Brooder Box 101 (or Struggles of a C- Woodshop Student)

I just want to start off by stating, quite affirmatively, that the world would have been completely annihilated if God had asked me to build the ark.

I am NOT a carpenter. I could never manage to build a primitive picture frame, much less a boat. I blame my parents, in part. With all of their “equal rights” and “gender neutrality” talk, they still refused to allow me near ANY type of tool that is capable of cutting, sawing, chiseling, splicing, or converting a thumb into pulp.

In hindsight, this decision may not have been motivated as much by my gender as my instinctive gift in the arts of clumsiness, in which case, it was probably quite wise of them.

Regardless, the required 8th grade “Industrial Arts” class was pure torture for my untrained level of attempted craftsmanship. I did manage to pull off a C-, but only because my grade was weighted more by my appearance in the room than it was by the deformed toolbox and nonfunctioning clock I crafted.

That leads me to today’s adventure (which, of course, is the whole reason for this post). For the past few days, Chew has been in nonstop work mode. He has built an indoor coop for our roosters and laying hens (a two-story number, with a mezzanine food court, a patio, and a three-door security system). He has also raked the entire half-acre yard, built a chicken tractor, installed security lighting in the barn, and built me an office/workroom at the barn’s entrance.

Today, he is picking up a batch of meat chickens for us… the first, in our new dwelling. He bought the supplies, yesterday (pine shaving bedding, a feeder and watering dish, and a heat lamp). For their brooder, he had an old tack box from his cattle-showing days, that had served as a dog box for one of his hunting dogs many years back. The box is sturdy, roomy, and perfect for bringing 10 meat chicks up to their feeder stage.

As he left for work this morning, he asked me to do a few things, so that everything would be ready to go for the new chicks. I simply needed to clean out the dog box and an old metal trash can, nail a 1-foot square piece of plywood over the doggy door in the box, put a little bedding inside the box, and put the rest in the trash can.

Easy stuff. As I finished cleaning the can and box, I thought of all the other things I could get done. I’d have the whole day ahead of me to plant tulips, do laundry, or whatever!

I thought it would be smart to nail the board on, before I put in the bedding. THAT is where the trouble began. Feeling more confidant than I should, I grabbed four nails and set to work putting the first one in. I held the nail and gently tapped, to set it… the way Chew always did. Once it stopped wobbling, I moved my grip back on the hammer’s handle, swung, and watched the nail fly out of the board and land somewhere in the dirt.

A second nail flew off to join the first. A third bent into THIRDS. I began to suspect that this box had a steel lining, and Chew was actually a sadist.

The fourth nail, however, went through. Feeling confident, I bent over the exposed sharp end of the nail, and went to retrieve three more.

After several trips, I finally filled my pockets with nails. I had sent half a box flying in various directions, bent several more beyond repair, and was just about to give up (at least until the feeling returned in my right arm) when I successfully drove in the second nail.

The third nail went in without (much of) a hitch. Only one left!

The far bottom one.

Did I mention that this is a ROOMY box? It’s about four feet high and four feet wide. I am five-foot six, WITH shoes. That nail was NOT going in…not unless I stood IN the box, and leaned over the side.

This may have looked silly, but I got the nail in on the first try… at least, through the plywood. I had miscalculated, and nailed over the opening I was trying to close. It only took me about ten minutes to get that nail back out, and refill my pockets.

Twenty minutes (and two more pocketfuls of nails) later, I was in tears. My shoulder throbbed. My thumb was turning purple. My knuckle was bleeding. I had two-thirds of a box of nails, insuring that I would NEVER be able to walk ANYWHERE in the barn without thick-soled shoes. Worse yet, I was going to have to tell Chew the bad news, when he came home. “I’m sorry, Honey, but I can’t drive that one nail into the board. Can you do it?”

Angry and disappointed, I turned my attention to the bedding. At least, I could have THAT done. I took the bag over to the cleaned can, slit the top with a screwdriver, and began pouring it in.

We had totally misjudged the volume of a compressed bag of pine shavings. HALF of the bag fit in the can. A good portion of the remainder overflowed onto the dirt floor.I clutched the bag, toted it to the dog box, and poured enough to deeply bed the box. Then, I took the remaining quarter bag over and set it by the can.

This was NOT going well.

I decided to try, one last time, to get that nail in. With my eyes burning from the ache and frustration, I swung… and watched in amazement as the nail went in!

The disappointment faded into pride. I had done it! Yes, it was a simple thing, but not for me. For me, it had been a challenge… and I had won! I checked the task off of my to do list, not even minding that I had to use my left hand to guide my wrist as I made the tallymark.

Now… it’s time to plant some tulips!


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