Adventures in Drywall
Each month, we spend untold hours plotting the text and tone of our articles. We regard the opportunity to serve this magazine a privilege and take seriously the charge of making fools of ourselves. For all of you who may be wondering, yes, we have day jobs. And we realize that we should cling dearly to them. We won't, however, diminish the quality of our art in spite of those petty diurnal obligations.
This month, we bring you the beauty of the beast. The haughty hound. The mighty mutt. The drywall dog.
Every bona fide drywall contractor has a dog and the drywall dog is the definition of man's best friend. It's said that to be a true drywaller, you must be in possession of a truck, a Budweiser and a dog. If the dog has a limp or missing limb, that's a badge of job site experience. If the dog wears a bandana, that is further validation that you've spent years in the trade. If the Budweiser wears a bandana, you should see a psychiatrist.
Amores perrosAnyone with a dog has a dog story. We've all run into the folks who start these stories that seem to commence at the dog's conception, complete with lineage or pedigree, and chart the dog's daily movements. These are the same people who would probably have no appreciation for the quality of a pound dog. They'd rather have AKC papers, presumably to prove the dog's worth, but we'd have to guess that these people are uncomfortable with their own heritage.
The good drywall dogs are like mud: they're all purpose. They don't cost too much and you can use them anywhere. They're your alarm clock on the hangover mornings, your warmth on the cold ride to the job, your trusted companion when you feel everyone else is screwing with you, and the only creature with a pulse that won't tell you to shut up when you start whining. They can usually scare up a dead bird for lunch and rely on you for little else than an occasional belly scratch. They'll guard your tools at the supply yard and attract sympathetic women as an added bonus. In short, they are vital to your existence.
This story comes from a contractor by the name of John, but it's the story of a dog named Gonzo. Gonzo may never read this article but his name has been changed to protect his innocence and shield him from further shame.
Gonzo was a drywall dog's drywall dog. Although his price tag as a pup was $5, he was priceless. He was the runt of the litter, with lousy odds to make it past his first week on the planet. But he survived. As time went on, Gonzo became John's number-one employee. He never showed up late, called in sick, asked for vacation, had back problems, court dates, DUIs, or any absence of any description. He didn't actually do any work, but John was willing to overlook that in lieu of his superb attendance record.
Gonzo took orders like a soldier: Get in the truck, get out of the truck, and get back in the truck. The unflinching canine warrior. But during his times out of the truck, Gonzo had more time to adventure than was sometimes healthy. He had been chased out of neighboring yards. He'd encountered rock-throwing children, cats with stiletto claws and skunks with little patience and less discretion. He'd ventured into bees' nests, stepped on nails and had some near misses with moving vehicles that should by all rights have ended his hijinks. Yet he endured.
As with most dogs, Gonzo's desire for food had few limits. Dogs will, by nature, eat what's available and Gonzo was certainly no exception. An occasional dirt breakfast was not unusual. Although John did feed Gonzo, Gonzo and John had an ongoing disagreement as to the meaning of a sufficiency of food. Gonzo ate his dog food, followed by any human scraps, often to be followed by the choix du jour. This could range from the aforementioned deceased fowl to any number of discoveries in garbage cans, dumpsters and the like. Gonzo was not discriminating and often the items he ingested were not intended for consumption.
Every dog has its dayThe story of Gonzo's ordeal begins as any other day. It was a cold Midwest morning in March of last year and as he did every other day, Gonzo awoke early to greet the new day and the eternally fresh challenge of filling his dog stomach. He leapt eagerly into the passenger's side of the truck, which was certainly a step up from his usual position of riding unfettered in the trailer. Off to the job site to watch John and his partner clean up the mess and prep for taping.
Gonzo's quest began simply enough. It was no different than his typical routine: Fend for yourself. Find something to eat, find something to chase and then find something else to eat. But on this day, rather than search the frozen March ground and battle the usual elements, the heaters and the company of humans had an unusually strong magnetism. Although we'll never know exactly what he was thinking, it's likely that sheer hunger was the driving force.
Inside the house, Gonzo happened upon a newly swept pile of drywall scraps, dust and screws. The pile was small enough, and probably arranged in a manner that created the illusion of a meal. Or perhaps Gonzo had overheard the word scrap in reference to the board and foolishly assumed they were referring to table scraps. We'll never know just what he was thinking, but at that moment, hunger superseded all rational thought. Gonzo took his first taste.
There is the possibility that some burrito wrapper was in the small pile, or that a scent had wafted in to the room at precisely the moment that Gonzo took his initial inventory of the pile. In any event, the experience of the first bite was not enough to discourage another bite. And yet another.
It was fortunate that John had even remembered the sweepings being in this particular spot, because he may have otherwise dismissed Gonzo as the dumb dog that he is, mooching around for anything. John arrived on the scene just as Gonzo was swallowing the last bite of his brunch.
It's been said of real tough guys, "he eats nails for breakfast," but we don't have any evidence to support anyone ever doing this. Yet Gonzo took it a step further: He ate screws. And washed them down with gypsum. That's tough.
John didn't react to what he found right away. He'd guessed that Gonzo probably ate a little board if anything and that wouldn't affect him. But as the day dragged on, so did Gonzo. This dog was not the type to mope around and John became increasingly concerned. By day's end, Gonzo did not jump up into the truck as usual. He had barely moved from the site of the meal.
John took action. Gonzo was lifted into the truck and taken to the vet that afternoon.
The next twelve hours were dark. Gonzo's health continued to deteriorate along with John's hopes as the vet saw the hound's pulse dropping, his minimal activities dwindle further, and his eyes begin to shut.
And then the minor miracle happened. We'll spare you the medical details, but the screws emerged from Gonzo unfazed by stomach acids, in a random manner. The ensuing howls were probably a mix of sheer joy and excruciating pain, but when it was all over, Gonzo got up from that table as if the next meal could be razor blades and bit tips. We won't venture a guess as to whether the screws were still usable, but we're hoping John had the decency to allow the vet to dispose of them.
We seek partners and coworkers who can tough it out in the worst conditions, who don't grumble if they're working Sunday morning or Friday night. And we can safely say that the true drywall dog doesn't have to be a dog. It's anybody who can live with the best and the worst the job has to offer day in and day out, who has decent character and won't cry and complain. Everybody knows a Gonzo, and the grit they bring. Treat them right and feed them more than a pile of crap every so often. And remember, it's not just a dog ... it's your life.