Bob & Timber Jacks


Squaring a Home

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I heard a story about Jake from one of his friends.

We were reminiscing and he was sharing. 

 He and Jake were out by his pickup and Jake, out of the blue, grabbed the tailgate, and slowly cantilevered his body up, parallel to the ground. The friend didn’t mention how long Jake held himself that way, but I could tell by the way he was telling me that the mental picture was burned there, it would be the way he would remember him.

I know why Jake took that little moment of defying gravity, arms carrying his full body weight; he did it just to see if he could.  It was a very Jake like thing to do, it was very much like something my dad would do.

Growing up and watching my dad, there was great security in knowing that there seemed to be very little that could do Dad in. More than once I saw Dad marshal that last bit of whatever you want to call it, to rise to a physical challenge and succeed. I believe they were proofing grounds for the last challenge my dad would take. He went to Heaven sober. For a very long time, before he knew he would be successful in the sobriety challenge, he carried a half pint of Old Crow in the door pocket of that old 64 Ford I own. He always relied on a Higher Power’s supernatural strength to resist the temptation, never relying on the devil’s logic that it just wasn’t available to him. I thought him brave then, I think him brave now, but it didn’t escape me that there was a truth to learn here. 

On that little piece of Texas near Hempstead, that God has seen fit to let us borrow for a while, sits an old farmhouse. The house is old, probably at least 80 years, with tall ceilings that can collect the summer heat off the gulf coast winds. Somebody moved that old house to where it is now and when they did, they settled the pine beam foundation onto small concrete blocks.

I guess they didn’t take into account that the soft, friable earth that is so good for seeds would not do well in holding up a house, even a small one.

Lopsided and charming, it was my brother, who asked, “How bad is it, Janet?”

“Well.. its noticeable, you know.”

“Get a level and check it”, Neil said.  

“In some places, I don’t see the bubble,” I replied, hating to hear what he would say, I waited, phone to my ear.  

“I think we can do it, I have an idea” he said. 

I bought 100 bags of concrete, Bob got the rebar, and Neil ordered 16 timber jacks. Bob got the shovels and the wheelbarrow and the first weekend, while Mother and I proffered refreshments, Neil and Bob dug deep holes all over the place, under the house, strategically placed. The little red timber jacks, unassuming as they appeared, could each handle 12 tons.

Neil and Bob, physically depleted after two days of digging and concreting in a work space that never reached more than 18 inches high, sat in the poison ivy that had grown thick around the old house and talked and looked.

“How long do you think we let the concrete set before we start turning the screws on the jacks?”

“At least a week,” Bob replied, scratching.

Mother and I sat down too, and I marveled at what we were going to attempt. Over the next month, daily turning of the screws on the jacks would slowly and gently raise the foundation of the house, until if a level were place in almost any place in the house, it would read true, the bubble square in the middle. But the real beauty was the genius of forethought my brother had.

“If years go by and she starts to sink a little, all you will have to do is crawl under, turn the screw a bit and level her back up.”

“She’ll likely last longer than I will.” I said.

We all sat there and smiled. 

That was a couple of weeks and considerable scratching ago, and the old house, well her windows are beginning to go square, doors that wouldn’t shut are doing so, and the wall eyed look of door frames is shaping up. The old house, she moans and creaks a bit, with each turn of the screw, but it’s a weird kind of exciting sound, a friendly sound, the music of success. Friends have come and peered under the house and over our shoulders, and catching their eyes, and the loving smiles, I know they think we might be a bit crazy for trying this. Certainly at our age, it’s not what most people do. But I have to wonder. Maybe that’s why when we get old, we get gripey and ornery and we feel useless. If you don’t dare anymore, you get afraid. If you aren’t being challenged, even when you are old, maybe your character gets flabby or if you are young and never accept challenges, maybe you never get any. Maybe if you aren’t challenged, you lose your edge or you never find one. The reality is that life is about challenges, the ones we make and the ones we’re given. Some of them are just about seeing if you can do it and some are about things that make a difference in where your life will go or where someone else go, but all of them, every last one are about finding strength and courage and fortitude. And if you do it right, they will be about humility. Because the best truth is, we are made for challenge and the really important challenges will prove we are made for God. 

Luke 6:46-49

    And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

   Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:

    He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.

    But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.

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