Gas Pains

Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.

Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.

New Home For The Saint

Family, Religion, Workshop Projects

Do kids take shop class anymore?

I had a conversation with a pal of mine about this very same subject last week and we were basically convinced that a generation of children have been born into the digital entertainment age and are completely incapable of hanging a door or cabinet, plumbing a toilet or faucet, wiring a switch or even building a bird house.

You know – the skills of everyday practical living.

He told me about growing-up how his pa would butcher a pig every fall. I told him about how I butcher deer every fall. We both compared notes about having successfully completed wood shop, metal shop, electrical shop, or auto shop. 

And we both lamented the fact that children nowadays know very little of these skills.

Lamentably this would even include our own kids.

Is our culture doomed to failure at being handy? 

Please.  Someone tell me it isn’t so. 

This last weekend I moseyed on over to Lowe’s and returned home with a truck full of lumber and a new blade for my table saw.

I cut and assembled another ten nest boxes for my feathered friends.

I’ll stain these and install them at the appropriate locations on the farm for the cavity-nesting birds.

What about the saint? There you go again - droning-on about another failure of public education or poor parenting.  When are you going to tell us about the saint?

I was just getting to that.

Growing-up as a small child I watched my dad build a home for this guy here.

Using a hand-held, cross-cut saw dad built a shelter for this guy.  It was of redwood construction and built to last.

For any of you who have not read The Lives of the Saints – Saint Francis was born into some wealth, lived an indulgent life and was something of a party boy.  As the legend goes his conversion to a life of piety and poverty can - among other things - be traced to an encounter with a leper.  You can read all about it here.  For purposes of our discussion today Francis is the patron saint of animals, the environment and merchants.  That, and a couple of degrees from a Franciscan university would explain a great deal, eh?  Back to the subject at hand.

This statue was placed in the northwest corner of the original Milwaukee homestead’s yard.  We had our own backyard shrine with a real live  terracotta saint.  When mom and dad moved to Tosa the saint followed.  When we moved dad into a senior living apartment more than three years ago we all wondered about the fate of Saint Francis.

Five decades of Wisconsin winters gradually reduced his shelter to a crumbling vestige of its former self.  Should he continue to reside with the family or take his chances with the new property owners and face an uncertain fate? 

In the end I tucked him under my arm and he came home with me.  Just the saint though.  The redwood had pretty much returned to the earth.

Alas, Francis suffered the ultimate of indignities as far as saints go.  No grotto or niche in a chapel.  No votive candles or incense-infused ritual.  He was relegated to a spot on one of the basement workbenches.  My plan was to build for him a proper home.  But that project would wait. 

For three more years.

Getting back to last weekend after I completed my nest boxes I finally resolved to construct a proper home for my robed buddy of Assisi.

And I began with a bottoms-up approach with a fitted pedestal.

Topped-off with a fine roof.

All of western red cedar.  I might treat it with a preservative of some sort.  Maybe not.  I’m thinking – This shelter might possibly last until well into the next generation.  But probably not as long as the first one that dad built.  Redwood is pretty hard to acquire nowadays.

Anyway, the next steps are to complete the trim on the shrine and find an appropriate location for its placement.

For now I’m thinking of a special place on the farm.  Maybe a location the critters frequent.  Saint Francis would've liked that.

He would also want us to teach our children how to build stuff.

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