Adventures in Drywall
The Four Seasons
On the other side of the spectrum, some are born with every advantage. Supportive parents, good schooling, all the right connections, a virtual four-lane freeway with an on-ramp in their backyard. Yet with all these advantages, they ignore or don't feel the need to take the direction of their support system. Somehow, the Beemer spins wildly out of control while traveling much too fast for even a freeway, and they crash.
I consider myself to be one of the fortunate ones. I have had a solid support structure since day one. Although there were no interstates running anywhere close to my yard, the road was solid and had wide shoulders so if I veered off a little, I could recover and stay on course.
Recent news of serious health problems encountered by one of the people who helped keep me on the straight and narrow, and pointed in the right direction, prompted me to write the following.
Band of brothersThe very first example of a hardcore work ethic was demonstrated during the first season of my life, by my father. Bob Bush is one of those examples of the "greatest generation" who went off to Germany when he was in his early 20s to fight his generation's Osama Bin Laden-Adolf Hitler. My dad was gone from home for almost four years and didn't see my brother until he was three.
After the job in Europe was done, he came home and went to work. Period. I have never heard him complain once. Today, he's 81 and considers himself partially retired because he only works four days a week. He gets up at 5 a.m. every workday and loves it. I didn't have a chance to become a mall rat. He would not have permitted it.
During my second season, I began working for both my brother and my brother-in-law, who were builders. Weekends and school vacations would find me handling such jobs as hand nailing trusses, backfilling a basement with a shovel, (after rolling tar on by hand) or hand-cutting base trim with a coping saw. After a short time, I realized that I would always be the little brother. Enter Paul Walczyk.
Paul was the father of one of my close friends. He was and still is a drywall/painting contractor. One day, I had the opportunity to go with Paul and Tim to help them tape a house. The rest is history. I seemed to have a knack for the white stuff and spent the next couple of decades mixing it, troweling it, sanding it and cursing it. It was not an instantaneous transformation, however.
At first, it seemed I was all elbows and knees. But Paul is not only a hulk of a man, he is patient. And with his tutelage, I became proficient at finishing. He was not, however, a pussycat when challenged. I remember making the ill-fated mistake of being full of myself one day and saying "come on Pokes, let's get this show on the road." Paul must have been in his mid-50s at the time, while Tim and I were barely out of out our teens when I made this ultimate blunder. All he did was give me a look like, "Kid, you've done it now." He started running tape through his Banjo so fast all you could see was a white blur. Tim questioned my heritage at this point because he knew his pop was going to bury us. Sure enough, there was dry tape in the corners and two very tired young men that day in South Dakota. I'm pretty sure Paul didn't even work up a sweat.
That being said, I never heard him yell at anyone. And he surely he had reason to yell at me a number of times. Oh by the way, Paul if you read this, I'm sorry I totaled your new pick-up in 1980. I still remember having to make the phone call that fateful night, and all he said was, "Are you boys alright? That's all that really matters."
Just this past week, Paul had to get some work done on the old ticker and was the inspiration for this article. He's been my second father for more than 40 years. I'm glad he came through this recent development and I have no doubt he will be back on the job very soon.
A drywall miracleMy third season found me on the east coast. I had plans to get out of drywall and find something a little different. But much like another white substance that many people find it impossible to break free of, drywall pulled me back in. I worked for a few different companies before I started to do finishing for Miracle Drywall. I consider Bill Miracle to be my mentor. When life offered me another side road to take and I started my own business, I tried to emulate the way he did business. I tried to treat people as he did, paid my bills on time and never lied to anyone while doing it. He isn't the kind of person to screw someone over and say, "Don't take this personally, it's only business."
His niche market is doing jobs others are afraid to tackle. I remember the first job I finished for him. It was a circa-1800s barn that was turned into a dwelling. Every bent was in place, triangles of drywall to finish were everywhere. The cupola in the roof was more than 40 feet from the floor and a much thinner yours truly scaled seven sections of scaffolding to tape it. We must have been in that barn for a month.
In the end, it turned out great. I had a sense of satisfaction on completing a job many would not have been able or willing to do. I did another dozen or so barns in the following years and with each one completed there was a healthy sense of accomplishment. I still talk to Bill a few times a year and consider him a friend. He still contracts but grandkids and his local school board take up much of his time lately. Thanks for the civics lessons, Bill.
My fourth season started six years ago and the man that made it possible is Bill Reese. My road did a U-turn and I found myself on the sales side of our business. Bill not only hired me, he gave me the short course and has given me enough rope to hang myself a few times. He is the consummate salesman. He is well regarded and respected throughout the industry. I would not have been able to make the transition from Drywall Dog to where I am now without his help. Plan on being there to give me my watch, my friend.
I read the paper almost every day and see people eulogized and recognized for their good deeds. Only, in my opinion, it's done too late. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank those who helped guide me while they are still here.
Remember: life's short, take the direct route!