Today I have decided to share a story that I wrote in October, 2012. I clearly remember sitting on our bed and writing this story that night. Greg came to bed when I was about half way finished. He asked me what I was writing…and why I was laughing so much! I apologized and told him that I would be finished soon and tried to hurry so he could go to sleep. He never read any of the things I wrote himself, but he would occasionally listen to me read them out loud. It’s safe… and fair to say that my husband was not a reader, but he did enjoy the stories I could recall from my childhood.
So without further a’due…I present to you a true story that I like to call ‘Chainsaws and Walls’:
“Picture it, Ethelsville…1980 something. We sat huddled in the corner, not really sure what or where we were supposed to go. Screams were coming from every direction. Kids. Adults. It really didn’t matter. Everyone there was screaming for pretty much the same reason.
It all started earlier that morning, when Mama looked over at the wall. “You know Johnny; I really would like to take that wall out. And, I would love to add a picture window right here. It would make it feel so open. What do you think?” Well, Daddy being the man he was, just looked at the wall and said, “I think that would look good.” And, as soon as he finished eating he went out to the barn. Mama told us to get our “stuff up” (that’s code for clean this mess up…we are about to do something!!). She walked over to the yellow telephone hanging on the wall and called Weezy. “Hey, he’s gonna do it!!! Yes, he’s gone out to the barn right now!! Hurry up, come on I need you to look at this and tell me what you think. OK, OK. I know. It’s fine…just hurry up. He will be back in just a minute!!” Whap…she hung that phone up and turned around so fast we didn’t know what to do. “Hurry up girls…we’ve got to get this stuff cleaned up. Daddy’s going to work on our house!!”
Our house was a 100 year old “fixer upper” made of tongue in-grooved wood floors, walls, ceilings, windows, and doors. The ceilings were 12 foot tall in every room and we had to hang blankets over the windows in the winter to keep the “heat” in. We also hung blankets over doorways and blocked off sections of the house during the coldest part of the year. However, it was now mid-summer and Mama wanted everything “open”. So, we hurried and put our plates in the sink and quickly changed our clothes. We ran around like the president was coming…because Mama was excited! A few minutes later the front door opened and there came Weezy, JoLynne, Jacklyn, and Jed. My two sisters and I were so excited…because Mama was excited and now our cousins were here…and Daddy had went to the barn!!
One thing about cousins…in the 80’s…in rural Alabama…on a red dirt road…that everyone should know… is they love getting together to play. It got old playing with just your sisters…but add 3 cousins to the mix and it was heaven on Earth!! Anyway, on this day we really didn’t get to play that much. Just after the cousins got there, here came Daddy. And. The. Chainsaw. When he came into the kitchen…carrying that monster looking saw, we all looked at each other like “What is going to happen?”. Daddy stopped at the bar and said, “OK, what do you want?”. Mama started looking and pointing, and asking Weezie if we should do it this way…or that way…and how it all would look. The phone rang…it was Me-Maw. She was coming down here. The five of us little kids were running and playing and talking and really we were not paying much attention to anything. But we should have been.
“Knock – Knock!!” Me-Maw was here!! And Daddy Jack was with her!! This must be big!! “Knock-Knock!!”…it was Mr. Dye…and Mrs. Judy…and Mrs. Betty…and Lance…and Aunt Nannie…and Zackery…and Lucas!! Yay…it’s a party day!! Well, the amount of talking going on in that little room off the kitchen was overwhelming. So, all of the kids went outside, but with all the adults in the house…and Daddy’s chainsaw inside too…we just had to know what was going on. We all went back into the little room and we sat down on the floor under the window. Daddy was nodding, and saying “OK, yeah…OK”. So, we waited. What was he going to do? Everyone was nodding and talking and really, you couldn’t hear a thing anybody was actually saying…but still we waited.
Whah, whah WIINNNNN, whiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnn…the chainsaw roared to life and before any of us kids knew what was happening…Daddy started cutting the wall!! He just picked up the chainsaw and started cutting THE WALL!! Mama was yelling…”Yeah, CUT THAT PART OUT!”, and Daddy Jack was yelling…”JOHNNY, CUT IT RIGHT HERE!”. Me-Maw was standing by Mrs. Betty and they were nodding. Mr. Dye was just looking…with that look of his. The next thing we knew the WHOLE WALL FELL DOWN!! Yes, it fell down. THE. WHOLE. WALL.
Well, we started screaming, and the adults started screaming, and Daddy just kept cutting!! WWWHHHHIIIIIINNNNNN, WHHHH, WHIIINNNN, WHIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN. He cut the wall into pieces…and walked over it. Then he turned and started cutting the other wall!! WHHIIINNNNN, WHA, WHIIINNNNN, on and on the chainsaw went until finally the sawdust was so thick Mama said we all had to go outside. I mean, the SAWDUST WAS SO THICK WE HAD TO GO OUTSIDE! For little kids, this was unbelievable! Daddy had just cut out 3 walls of our house. What was he going to do….cut the whole house down? Where were we going to live? Why were there red bandannas being tied around Daddy and Daddy Jack’s faces? Why were they tearing our house up? I thought they were happy. Everyone seemed happy. But, Daddy had just cut our house up with a chainsaw. The sawdust was so thick we had to go outside to breath. What is Sam Hill was going on in this place?!!
As we ran for our lives out of that house, we all looked at each other like, “what just happened”. JoLynne said, “Uncle Johnny just cut that wall down!” and Jacklyn said, “Maybe ya’ll won’t have a house anymore”, and Tracy said, “Daddy just cut down that wall!!” and I said, “Did you see Daddy, he just cut down our walls?” We didn’t know what was going on. We ran around to the front of the house and up onto the porch. The chainsaw still roared. What was next? We didn’t have a clue.
By the end of that day, Daddy had cut out 3 main walls and one picture window. In their places were cased openings allowing us to move from the bedrooms to the kitchen without going in a circle, a hall closet, a new door for the bathroom, and a perfect square to chase each other around…right in the middle of the house. It all worked out well. And truly, the only lasting effects we felt were the taste of sawdust we learned to like…because sawdust it seems has the magical ability to penetrate everything. Months after the walls were gone, we were still eating sawdust. How it got into the cabinets…and stayed there after multiple washing’s…I have no idea. We ate sawdust, wore sawdust in our clothes, and vacuumed sawdust up from the carpet until we moved out of the house in 1991.
It’s funny now, how many times Mama would have an idea and Daddy would pull out his chainsaw, or some other tool and make it happen. He has never used blueprints, scaled drawings, or expensive machinery to make or change things. Using the gifts God gave him and the inspiration of his wife…he has always just gotten the job done. How the house never fell in on top of us, I will never know.”
This past weekend my sister and brother-in-law were talking about redoing the cabinets in their kitchen. It just so happens that the house they live in is the same house we moved into after the we sold the old house described above. And, it also just so happens that Mama wanted to remodel the kitchen in the ‘new’ house one day too. Can you guess what Daddy used to cut out the cabinet so the refrigerator could fit into a new place…yep! We all laughed as we looked at that chainsaw mark he left on that cabinet. Some things will never change!