The problem was that the old chimney was leaking and it didn't serve a purpose any longer. The house was built in 1904 and actually had a couple of stacks sticking out the roof.
It also was crumbling, the mortar becoming dust. So, it fell on me to take it down. Poor choice of words, but a bit of foreshadowing for you.
The chimney dropped down into the kitchen, a big beautiful empty space we were so excited about when we bought the house. We guessed that a stove of some sort was connected to it. When we later ripped up the multiple layers of linoleum (one had avocado green flowers with yellow stuff around them) we found burn marks in the wooden floor underneath.
Directly beneath the stove spot, in the dark and damp crawlspace below the kitchen boarded up to keep the gremlins imprisoned, was a cistern. So, if the stove burned through the floor, it would be extinguished right away, I surmised. Of course that would have also let googley-eyed evil loose on the world, but you have to take the good with the bad.
This was our first house, and it was generally broken down, but my wife and I were young and had matching tool belts. I had worked construction through college so mine was a bit darker and more worn, mind you. Hers was immaculate and her new hammer was shiny, as was her new utility knife, chisel, tape measure, carpenter's square and pliers.
Step one was to send me up on the roof to take down the chimney brick by brick. This thing had not been not been used for decades, but the soot puffed with each brick I pulled and threw into the back yard. That's my theory of how I arrived back on the ground like a shadow at midnight.
The chimney was a bit wobbly and I slipped on the ski-slope pitched roof. I started to grab the chimney to balance myself and felt it tip. I called on my college football lineman reflexes and let go and flopped on my belly. I wasn't that good of an offensive lineman.
Short story long, I got the chimney out and went to work inside with my father-in-law pulling out plaster and lathe wall around the chimney. Behind the false ceiling, was cracked plaster that also had to come down.
My father-in-law is a Mr. Fixit, so I have always been at a disadvantage because of him. My wife grew up with her family always turning to him to repair the blender, the house, the dog ... well maybe not the dog. I grew up in a household where you worked your butt off to pay somebody else to fix or replace things the right way.
But marital expectations what they are, I've tried to fix things, and on this day I fixed father-in-law.
We set up ladders to climb up to the ceiling and chip down the plaster. Being the young physical specimen, I was up in much quicker time than the old man. Chisel in hand and 22-ounce metal-necked Eagle hammer ready to swing
"Just chip off small ...," he began to say.
I swung the most efficient hammer hit ever done in taking down a ceiling, I'm sure. And it all came down on top of him. I think plaster from the four corners of the room defied the laws of physics and flew over to nail him. I, of course could see none of this because of the thick cloud of white that exploded out from the kitchen into the rest of the house and the back yard.
"... pieces at a time," grumbled from the rubble.
Now you would think that episode would have put an end to any attempts at handy man endeavors. No. No that was just not going to happen, and sometime before the snow flies I have to replace some windows. I'm going to see whether my father-in-law can help me with the second story ones.
You can reach Managing Editor Chris Baldus at editor@oelweindailyregister, but don't ask him to fix anything, for your own good.