A Carpentry Near-Disaster

All Fall Down...

Back in the early 1980s my friend Kent, his brother Kevin, and I got a restoration job, working for a preservation foundation called The Missouri Heritage Trust. The job was on trust property an hour or so from home, close to the Missouri River. What fun! We borrowed a travel trailer from Kent and Kevin’s folks, hired a couple of guys we had worked with before, and headed south.

The building needing extensive work was a fascinating 19th-century hybrid structure, a German house-barn just like similar buildings in the Old Country. Part of the first floor was a residence, complete with a kitchen and bedrooms. There was a central aisle wide enough to drive a wagon through. The loft was for hay, and set into the sloping ground was a semi-basement where the cattle lived. I think part of the rationale for such a structure was that heat from the cattle would help heat the upstairs residence. I suppose the farmer and his family became accustomed to the smell!

One summer day everyone else was working on one of the end-walls, replacing siding and trim. Rather than drive to the nearest sizable town and rent steel scaffolding, we had decided to build our own out of 2x4s. That jerry-rigged scaffolding was about thirty feet tall.

I was inside, high on an extension ladder taking measurements for a new loft door. I was awakened from my measurement reverie by a series of loud snapping and creaking sounds, accompanied by shouts of alarm. Then there was a final crash.

I scampered down the ladder and went outside to see what had happened. The scaffolding was a pile of splintered 2x4s, and Kevin, rather than ride the thing down, had clung to a timber way up there. It was quite a sight, but luckily nobody was injured. Kent and I retrieved the ladder I had been using and put it up so that Kevin could get down.

We decided that steel scaffolding might be worth driving for!