Today is a good day. As I watch the winter wind swirl tendrils of snow into the path of the awakening sun, I take comfort in knowing the mud I am about to mix has been sitting in a properly heated environment all night.

A dumpster sitting just outside the frosted pane of glass protecting me from the elements is piled high with drywall scraps. Not one scrap of board or shard of bead was missed during clean up, let alone a glue tube time bomb silently lying in wait to take coup on a stilt clad mud slinger. Scaffolding is already stacked in the great room, complete with new picks and knot-free planks. Pinch me, I must be dreaming.

A quick walk-through reveals a nicely hung job. Not much cancer to cut out and prefill. The screws all seem to be properly set and the board has a decent bevel. The rockers hung the long boards in all the proper places, eliminating at least a dozen butts. Upon closer inspection I notice even the off angles in the tray ceiling are bevel cut. I almost feel giddy anticipating the first lock and load.

Future looks bright

A row of neatly placed milk crates that house my most prized finishing goodies line the wall as I limber up my shoulder for the first pump of the day. The cable advance spins to life as joint compound is loaded into my trusty tube. As I make my way around each consecutive room, a rhythm is set by the hum of the clicker wheel and the slap of the slide each time a piece of tape is run. With each added roll, the tempo increases until my body goes into auto-pilot and man and machine become one. Before long, the first floor is taped.

As buckets and tools are carried to the second floor, a mental note is made of the cooler sitting in the corner. With proper time management and a little luck, the contents of this cooler placed on top of the heater sitting in the foyer will serve up a well-deserved hot meal. Foil wrapped veal parmesan and a crusty piece of garlic bread are placed gently on the center of the heater as careful flame adjustments are made. Years of trial and error on the fine art of cooking with propane are employed as the flame level finally meets with my approval. A quick glance at my watch and my internal timer is set. Two rooms are completely taped before the tempting aroma beckons. After placing my tools in water, two buckets are upended to serve as a makeshift table and chair. This break for sustenance is cut short as the drywall contractor pops his head around the corner to see how everything is going.

Since this is the first house I will be finishing for him, I feel him out for the particulars. I ask for and get my asking price for the high work. As pleasantries are exchanged he assures me there is no big rush and he reiterates his desire for quality over speed. Assurances are made as to the quality of the finish job I will execute. He explains that primer will be sprayed on all finished surfaces before the paint is applied. Wow. This guy has not only read the Gypsum Association's handbook, he practices the procedures outlined.


Furthermore, he goes on to tell me he checks on every job and will not even consider sending a load of board to a house that is not properly dried in. Heat must be functional and turned on if the temperature is iffy, not just for the finishing but for hanging also. Before me stands a drywall contractor who truly understands the simple chemistry associated with the use of adhesives, ala: semi-frozen glue will not adhere gypsum panels to frost covered studs. As a parting note he tells me to call him the day I will be sanding and he will drop by the job to pay me. Nice, I may have found my next gig.

I shift gears and get back into taping mode. The hum of my taper is broken as a new face appears in the doorway. It seems the siding installer is having problems cutting vinyl in these frigid conditions. He wonders if I would mind if he put a bundle of siding inside the house so it could warm up enough to be able to be cut without shattering. As if to read my mind he adds he will make sure the door is shut each time. Is it possible he saw that fight? I tell him sure and make a joke about him choosing the wrong trade. He retorts with a jibe about not wanting to be cooped up inside a house in the summer, and by the way, what is that heavenly smell? Hours later, after the last piece of tape is run, I stand straddling a bucket. The mixer grinds its way into the joint compound as I start to wrap my mind around the days' events. Is this the twilight zone or is it possible I have entered drywall Xanadu. I call to mind past quotes as I try to put contrast on my seemed new-found reality.

If you can't get it done by Monday, I know at least 10 guys who can.

Don't run the heat at night-the cost of propane is killing me.

The cabinets are coming today; finish the kitchen first.

You will have to come back and tape the garage in the spring.

The mud froze but just around the edges, sit the buckets around the heater and the chunks will mix in.

There are no laborers on the job. You have to get your own tanks.

The rockers forgot to wrap the windows, I need you to go back and coat the windows before I can pay you.

Is that a new truck? I must be paying you way too much.

I don't pay extra for high work.

Are you sure you need more mud for that house? OK. But you have to pick it up yourself.

You are going to have to wipe the walls down from now on. The painter can't seem to make that one coat of watered-down paint cover sanding fuzz.

You have to wait till next Friday to get paid I'm short this week. Oh, by the way, I am going to have to start holding one house back to help with my billing.

You did that last rush house in two and a half days. I'm sure you can do this one in two days if you use all Quick Set.

No, there is no water on the job. But I saw a puddle in the backyard, use that.

The road is not paved yet, and since it has rained for two months straight you won't be able to drive into the job. We need the sample home finished so the builder can get a draw. You will have to carry your tools in ... that's not a problem, is it?

I'm going to have to let you go. I like your work but one of my builders complained about your attitude. It seems he took exception at your telling him you would walk off the job if he loaded the trim and cabinets into the house while you were taping.

I come to just as the bucket starts to spin ... yeoww. The bucket bail digs into my shins as I watch a splatter pattern take shape on the front of my pants and the surrounding floor area.

Remember: A good day can be ruined by daydreaming while mixing mud!