MACKEY LAKE

“Needing to make up for lost time we worked once again to midnight, hearing the same profanities coming at us as the evening before.”

Mackey Lake

During the last thirty years, at Christmas time, I tried writing the most crazy and bizarre Christmas letters and cards of all. They were sent to select family and friends. Some were borderline genius if I may say so, while others crashed and burned. That’s the way it is in writing humor. Like standup comedians, there are those compositions that fall flat on their face.

This year for Christmas, I decided to do something different. Three stories were composed about my friend, Jeff, and myself. As far as I know they’ve never been told, at least not by me. This is the third and final one. Much like the storyline, working through ailments has placed me a bit behind schedule. I’ve been writing day and night to get things finished.

*****************************************************

My friend, Jeff Thimsen, decided on a career as a carpenter and contractor early on in life. I believe a major part of his choice revolved around Jesus Christ having done the same, including good family friend, neighbor, and mentor, Maver Roth. Jeff worked with Maver on several construction projects throughout high school and after graduation. Roth taught Jeff many of his tricks of the trade.

Eventually, Jeff headed out on his own, doing framing and other related projects under the name, Thimsen Construction. I was one of, if not his first hired employee. A framing contract awarded to Jeff by CAPP HOMES out of Washington State required the assistance of at least one laborer, mainly to help set heavy walls into place.

The project was at Mackey Lake in Soldotna, Alaska. We’d be staying in a tent and roughing it so to speak. It sounded like a camping trip to me with pay so I was eager to get started.

Electricity was provided to the site, but all other amenities were up to us. Thankfully, Solid Rock Bible Camp was but a short distance away. We were able to obtain a hot meal, sandwiches, and water from the camp counselors, most especially, Steve Larson, one of Jeff’s good friends. Not being moochers, we left a donation to the facility for food. Solid Rock also let us bathe in the cold waters of their adjoining lake via bathing suits of course.

When I first saw the huge pile of wood at our construction site, I wondered what I’d gotten myself into. It was hard to imagine that amount of material being handled by two people. Jeff’s simple response was, “One piece at a time!”

By the first day we pretty much had the floor down, this accomplished by working well into the night. Using flood lights, and with help from the almost never setting sun, we motored along until well past midnight. The tap, tap, tap, of our hammers echoed like gunfire across the lake. Someone on the other side started yelling for us to stop, but we kept on going, figuring there was no noise ordinances in rural Soldotna.

The third day, Jeff accidentally stepped on a nail putting it through his right heel into bone. His foot swelled like a baked persimmon, and we deemed it best to go straight to a doctor. This was after he tried working in pain for a couple of hours. We made a quick dash to Anchorage where my friend received a tetanus shot plus thick bandages. There was a short time schedule for getting this job done so back to Soldotna we headed.

Needing to make up for lost time we worked once again to midnight, hearing the same profanities coming at us as the evening before. In our way of viewing things, the guy doing all the screaming could’ve simply put in earplugs if our noise was that irritating.

Trying to erect the first large wall, Jeff and I found that we didn’t quite have the umph to get it all the way up. Steve Larson came to our rescue once again after we picked him up. His strong back and brawn came in handy numerous times after.

The roof pitch was a steep 8/12, so it took me some getting used to being up there. If I fell, on one side there was soft dirt, the other end was where the lake met damp earth. It was quite a drop into cold water at that point. Initially, Jeff worked with a rope tied around his waist while I held tight on the other side. Eventually, scraps of wood were nailed down for foot support.

The hardest part of the whole job besides raising and setting heavy roof trusses, was installing a twenty-foot-long glulam support beam. Steve Larson again risked his life on this task. We tied a rope onto one end of the beam and lifted it into a precut slot. The other side was manhandled with young backs, long boards, and ropes. It took a while, but we were successful and uninjured.

Seeing that we could finish things in one more day and meet schedule, Jeff and I rose early that morning and worked until three a.m. Our friend across the lake cursed us incessantly until he evidently ran out of breath. When we heard what sounded like a gunshot, Jeff decided that he meant business. Having almost completed our job, it was wise to hit the sack.

No sooner did we fall asleep than headlights rolled up to our tent entrance. We had a handgun and I reached for it expecting the worse. A bright spotlight suddenly illuminated our tent, with a demanding voice coming across a tinny sounding loudspeaker,

“This is the state troopers. Is anyone in there. If so, come out slowly.”

I wisely slid the gun back under my pillow, with Jeff and I carefully crawling out in our skivvies.

The trooper wanted to know if we were the ones doing all the hammering. It should’ve been quite obvious to him that we were, because this was the only home being framed within miles.

After giving him our story about how the job needed to be done by a certain date to avoid penalty, and Jeff hurting his leg, he seemed sympathetic to our problem. The officer gave us a warning to not work past ten at night. What he didn’t make clear was on how early we could start, and Jeff didn’t ask. I wanted to say that we were workaholics, believing he’d find humor in such, yet my mouth had gotten me in trouble many time before so I kept it closed.

Needing just a few more boards nailed together and wanting to get out of that cramped tent for our comfortable apartment back in Anchorage, we were once again pounding nails in less than an hour. As expected, the man across the pond started yelling.

As a final coup de grace to the whole experience, Jeff tapped out that infamous door knock on a hollow bedroom wall, “Tap – tappa tap tap – tap tap.” At that point we quickly packed up tools and rolled out of town.

Jeff went to a successful building career, while I worked a couple of years with a friend owning C&K Construction, pouring concrete with some framing during the winter. I finally went into the automotive field finding that more to my liking.

There’s a section of roof truss in that Mackey Lake home having the following inscription written in pencil:

Jeff and Mike – 1973

I drove by that house a while back finding that it still stood tall. This was a testament to our hard work, blood, sweat, and boxes of sixteen-penny-nails pounded by hand, around the clock for a week, nearly fifty years ago.

Capp Homes advertisement

Author: michaeldexterhankins

ordinary average guy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: