Upper New York State, beautiful in the spring, summer and fall but hell in the winter. Life in this small town of about 5,000 people didn’t change much from day-to-day except when the weather wrought havoc which sometimes happened in the winter. At least, that is how it appeared on the surface but in truth, there was a hive of constant activity going on most of which was out of sight and mind of most people.
My name is Bob Morris and although I have lived in this town in Upper New York State for several years, am not a native having come here several years ago from Canada. I married a local girl, Jody and we live in a small house on the outskirts of town. I am the owner of a small construction company specializing in remodelling and general construction and although it gives me a good living, I am never going to get rich from it. It does however, give me the opportunity to meet a lot of people.
It was early June and we were already well into our construction season. I arrived at the Office at about 6:30 am which was a corner of a large shed on an acre of land surrounded by the usual paraphernalia associated with construction work. There was piles of rubble, concrete blocks all neatly stacked, sand and stone in other piles, a large pile of carefully stacked 2×10′ and 2×12’s which were for scaffolding on projects that required it. In a larger shed close by were stored ladders, the company trucks and all kinds of construction tools. A corner had been divided off as a workshop and inside were the saws and planers that we used for the cabinet work.
“Good Morning Mike” I cheerfully sang out to the first employee for the day. “How are things this morning”?
Mike Jackson responded with a grunt which was pretty good for him as normally, he just looks at you as though you didn’t exist these early hours. This was mostly due to the fact that Mike was a bit of a heavy drinker and sometimes let it get the better of him. I had bailed him out of the local jail a couple of time before and although he was not an out-and-out criminal, he did tend to walk a tight line between good and bad. On the other hand, he was a very good and willing worker after he woke up which was about twenty minutes or so after he arrived at the office and had drunk the coffee that I had brewing there.
Mike was quickly followed by the rest of the crew for the day who composed of Bill Smith who was a bricklayer/stonemason specialist and a pretty good carpenter and my right hand man, Harvey Johnson and Matthew O’Connell both of whom were all around laborer types with some construction skills and anything else that needed to be done and Glen Smalling who was a first class carpenter and cabinet-maker. They all mumbled out their “Good Mornings” and poured themselves coffee and started chattering among themselves.
It had taken me a couple of years to assemble this group and between us, we could just about handle most of the sort of work that small construction companies work on, remodelling, masonry, stonework and almost anything we could make a buck at. Me, I joined in wherever I was needed and ran the company. I was good with all kinds of tools, more like a jack of all trades but had been trained as a bricklayer and had extensive training in Project Management.
I sat back and surveyed the scene and listened to some of the chatter and had a good laugh when Mike, who was beginning to come out of his stupor regaled us with a story of this woman he had met in the bar last night. He could tell a good yarn and had us all in stitches by the time he had finished. Turns out that she was a married woman and after Mike hit up on her, her old man came storming in and accused Mike of messing around with his wife. Mike of course denied everything and somehow managed to persuade the angry man that it wasn’t him, it was another guy who had just left where upon, the guy dragged his wife out by her hair and Mike collapsed in laughter as he did.
Mike’s problem was that he never learned by these sort of episodes as he had had many a close call from an irate husband or two. My theory was that he liked the excitement of pushing his luck and when he managed to wriggle out from under, it was like an adrenaline rush to him.
Our Office lady, Patricia Jackson, came in and was greeted by “Good Morning” from the lads as they prepared to start the day.
“OK, listen up. I want everyone down at the Brown’s job today. I would like to see if we can’t wrap up most of that job if at all possible. Bill, I will be down as soon as I finish with this estimate for Mrs Black and get it to her”. The Brown’s job was a major store remodelling and had to be done in phases as the store had to remain open. So we had to work around things which of course meant that the project was taking a little longer than expected but if we pushed it a bit, we could get back on schedule. It was a very important job as it showed off our ability to perform work in phases and under difficult circumstances and was a good advertisement for our company.
The men all trooped out and jumped into the two company trucks and drove back into town to the Brown project. I, on the other hand, needed to check over the estimate I had prepared for Mrs Black and had worked at late into last evening. I wanted to be sure that I hadn’t missed anything and that my numbers were correct.
My office was a corner desk in the same room as Patricia who was a single, very nice looking, well-developed lady who had a good head for numbers and for all of her young years, kept the books straight without too much help from me. Good job really as I had problems balancing my check book let alone keep books for a Construction Company that would satisfy an IRS audit. “Pat, can you please check these numbers over and let me know of any errors” I asked “Sure boss” she replied pleasantly “When do you want them” “Well lets see, I need to go see that job at the Alisford Estates. They want to brick in the next house and then I will go to the Brown project and give the lads a hand. Say 2:00 pm this afternoon”. “You got it” she replied and buried her head in the books as she made more entries. Me, I wasn’t much of a book-keeping expert. I could get an invoice ready but other than that, most of what I did was to tell Patricia what I wanted and then left it up to her.
I stopped by the Alisford Estates housing developement that was run by a close friend of mine. His name was Charles Vino who could trace his Italian heritage back several generations and who had bought this property and was building houses on it one at a time. As he sold one, he would build another one and so on. I bricked or stoned up all of them and had a good thing going so I made sure that I looked after Charles or Chuck as everyone called him. He had this one house that was getting close to completion and wanted to talk about it with me. When I had these sort of projects which were a little bigger than I normally handled, I took on extra help which included a couple more bricklayers.
“Good morning” I said as I walked into his office. “How are things today”? “Everything is going good” he said “we shall be ready to enclose that house in about three weeks just so you can make your plans”. We sat down and worked out the details and signed the contract. I lingered a little longer chatting to Charley’s secretary who was a very nice looking lady, the sort that you wish you knew a lot better. I liked to chat to her as she always wore these low-cut blouses and could move in a most provocative way. She was about thirty or so, not currently married and knew what she had. I had to keep reminding myself that I was married and stay down boy…