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Building with neighbors

Allen Holbrook earned his pastoral stripes the last few weekends.

Most days, he's the preacher out at New Hope Baptist, but add my wife's big plans and my mechanical ineptitude to the mix, and Preacher Holbrook becomes Foreman, Architect and Worker Bee Holbrook.

But let me backtrack almost two years.

From the day Miriam and I toured Earl Carr's house in 2004, she wanted to build a pergola on the hill off the corner of the deck. (What's a pergola, you ask. Think outdoor living room, covered by a big arbor. Yes, blame HGTV, Trading Spaces, etc., for my wife's "inspiration.")

I was able to dodge the bullet until earlier this month. Miriam decided we were building the structure by ourselves, that it would only take a weekend and we'd save tons of money in the process. And there would be no questions.

Right. One out of three ain't bad, especially in do-it-yourself construction projects.

Fortunately, we snared Allen, who said he'd built a couple of similar structures in his life and knew exactly what we needed to do.

First up was digging the holes for the support poles. Miriam dug most of them while I was gone to Culpepper's to get the wood. Later that night, we made a 9 p.m. run to Lowes for several bags of concrete. That Sunday we put the poles in place and gave it a week for the concrete to cure.

So much for a one-weekend project.

Which brings us to last Saturday morning. Miriam and I got started about 10 a.m. and within an hour or so, she was swearing that we would never work together on a home project again and I - well, I was just swearing.

Thankfully, Allen and his wife, Colleen, intervened about 1 p.m. The four of us stopped working about eight hours later, leaving Miriam and I to finish up Sunday.

When all was said and done (and technically, there's still bits and pieces to be "done"), I was impressed with the new structure. I was shocked we could build it - even with help.

But I had learned my lesson: I should have taken shop somewhere in my education. I realized Saturday morning that not only did I have no idea what saw to use where, I didn't know how to use any of them. Not that it really matters, I don't even own an electric saw. Thankfully, between Uncle Al McGaw and my dad, there were a couple lying around my parents' house. And with a little experimentation and a lot of shepherding from Allen, I figured out a few of them.

The wooden structure in my back yard is a testament to that. But more importantly, it's a tangible reminder of what can happen when neighbors work together.

Web posted on Thursday, March 23, 2006

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