hands. Daddy didn’t know much about fixing things, so he didn’t pass along any information to his three sons. Over the years, Jim and I have attempted repairs with our limited skill sets. Too often, the results were so poor that professionals had to come in to fix the messes we had made.

One memorable time, our attention turned to patching sheetrock in a house Jim was going to buy in Powell Valley. We sanded the areas and applied tape and mud. When we finally stopped, that section was so thick with mud that it looked as if something behind the sheetrock were trying to pop out.

Both of us like to mow our yards. Family and friends declare that we cut the grass if it looks as if it might grow. The problem is that neither of us is able to work on mowers, weed eaters, or blowers when they no longer run. If new plugs or clean filters won’t fix the problems, we utter curses and take those items to repair shops.

The arrival of YouTube has been a saving grace. We’ve learned a little about how to correctly do things. That doesn’t mean that our projects aren’t without flaws; it just means that we can do things well enough to get by. Jim can do some simple electrical work, and together we’ve replaced sink fixtures and hung lights.

Thanksgiving weekend, Jim and I built a new ramp for his outdoor building. We managed to use a skill saw without losing fingers and also learned how much better the thing cuts when the blade is tightened. Our attempts to level the thing proved futile due to unexpected problems with the slope of the land from left to right. That kept us from staying completely inside the bubble. After struggling with attaching the supports to the building, we figured out how to cut the right angles to reach success. Eventually finishing that job, which Jim said took much too long to complete, we jumped in his truck and hung Christmas lights on the eaves of his daughter’s house.

Learning how to do things is fun; I only wish I’d have had the nerve to do it earlier in life. The best thing about projects is spending time with my twin brother. He’s the one person who has always been around. I’m glad we can still find way to be together.

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