Board by board

Board by board.  That’s my system.

I have been staining at the cabin for the past month. You have to be a little nuts to undertake a task like staining a cabin when you are past middle age. I am sure that some of the family members and friends who’ve stopped to admire the facelift taking place would say that I have the “nuts” thing covered pretty well at this point, paint splattered bib overalls or not. When the month began, I knew I had to stain some siding on the river side that were replaced last summer. It had been years since the last time the cabin was fully stained and I knew I’d never be able to find a color that wouldn’t make the back of the cabin look like a patchwork quilt. So instead, I went with a completely different color armed only with a paint brush and a level of optimism/denial that only comes from one’s gross over-estimation of one’s ability to still do things like climb a stepladder a bazillion times in one month.

My people said they’d help me. In fact, some of them asked numerous times. I shrugged and smiled and fibbed. I was only going to “do a little bit” I’d say. Then, as soon as I was left to my own devices, I’d begin where I’d left off. I broke a toe and thought I would have to make good on my promises to stop or at least, take people up on their offers to help. Nope. I wrapped that sore little bugger and kept staining. Board by board. Up the ladder and down the ladder. A woman with a bum toe on a mission. One friend, who worries that I will work myself to death out of sheer, stubborn, stupidity refused to take no for an answer and simply showed up and started staining alongside me. Board by board, we stained. Everyone needs a friend like that. Ones who just show up. She is mine.

I have never been a competitive athlete and couldn’t give a rip about running a marathon, it’s true. What do you have to show for all that sweat, after all?  A medal and t-shirt. Big whoop. And winter sports are, well, in the winter. Even so, I understand people my age who keep pushing their minds and bodies to do such things. Maybe we are all more alike than I thought and not so nuts at all.

Maybe, in the end, we all choose to do hard things for the same reason. Because we still can. Step by step, inch by inch, mile by mile.

And sometimes, board by board.


My feet hurt. The aroma of frying onions and cotton candy won’t be enticing again for at least a year. I have the five songs, fake train whistles, and sirens that played on a continuous loop at top volume somewhere on the Midway embedded in my brain. I am hoping this is temporary. As I cleaned the grill after a shift in the hamburger stand on Friday night, I was reminded once again why every teenager should work in a restaurant at least one summer.  You just never know when you’re going to need the skill set you acquire doing that kind of work.

The Dweebs were, once again, a huge hit. Years ago, there was a teen dance on Friday nights and an adult one on Saturday nights in the old arena. Remember? The queen contest and talent show are no longer part of the festivities either, but somehow Deer River always finds new ways to make sure that everyone still has fun. Church dinners, a flea market, a bike rodeo. The list goes on. It all comes together even when road construction makes getting around town a little sketchy. Deer River adjusts, just like it always has.

Some families have reunions every summer.  Ours maybe manages to get its act together for a true reunion once a decade like high school graduating classes do.

Luckily, the Rice Festival brings our crew us together every summer. To volunteer and play. To see dear old friends. To eat way too much and drink more than a little beer. To laugh a lot and be a little stupid on warm summer evenings. In families, it is good to stop mowing and fixing and fussing long enough to do this. It is maybe essential, actually.

Thanks, Deer River. See you next year.