Saturday, October 13, 2012


Guys have all the adventures.  All I ever do is climb up to the gutters of my one-story house to throw the leaves out.  Of course, that’s kind of exciting when you’re on an 8-foot step-ladder and standing close to the top.  Esp. if only three out of the four legs are solid on the ground.  The flowerbeds close to the house tend to accumulate roots and added soil in an unhelpful way.  I have a fairly long extension ladder which I need to get on top of my garage.  Time to do that now as well.  These are old leaky buildings and I tarp them.  Luckily the roofs are flat.  Unluckily, in high wind country they always need repositioning here and there.  What I had not expected was ultraviolet damage, which “eats” a tarp a year.  Right now I have two-year tarps up but need to tend the edges.

Here are a few “guy” ladder stories from my friend Paul:


I was building a house for an out of state client, way up on top of a mountain near the Canadian border. This place was out there, remote you might say. Don't recall why I was working that day myself, but I was rolling tar paper on the roof, getting ready to install the metal. One of the rolls of tar paper got away from me, rolling down the roof and took out my ladder. Wouldn't have done any good to holler for help, no one to hear. I'd crawl to the edge and look over the eaves, first at the two story drop, then eyeballing the window sockets that still didn't have windows installed, gauging my chances of hanging from the eaves and catching a foot on the edge of one of the windows, somehow rescuing myself. Just no way that was going to happen without killing myself and 20 plus feet drop at my size isn't an attractive proposition either.

I sat up there a long time, admiring the scenery and hoping that someone would show up on the job site. Finally I decided the only way I was going to get down was to cut a hole or something in the roof and let myself down through the trusses. No saw. Did have a hammer and wonder bar though, so I just ended up taking up one of the plywood sheets and slid down that way. I learned a few lessons from that. Never work on a roof alone. Take some fucking water up there with you and secure your ladder so it can't fall.

Another bad ladder story that comes to mind. I was working late night, maybe 2am in a restaurant, servicing a fire system in Sandpoint. Truck backed up to the door, doors wide open on truck and restaurant. I had to climb to the very top of my 6' step ladder and remove a suspended ceiling tile to access the gas shut off valve to the appliances. Dead silence in the place, only the hum of various refrigeration. All of a sudden I hear "FREEZE" yelled at the top of someone's lungs. It startled me so much I jumped higher, hit the roof trusses and came tearing through the suspended ceiling off my ladder. Well, most of me anyway. One of my legs got snagged between the ladder step and last rung and I was hung upside down with my head just brushing the floor, looking up to see two fucking startled cops with their guns pointing at me.

I think you're supposed to be scared at a time like that, but I was spitting MAD! I wasn't sure if my leg or anything else was broken and I was helpless to get myself out of that mess. They wanted to ask me questions and I wanted them to tip my ladder over so I could get loose and see what the damage was. There was a lot of hollering going on.

I made a pest of myself for years afterwards, always calling the dispatcher when I first pulled into a place at night, to please alert all loose cops to the fact I'd be working there for a bit that night.

The one year we had a ton of snow, I scored on all the snow shovels available in town and hired out crews to shovel roofs. We'd set up a scary series of ladders strapped to buildings to access some of the higher stuff in downtown. Finally, I rented a 40' heavy duty extension ladder. Took a couple of us to set it up initially. When it came time to move it, I thought I could just shove the feet up against the wall and lower it down to my truck by myself by walking it down, rung by rung. Knew I was in trouble right off the bat, but instead of getting out of the way and letting the dang thing crash, I tried to cushion it with my body. Ouch!

Back in my fruit tramp days, I'd often hire Mexican help to pick over ripe orchards. Some of those experienced folks never came off a ladder until their picking bags were full. They could walk their picking ladders all the way around a tree without ever coming down! I tried my best to learn how to do that 'cause I hated having to come down to readjust my ladder all the time. Only thing I got good at was learning to roll properly to avoid getting hurt when I fell off.


I wonder how hard it would be to learn to “roll properly” at my age.  Maybe I should wait until there are a few feet of soft snow on the ground, but the gutters have to be cleared NOW.  This minute.  Toot sweet.  Today.  The rains begin tomorrow.  Today the people will walk by, all advising,  “Don’t fall off.”  Most of them have done their ladder work in September.  A few never go up any ladder, any where, any time.  But they have no stories to tell.


Joe Cottonwood said...

Great stories.

I've got a few ladder stories if you're in the mood:
or a few more...

Jake Allsop said...

"Don't fall off!" It's like saying to a child "Be good!", it's more for the benefit of the speaker than of the speakee (?).
Anyway, do be careful, and don't fall off.

Anonymous said...

It is much better to clean the rain gutters AFTER the leaves fall!

Mary Strachan Scriver said...

Dunno where you live, but my leaves are down, my gutters are clean, and life goes on. I did not fall.

Prairie Mary