We recently had some concrete work done here at the house, fixing some broken areas and replacing my post-surgery wooden ramp with a more permanent one. Watching the crew of workmen preparing the site and pouring the mix brought back a lot of memories.
For much of my youth, from fifth or sixth grade up until my college years, my father, whose hobby was masonry of all sorts, had me mixing what seemed like endless wheelbarrows of cement for his various projects, wheeling the heavy wet mixture up ramps and down in hollows where he was constructing some surface or wall. Once he purchased the bricks from a large church that had been demolished and I spent a summer cleaning the old mortar off them with a hammer and chisel, then wheeling them to the sections of the retaining wall he built to expand the parking area and patio at our house.
This experience came in handy in my teen years when I would make gas money by riding my motorcycle out in the country, finding construction projects underway and earn a few bucks by wheeling the wet concrete for the workers. They, who were getting workman’s wages, were more than happy to pay the dumb kid a couple of dollars to save themselves hours of heavy work.
Now I watch these guys, using a “Georgia Buggy” tracked vehicle with a hopper, easily transport five times as much concrete as a wheelbarrow will hold, anywhere they want it in minutes with no more effort than pushing or pulling the steering handle. They are much more skilled at the finish work than I will ever be. They know exactly how much to pour for a given space, glopping it out into the middle in a pile, then smoothing it out with barely a trowel’s worth of excess.
I’ve driven past our old house a few times in the last couple of years. Dad’s walls and surfaces are still straight and strong, more that a half-century later, long after he departed this world. My own efforts in the past at construction and repair have been mediocre at best, leaving for me the best option of hiring someone who knows what they are doing. Like many things that a teenager finds boring or useless, I ignored what I should have paid more attention to when dad tried to teach me.