FROM THE VALLEY: Dear diary: We are still at the river

Tom Valley

Whenever we are spending time at our humble cottage on the St. Lawrence River, and I have a column to write, a self-pity mindset creeps into my thinking and more than likely manifests itself in and around the article. Such is the case today.

It's probably not hard to figure out why that happens — considering the fact that my wife appropriately named the place the Labor Camp. And yes, truth be told, I feel sorry for myself. I feel sorry for myself — regardless of the fact that I know my blessings are abundant. Why? Because I'm not the most ambitious person in the world. I'm of the opinion that the word 'effort' should be a four letter word.

When we show up at the river, we know we're going to get our hands dirty. The pile of work that needs immediate attention is as challenging as eating a moose with a paper chopstick. (Of note: “work” … 4 letters!)

It's always one step forward and two steps backwards. Preventive maintenance is not existent. Why? Because it's always too late to prevent something from happening when we are too busy repairing things that already did happen. We can only do so much.

My wife is the gung-ho type ready to tackle whatever stands in the way. She loves it. So much, in fact, that if ever a time came when there was nothing to do, she would actually put something in her way to get at it.

And sadly, for me, she likes to organize work-committees. And even sadder, I'm the only one around for her to draft into service. And it doesn't sweeten the pot any when she assigns me a fancy title for each job. Septic Supervisor and Fungus Foreman are not going to make me strut around like a bantam rooster nor give me the proud urge to have it tattooed across my ass. Corporal Punishment would probably be a more appropriate moniker.

Okay, time to be honest: My wife, Kathie, works her tail off. I do some of the heavy lifting but she works much, much harder. But I have a legitimate medical reason for my slothful behavior. It's because I have a severe case of … slothful-behavior. That's not to say I don't occasionally work hard, but certainly not as hard as she does. (Cool. I can now check off the 'be-nice-to-your-wife-in-the-column' box.)

Let's cut to the chase. Here is the first woe-is-me story of a two-part column from our most recent trip:

Knowing that I had some small trees and brush to clear out of the way once we got there, I wanted my chainsaw to purr like a kitten. I wanted to look like I was Canadian-born, north-woods, red-flannel wearing lumberjack who knew how to handle my motorized axe … eh. So I got a guy to work on my machine and make it run like a top. (“Run like a top”: his words, not mine.)

I paid the man a $100. I then purchased a tankful of the proper gas and oil mixture, plus a gallon of oil for the bar and chain. I packed it in the back of the pickup truck along with my weed wacker, which I also had the guy fix up and, yes, run like a top. That was an additional 100 bucks. In retrospect, I could have easily hired somebody, once I got there, to come with their own equipment and do the 3 hour job for much less. Whatever.

Anyhow, after the nearly four and a half hour drive and unpacking, I fired the chainsaw up. It ran … well, like a top. But because one of my wife's work committees needed their Director of Dead Fish Removal on scene, I had to set the saw aside after only 10 minutes on the job and wait until the next day to finish.

The next morning was a sad day. Sometime during the night, the chainsaw passed away. It had seized up. No more cutting. And if you're keeping track: that's ten bucks a minute worth of usage. Trying to start it would have easily brought the most manly of small-engine repairmen to their knees in a flood of tears. Sad. It would never again ... spin like a top. Money down the drain … eh.

I thought about turning it into a boat anchor … an expensive boat anchor. But with traces of gas and oil still in it, I couldn't take the chance. The damn thing still couldn't … 'cut' it. Thank you.

Join me here next week when I explain life underneath the cottage where every known species of creepy-crawly things exist in “Itsy, bitsy spiders … my ass.” I apologize for that. I'll try harder next week.

And that's the way it looks from the St. Lawrence River ... Valley.

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