“What are you two doing?” Henry shook his head as he walked across the yard. His father and his Uncle Dick were rolling an immense wooden spool / reel toward the shop.
The two men looked up at him. Bill’s face was guilty, Dick’s a bit chagrined.
“Why?” Bill asked. “Who’s asking?”
“Me,” Henry said. “I’m asking. Where did you get that thing?”
“Found it online.” Bill turned back and with a gesture, motioned for Dick to continue rolling it with him.
Henry hurried forward and put his hand on the spool. “Where are you taking this thing?”
“Into the shop. What’s it to you?” Bill asked.
“How did you get it here?”
“Paid a guy.”
“Dad,” Henry said. “What’s going on?”
“I wanted it. I found it. I bought it. I hired a guy to bring it to me. Now, I’m going to take it into the shop, clean it up, and use it.”
“Use it for what?”
Dick laughed. “As in, nunya bi-ness?”
“Exactly,” Bill said.
“Mom would have your head if she knew the two of you were out here rolling this around by yourselves,” Henry said. “Let me help.”
“What your mother doesn’t know won’t hurt me,” Bill said. He did back away and allow Henry to take his place. “I’m not an invalid.”
“No, you’re a dumb old man who has a host of strong young people around who would do whatever you asked them to do.” Henry scowled at Dick, forcing the other man to back away. “Don’t touch this, either of you.”
“Don’t boss me, boy. You’re still my son,” Bill said, his voice low and angry.
“And I want to be your son for many more years. Neither of you are wearing gloves, and look there,” Henry said, pointing to the direction they were rolling the wooden reel. “That hill doesn’t look like much, but it could have taken you down in a flash. Where’s Jack?”
“Workin’,” Bill said with a sulky tone. “Which is what we’d’ve been doin’ if you hadn’t-a showed up.”
“Pigeon English, Dad?” Henry asked with a laugh. “Do you think that sounding like a redneck will intimidate me?”
“I’m not feeble and I don’t appreciate you taking that tone with me.”
“I apologize for my tone. You aren’t feeble,” Henry said. “But let’s talk about this. Who would have been rolling this reel into the shop twenty years ago? You? The two of you?”
“Darn-tootin’,” Bill said.
“Nope. You would have made me do it, and you wouldn’t have let me do it by myself. You would have made me get my buddies to help. That thing is heavy. And today, I don’t plan to do it by myself either. I don’t have to do dumb things to prove to anyone that I’m still young enough to get away with it. I’m not.” Henry tipped the reel over so it could no longer roll. The thing was immense. Nearly five feet in diameter and four feet tall. He’d never seen one of these this big. When he tipped it, the weight of the thing made a loud thud as it hit the ground.
“What did you do that for?” Bill asked. “You already yelled at me. I wasn’t going to do anything more with it.”
Henry took in a long breath. He thought it was hard with ten kids in the house. They were nothing like dealing with a recalcitrant father. One who still deserved his respect, but at the same time, made him nuts. “I’m going to get help. No, I’m going to get help and the loader.”
“I could have done that,” Bill grumbled.
“Should have done that,” Dick agreed.
Henry walked away before he said anything that might make this more difficult for his father. He walked into the shop and caught Jack’s eye.
“Hey,” Jack said, spinning down the lathe where he’d been at work.
“Did Dad say anything to you about a big wooden reel coming in?”
Jack frowned. “No, sir. He didn’t.”
“Do you have a minute?”
Jack glanced at the piece still on the lathe, then nodded. “Sure. What do you need?”
“The big loader.”
That made Jack’s eyebrows shoot up. “How big is this thing?”
“Big enough for the big loader. Would you mind bringing it out of the shed?” Henry pointed. “We’re right out there. I need to find out where Dad wants us to put it.”
“What is he …” Jack stopped when Henry put his hand up.
“Only he knows. Thanks.” Henry looked around the shop while Jack took off at a jog. Where was his father planning to put that thing? They could get it in here by opening the overhead door, but it would take up a lot of usable space. He shook his head again and walked back out.
Dick and Bill were both sitting atop the spool. Dick had found a blade of grass and was picking his teeth with it. Hicks. They were hicks. And if Betty or his Mom saw them, those two men would have their hides tanned. They didn’t act like this around anyone else.
“Jack’s bringing the loader. Where do you want this thing to end up?”
“Back side of the house,” Bill said. “But first we’re going to stain it so it don’t …” Henry looked at him. “So the wood doesn’t rot. We’ll take it inside.”
“How about we just put it into place now?” Henry asked.
“Because I want it to be protected before I leave it out in the elements. Didn’t you hear me, boy?”
“Dad,” Henry said patiently. “The forecast is clear for the next week.”
“You cain’t never be sure with ‘dem forecasters. They don’t know nothing.” Bill shot him a defiant grin. The man was worse than Delia.
Jack drove the loader over to them and soon, the reel was on the scoop. “Where we going with it, boss?” Jack asked, looking straight at Bill. He was a smart young man. Bill was in charge of the shop.
Bill looked at Henry, rolled his eyes, and pointed down the hill behind the house. “Go that way. Wait until I’m there and I’ll show you where I want it. Can’t take it into the shop so we’ll do it his way.”
“Dad …” Henry started.
“You’re probably right. Got no room for it in there if we get busy. And you keep us busy.” Bill stalked off with Dick trailing behind him.
Jack shot Henry a questioning look and all Henry could do was wave him on. He followed the crowd to the back of the house. They hadn’t finished this area yet. Mostly because Bill and Marie couldn’t decide what they wanted out here. It had been several years and they were still talking about it. Marie had given up. She didn’t care. She mostly just wanted a place so she and the kids had a nice place to play. A deck, a patio, even a tent would have been fine. Bill couldn’t make a decision.
The men flounced around the lower patio area outside the basement of the house until Dick finally pointed at a location and Bill shrugged as if to say that would work. Once the reel was unloaded, Jack got down to wait for more instructions. There were always more instructions.
“What do you think, Dad?” Henry asked. “Will this work? We can put it anywhere.” Now that the reel was on the cement pad, he and Jack could shift the thing until it was exactly where Bill wanted it to end up.
“Gonna have to work. Really wish it could have been in the shop, though,” Bill said. He shrugged again. “Guess I’ll do what needs to be done out here.”
“What are you planning to do with it?” Henry asked.
“It was going to be a surprise, but you’ve stuck your nose in it.” Bill trailed his fingers across the top table of the reel. “And I’ll probably have to ask for your help later on because you won’t let me get away with the rest of what I want to do. Dagnab it!” he exclaimed.
“What’s up, Dad?” Henry stepped in next to his father.
“Now I have to haul my tools and everything down here. Would have been easier in the shop.”
“Tell me what you’re thinking.”
“Fine.” Bill slapped the top. “See that center post underneath? I thought JaRon and I might make a curvy train track up from the bottom. We’ll create scenes along the wall of the post. You know, winter and hills, all of it. Then, I will cut a hole for the train to come out the top and run around the base of a big old pine tree for Christmas. But I need my tools.”
“We can strap a tool chest to the four-wheeler,” Jack said. “Fill it up with what you want and if you don’t want to move it back and forth every day, I’ll do it. This sounds really fun. Will you let me help?”
Bill’s face lit up. “What are you thinking, Jack?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I could cut out some, like, pine trees on the CNC and little houses and stuff. The boys could paint them. I’d paint them if they had other things they wanted to make.” Jack pointed at the center of the table. “You’re thinking a big pine tree here? We should build a framework for the tree’s base. And what color are you thinking about painting this thing?”
Dick joined them and the three men walked around and around the reel, pointing out where they’d put things. Bill knelt and showed what he thought might happen with the path of the tracks.
“You know, Dad,” Henry said. Everyone stopped and looked at him. “If you’re worried about working out here in the elements, you have those tarps. We could set them up on posts. Give you a little protection.”
Bill nodded. “That would work. I was trying to think how we could maybe use a tent or something, but the ones we have aren’t tall enough or big enough to work in. Tarps would work. Thanks.”
“Have you sketched this out yet?” Jack asked.
“Nope,” Bill said. “Didn’t have all the proper dimensions. I will in about an hour, though.” He patted his belt, then patted it again. “Where is that danged tape measure? Those things are always running away.”
Henry pulled his off his own belt. During the day, he was rarely without one. “Take mine. I’ll get another from the shop.”
Marie walked out of the basement door. She stopped and looked at the four men, who didn’t have the decency to look ashamed at all. “You did it, didn’t you.”
“Yes, ma’am, I did,” Bill said with no small amount of pride.
“About time.” She turned to Henry. “He’s been looking at that thing online for the last two weeks. Plotting and planning how to make it do what he wants. Now it’s here. The kids and I will have to bring him meals, because we’ll never see him inside again. Dick, your wife has been trying to call you. Did you turn your phone off?”
Dick patted his pockets, then in confusion, he turned on Bill. “My phone must be with your tape measure. Where did we leave those things?”
Bill chuckled. “Up on the porch while we were waiting for the delivery.”
“I’ll go,” Jack said. “After I take the loader back. That okay?”
Dick nodded. “Betty will tan my hide later.”
“Did he call you for help?” Marie asked Henry.
He looked at his father, who shrugged again. That man was enough to make a sane person crazy. “I was here at the right time.”
“I told him to call, that you’d make sure it ended up where it needed to be without anyone getting hurt.”
“I’m not an imbecile,” Bill said.
“You certainly are not,” Marie acknowledged. “But you’re stubborn and don’t like to ask for help.”
“He helped me,” Bill said. “Even when I didn’t ask.”
She chuckled. “Because that’s how we taught him to behave. Now, as Polly would say, are you planning to be grumpy about it all day?”
“Yes,” Bill said with a sly smile. “It’s my day. I’ll be grumpy if I want.”
Jack ran back down the hill. He handed Dick’s phone over and then handed Bill his tape measure, wallet, and phone. “Here you go, sir.”
“See,” Bill said, handing Henry’s tape measure back. “That’s how you treat an elder statesman. You call them sir.”
“Yes, sir,” Henry said. “Would you like me to bow and kiss your ring finger as I prepare to leave your presence?”
“Smart-mouthed boy.” Bill held out his hand. “But, yes, please.”