The rains that came after our long Georgia drought brought down the gutters at my rental property in Athens. Filled with leaves I had neglected, the weight was just too much. Facia boards needed replacing, in addition to the gutters. The property includes an apartment built over the garage. The roof is two-stories high. Scaffolding would be required. I would need to rent a trailer to haul the scaffolding, hire somebody to climb the scaffolding. No climbing for me, who staggers and weaves walking at ground level, without any gyroscopic stabilizer due to 100 percent loss of hearing and balance function in both ears from bout with meningitis two years ago. Installing new gutters would take several days, with a three-hour round-trip drive from Pine Lake to Athens each time. I had a tenant vacating the garage apartment at the end of April. My wife and I decided we would save the daily drive by staying in the vacant apartment. We carried inflatable air mattresses, a couple of pots and pans, and the laptop.
After camping out Sunday night in the garage apartment, I drove off first thing Monday morning to pick up a helper near the Home Depot on Epps Bridge Rd., then the trailer and scaffolding. If there is an art to choosing laborers among the gathered and eager, I have never learned it. Still, I have hired many laborers over the years, and very few of them have disappointed me. Even with occasional language barriers, there is one dependable thing in common, willingness to work hard. On Monday, I settled on a middle-aged laborer. He loaded the scaffolding on the trailer, unloaded it in front of the garage, then erected it to the height of 18 feet. He cleared all the remaining leaves from the roofs of the garage and the main house. At the end of the day, I asked him to work for me the next day. However, when I arrived on Tuesday to pick him up, he said he could not work for me that day, but he had brought his son, a strong-looking 24-year-old. How could I go wrong? Young and strong. I soon found young son, though a willing worker, had no construction experience. He bent nail after nail in the facia board. He held the hammer too close to the head. I had to mentor him about the leverage at the end of the handle. The work went slowly. I had to supervise the driving of each nail. It was an exhausting day, and I did not ask young son to come back. On the third day, I found Hernando, also young and strong, but a skilled and experienced construction worker. I was able to walk away from Hernando and leave the facia boards and gutters to his judgment, while I did other tasks. I arranged for Hernando to work for me the rest of the week. I now have his telephone number for the next time I need him in Athens.
Two years ago, Congress authorized building a fence along the border between the U. S. and Mexico. Not just chain-link too high for anyone to climb over, but “at least 2 layers of reinforced fencing,” a no-man’s land 150 feet deep, and access and maintenance roads. The Department of Homeland Security is in charge of this project to stop terrorists and illegal immigrants. Despite the fact that each and every 9/11 terrorist was in the United States legally and somehow drew no attention to themselves by taking flying lessons without landing lessons. Also despite the fact that only 700 miles of fence were planned for the 1,900 miles of border. Despite the random gaps in even that 700 miles, which takes small private homes and land by eminent domain and condemnation but suddenly stops in Granjeno, Tx., at property owned by Dallas billionaire Ray L. Hunt, who recently donated $35 million to help build the George W. Bush presidential library at SMU. In Brownsville, Tx., someone again asks to know what we are walling in or walling out, at the edge of the River Bend Resort and Golf Course. The wall stops, then starts again on the other side of the resort. Golfers report teeing off while illegal immigrants crossed the fairway but were immediately caught by U. S. Border Patrol, who often park their SUVs at the edge of the golf course.
Copyright 2008 by William C. Cotter