17 / 365 – Siding

DUANE HARMANSON

Some people find a job out west, working the oil rigs and stuff, and then they can come back and forth. Most people, you stay, and you take what you can find, or you go. You have to go away if you want to really make money. I didn’t grow up with much, no farm or anything. We had a little house in town, a little place up Maple that always a piece or two of the siding coming loose. We’d never fix it all the way around, just nail it back up or patch it when some part was falling off, just enough to keep most of the cold out. Dad wasn’t ambitious about that, about the house or how it looked, at least outside. He liked to sit in his kitchen, come home from work and sit and drink coffee, talk to whoever would listen. Some people around here aren’t talkers, but my dad liked to tell stories. Liked to hear em too. He was a collector. People would stop over, come up the back stairs to the kitchen door, bang on it. He’d already have a coffee cup out, and that big voice, “Come in already!” He didn’t drink anything, not even beer. Had a crazy story about how it made him sick once. Mom said he’d gotten into trouble drinking in the Army, during the war. He was the nicest guy you ever met but Mom was always making out like he was a bunch of trouble.

I guess that’s why I come in here ever day. I like the talk, the stories. I never could watch television much. Hurt my eyes, hurt my head. I’ve been working a grinder for almost thirty five years, have to keep real focused all day, but I can’t look at a television across the room for more than a half hour. If I sat home I’d end up running out of beer and need to come in here anyway. Nice to just sit here most nights and listen to people tell their stories. Better than TV, I think.

I’ve worked at the tractor plant since I finished high school. Worked as a machinist the whole time. They’re saying they might have to close the plant now, well, they’ve been threatening that almost the whole time I worked there. Just a way to get the union to back down or to get the county to give them a tax break, I think. Everybody’s worried about they’ll close it down and send all the work over to China. Maybe even box up the plant and send it over there, too. I don’t see how. I’ve been there all these years and we’re busier now that we’ve ever been. It’s hurry hurry hurry all the time. I’m gonna grind one of my fingers off one of these days, we’re working so fast. I guess it doesn’t pay much, but I’m OK. I live in a little place outside town, a little farmhouse that used to be the Haugen place and they were going to let it fall down. The roof is still good, it holds together through the winter. Sometimes the siding falls off, but I’ve had lots of practice fixing that. It’s good enough for me.

Dad’s gone, but Mom is still here. I have to go fix the siding now for her. She doesn’t get out much. She just sits and watches TV all day. Has one of those dish things, satellite hookups. I don’t have a TV, always forget to pay the bill. She doesn’t leave the house much now, just sits there and watches things. A shopping channel, sees things and calls up on the phone and they send crazy gadgets and jewelry and stuff. She’s got more junk in that house than I’ve ever seen in this town. She doesn’t even cook but she’s got knives and slicers and things she can’t even remember what they even do. It’s gonna be hell clearing out that house when she goes, but she’s strong as a steer, she’ll probably live longer than me. I guess that TV shopping keeps you going.

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