Monday, December 01, 2014

What a difference a day makes

Originally published in
Reader Weekly
March 15, 2001
Often when I do something different, I have unexpected problems which might not have happened if I had done the usual.

One weekday in August was unusual in many ways and I had my share of problems.  I planned to go to our cabin in Brimson, Minnesota on Thursday morning instead of Friday afternoon or Saturday morning.  Kathleen Anderson, a Brimson jill-of-all-trades, was to come over at one o’clock to help me do the base for our sauna.

The first problem was at breakfast; I spilled orange juice.  Now I had to wash the table cloth.  Then I forgot to pack some things.  Then the garage door would only open partially.

I eventually got to Brimson at noon and gobbled lunch.  I scurried around to have all the tools and material in place before Kathleen came.

Kathleen came at the appointed time.  In about three hours we had the base level and square.

The rest of the day was a blur of work and reading.  I started getting ready for bed about nine, actually got into bed before ten, and zonked out quickly.

Sometime after eleven I woke up to scratching and peeping sounds.  It was in the stove pipe.  Something was stuck just above the damper, probably a bird.

I really didn’t want to take the stove pipe apart.  I would have soot everywhere, and the bird would probably fly all over the room before I finally got it out of the cabin.

I laid awake wondering what to do in the morning.  Do I build a fire to incinerate the critter?  Do I take the stove pipe apart?  What can I put down the chimney to snag the bird?  Aha!  Duct tape on the end of a set of rods!

I finally fell into a fitful sleep, sometimes waking to more scratching and peeping.

At six the alarm went off.  I had lots to do for the day.  Slowly, bit by bit, I washed my face and put on my contact lenses, folded the bed into a couch, read the newspaper online, ate breakfast, and other odds and ends.

Finally a bit after eight I am ready to rescue the bird.  I assemble the chimney brush rods and set them on the roof.  I put the ladder against the roof.  I get my hard hat with ear protectors and a screen face plate.  I don’t want to be pecked or scratched.  I get my work gloves and tool belt.  Into the tool belt I put a flashlight, scissors, and a roll of duct tape.

Up the ladder I go!  Take storm cap off chimney.  Peer down chimney.  It’s just a black hole.  Shine flashlight down hole.  The soot just eats the light.  Maybe I should put new batteries in the flashlight.  Wait a minute!  I have a work light.

Down the ladder.  Get work light and 100 foot extension cord on a reel.  Plug cord into outlet on side of cabin.  Plug light into cord to check.  After some jiggling I have a good connection.

Up the ladder with the light and the cord reel.  Get the work light in place.  It doesn’t come on!  Jiggle the connection.  It works.  Look down the chimney again.  The light doesn’t come on.  Repeat previous steps.  Finally the light is on pointing down the chimney.  The soot eats the light.  Maybe the light from the work light is too diffuse.  I’ll try new batteries in the flashlight.

Down the ladder.  Cut open new package of batteries.  Replace batteries.  Check flashlight.  Great, it’s quite a bit brighter.

Up the ladder.  Shine flashlight down chimney.  Flashlight doesn’t work!  Unscrew cap and reseat cap.  Now it works.  Shine down chimney.  It looks like there is a spot of light down there.  But I can’t really see anything ten feet down a matte black tube.

OK, I’ll try to get the bird out blind.  Cut piece of duct tape.  Good sign, it doesn’t fold on itself.  Wrap tape around end of rod, twist tape so sticky side is out when I make a loose loop.  Twist and wrap other end around rod.

Stick rod down chimney.  Slowly, slowly, gently, gently.  I don’t want to crush the bird.  I feel the bird at about ten feet.  The rod feels just a bit heavier.  Pull up and out.  What is this dark blob I see?  Just soot covered duct tape!  Put another loop of tape on end of rod.

Stick rod down chimney.  Slowly, slowly, gently, gently.  I feel the bird.  I pull up.  The rod doesn’t feel heavier.  Try again.  The rod is going down further!  It’s going past the damper!  It won’t come back up!  The tape is catching the damper!

Oh great!  Am I going to have take the stove pipe apart after all?  Keep trying.  Again.  Again.  On the fourth try the tape comes through the damper, I hope.  Feel around again for the bird.  Ah!  I think I have it.  Up gently, gently, slowly, slowly.  Don’t bang the rod and bird against the side of the chimney.

The end of the rod is in sight.  I see a gray lump.  It looks furry.  I see one webbed wing.  I see a big pink hole opening and closing as the bat gasps for air or screeches threats.

I set the rod down and the bat falls off or extricates itself from the sticky duct tape.

The bat lies on the roof on its belly with its wings and legs splayed out.  Oh!  I should take a picture of the bat.  As I turn around to start down the ladder to get my camera, I see the bat gliding into the nearby trees.

I laugh and sigh at my accomplishment.  I can’t believe that I succeeded in my wishful plan.  From the roof I look out over our little domain of outbuildings surrounded by acres and acres of trees.  I feel the rush of yesterday fade away to serenity.

©2001, 2007 Melvyn D. Magree