Roofing Day


As I start this post, eight men are tearing the roof from my house with square-pointed shovels. The noise from yesterday’s shingle delivery was horribly upsetting to the cats, but it was nothing compared to this. It bothers me too, but at least I know that it serves a good purpose. There are so very many things that cats don’t know and might not wonder about, things like where their food comes from; why we let strangers poke thermometers up their asses; and what keeps the rain out of our house. Perhaps the cats don’t wonder about the source of the current noise; perhaps it’s noise itself that scares them.

Clearly, cats have thoughts, but I know tragically little about what they think. Cats also have feelings—joy, lust, rage, trust, terror, hunger, safety, happiness, affection, suspicion, uncertainty, and curiosity—and I think I do understand these. Descartes—the “father of modern philosophy”—regarded other mammals as “unfeeling automata” and thought he could prove it by publicly torturing dogs while assuring audiences that God had only given non-humans the appearance of emotion. Descartes’ view  persists among some modern scientists, especially in regard to so-called “lower forms of life.” Yet when an insect or a spider flees and squirms in apparent terror when I’m trying to take it outdoors, I doubt that they’re right.

I replaced the last roof in 1997 at age 48, but since it was hard for me then, I knew it would take all summer for me to replace it again, and by then the unused shingles and underlayment would have become glued together. Among his other skills, my father was a roofer. When he and I worked together—in the ’70s and ’80s in rural Mississippi—shingles had to be hand-carried to the rooftop in 80-pound bundles. When he reached his mid-sixties, Dad began sipping 16-ounce Miller High Lifes in order to keep going, plus he started carrying shingles up a few at a time. He was too impatient to teach me more than I needed to know to perform a specific task, so I relied on books to tell me how to replace the rather complicated roof on this house. It has served me well, but its end has arrived, and my end can’t be far off.

I didn’t how far ahead roofers booked, so I got estimates in December. The company I hired wanted to do the job in a month or two, but I didn’t want them working in the cold and wet, so I asked that they wait until May. They said fine, but that it might cost more. I considered the extra cost worth it because I know what it’s like to work in shitty weather, and I prefer that such work be done on someone else’s roof.

After hiring Huey and Sons, Peggy got to worrying that the crew might roof over nails that were left laying on their sides following the removal of the old roof, so she decided to warn them. I thought, oh, great, our roofing crew is going to start their day hating my wife, so I suggested that if journeyman roofers were stupid enough to make that mistake, our roof was going to be fucked no matter what she said, so she didn’t warn them. When they broke for lunch, she and I climbed onto the roof with the foreman (seeing a 72-year-old woman up there just had to impress the crew) to examine the work, and we actually did find one serious mistake when the foreman’s foot fell through an un-attached piece of decking.

The roofers have been at it for hours, and all but one of the cats have come out to eat
—our bravest is even sitting beside me as I write. I love it when cats prove superior to my fears for them.


Helen said...

I know roofing is serious business but I could not stop giggling at your description of Peggy 'up on the roof.' I remember from long ago posts your father's roofing job, growing up in the south, so many stories about your life. I remember Minneapolis as well. Our youngest son still lives in a Minneapolis suburb, Richfield.
Again, this morning our furnace kicked on. Thermostat set to 67. There are days I am ready to pack up, grab my son and head for year round warmth. Then Bends turns all sunny and warm. I passed thru Eugene last August on our way to Yachats. Carl (son) and I fell in love with it. Stayed at the Wayside Lodge right on the Pacific. Spent too much $$$ at the Ona for dinner (my Mother's name, we had to.) And using one your profanities got totally and what felt like fucking forever in Eugene. Next time we go thru Newport. Hope the new roof serves you well, the cats recover their composure, and you have a wonderful summer. Stay well. said...

"Our youngest son still lives in a Minneapolis suburb, Richfield."

That's where we lived, specifically at 6725 Grand Avenue South, which was just a few blocks from Richfield Lake Park, a lovely park that was, as much as possible, left in a natural state.

"I passed thru Eugene last August on our way to Yachats. Carl (son) and I fell in love with it."

Yakhats as I have fun pronouncing it.

"And using one your profanities got totally and what felt like fucking forever in Eugene. Next time we go thru Newport."

I don't curse much on my blog, but it seemed to fit in this case. As for going to Newport and then down, I should think that it would be a whole lot further, and that, if my memory is accurate, the road over the Coast Range is curvier up there than down here. I assume that you took Beltline as much as you could through the Eugene metro area, but given that it's probably 20-30 miles from east Springfield to Veneta, I know it's no fun, especially if you were here during rush hour or had the sun in your eyes on the entirely east/west road. If your email address is listed in your profile, I'll send you our contact information in case you should ever have a problem while in the area.

"Hope the new roof serves you well, the cats recover their composure..."

I think that most of the cats survived the experience better than Peggy. Aside from being awakened two hours earlier than usual, I rather enjoyed having all those guys here, perhaps because I miss working with other men. However, most of the crew was Hispanic, and not all of them spoke English, so I know I wouldn't enjoy being on a crew like that.

kj said...

hi snow, it's kj. new roof here at 262 as well. They were done in two days and no more unexpected leaks, caused by wind pushing rain.

I winced at that Descartes experiment. I can't imagine publicly torturing a dog (or cat, or any animal.) there was an 'artist' years back whose gallery interactive piece was letting a leased dog starve until it died, and I've never forgotten that anyone would have viewed that and not intervened.

I had several injured roofers as voc. rehab.clients. Is there a harder job than roofing? Lugging all those shingle packs up ladders and working in the hot sun or deep chill?

wishing you a good summer, snow. I'm ready for it.
love kj

kylie said...

It's taken me a long time to get here but here I finally am!
Cats are pretty smart and I would think that once they have realised the horrendous noise doesnt seem to be accompanied by any real threat, food wins the day?
Humanity's arrogance in believing that animals have no feelings is mind blowing. We have been living alongside domesticated animals for thousands of years and we have the evidence that they are sentient. The whole theory of the automaton animal is just an excuse to relieve our consciences over our treatment of them.
My 1963 house still has it's original roof and will have for a long time to come, assuming there is no natural disaster to destroy it. Replacing a roof every 25 -30 years sounds like a long time but I bet it rolls around all too fast, especially at the cost it would involve.
Of course you both climbed up there, thrifty and canny people that you are