Walls or Bridges?

I used to tell a story in my days working in libraries with kids, and its been on my mind lately. I know reading is not the same as hearing, but do your best to hear it being told…

Once upon a time there were two neighbors who were also farmers and friends. They’d been all three for almost forty years. Trading stories, tools, helping each other put up hay–all the things that farmers, neighbors, and friends do for each other.

And then one day they had a falling out. Oh, it was over something stupid, like Paul lost Joe’s favorite hay rake; or Joe called Paul a name in jest and Paul took it wrong. What they argued about doesn’t really matter because the next day Paul took his tractor and dug a big ditch between the two men’s properties. Water from the top of the hill searched out the ditch and now a decent-sized creek was the boundary line between the two farms, when before, there had been none.

There was a terrible silence between the two men for weeks.

One day Joe looked up from working in the barn to see a man standing in the doorway. He was carrying a wooden tool box that was well filled with awls, rasps, screws, and nails. He had two saws in a pack on his back. “G’mornin,” he said with an easy smile. “Got any projects you need done or things you might need fixin’?”

Joe thought a bit and then smiled back. “You’ve come at a good time. Follow me.” Joe led the carpenter down to the rushing stream. “Ya see this crick? T’wasn’t here three weeks ago. My neighbor put it in to spite me, and I’m mighty mad about the whole thing. I want you to build me a nice wall with that pile a lumber I have in the barn. And I’ll pay ya well if ya do a good job.”

The carpenter nodded. “I have just the project in mind for you. I think you’ll be pleased.”

“I have to go to town today,” Joe told the carpenter. “I can get ya more wood if you think you’ll need some.”

“I think this will be plenty,” the carpenter told him. He took his saws from his sack, spread his tools on the ground, and hurried off to haul the lumber he needed to get to work.

When Joe returned from town late in the afternoon, his jaw dropped at the sight. There across the creek was a graceful wooden bridge with sturdy railings and a deck big enough to support a tractor or a truck or a wagon. And there on the other side of the bridge was his neighbor Paul waving and smiling. He crossed the bridge and grabbed Joe’s hand, shaking it up and down with abandon. “I have to say I don’t know what possessed you to have this bridge built after these last weeks of ugliness between us, but I am so glad you did. I’ve wondered and wondered how we could ever make a bridge over what happened, and dog gone it, you went and done it. Built a bridge right over it.” He shook his head in amazement.

Joe was stunned into silence, but he had a grin smeared all over his face. “T’wasn’t me,” he finally stuttered to his friend. “It was this here carpenter gent’s work.”

They turned to look at the carpenter who was packing up his tools. Joe called to him, “Please don’t go. I got several other projects for ya — you did a fine job on this one.”

The carpenter shook his head and smiled.  He shouldered his saws, picked up his tool box, and waved at the two friends. “I can’t stay,” he told them. “I’ve got other bridges to build.” And with those last words he disappeared over the hill.

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We live in a world that builds walls, but bridge building can be done by anyone–you don’t have to be a carpenter or an engineer. What kind of bridge can you build? A footbridge? A covered bridge? Or a glorious bridge that overcomes fear and unforgiveness? Imitate the carpenter–love your neighbor and build a bridge, not a wall.

This story has been around for a long time, mostly as Author Unknown. I found it as “Old Joe and the Carpenter” in Thirty-Three Multicultural Tales to Tell by Pleasant DeSpain. Margaret Read MacDonald published a version by the same name in Peace Tales. When I searched the internet I found an original version–much longer and more colorful–as a story On the Hills and Everywhere written by Manly Wade Wellman (ca. 1956) in a book of stories called John the Balladeer.  This is my own version. 

95. If one wall takes six months, how long do six walls take?

I’ve been thinking about this dining room wall for at least six months.

  • First, trying to figure out a color that was bold, but not too bold.
  • Second, getting the brainstorm of vintage wallpaper and even sending away for samples. (And asking you, dear readers, which one you preferred. See Post 79. The Corner Dining Room. Some of you sensibly said, “No Wallpaper!”)
  • Third, chickening out on the time, money, and effort to decide on and actually DO wallpaper.
  • Fourth, back to picking a paint color that was bold, but not too bold.
  • Etc.

In the meantime we worked on other walls. Mr. HC did wiring; I did priming; we both did painting. And for the last two weekends we’ve been working on The Wall (aka Wall # 4). I can’t show you the complete pictures until it is all finished, but here is a teaser:

There are some details to be finished because, when we left today, some of the paint was still wet. Also, the mirror has to be hung between the sconces, and Mr. HC won’t hang the mirror until the ceiling is finished. (Sometimes he is so unreasonable!) 😄 And the ceiling can’t go up until this wall is finished:

Wall # 5. It won’t take as long to finish this one as it did Wall # 4.

It’s always something!

46. how i spent my weekend…

Mr. H.C. is still working on the windows. He insists we can’t proceed until we get them painted and installed.

So unless I wanted to clean the chimney in the kitchen, there was only one thing for me to do…

take off the wallpaper in the yellow bedroom.

There’s not much to say about it. Taking off wallpaper is taking off wallpaper…

Much boring scraping.

But there are pictures. The wall in the yellow bedroom went from this:

70s orange flowered wallpaper

I don’t think this will win the Wallpaper of the Week award, but I did save a swatch for my “Vintage Wallpaper” scrapbook…



to this




to this! Bring on the sparkle and the primer…



























And I have to say one more thing… (Okay, I admit it, I can’t just write a short post…) We made a trip to Washington to Westmoreland Supply–the nearest Benjamin Moore paint dealer. I checked their website; they were open until 3 on Saturday. We got there at 12:20, and the sign on the door said Closed. Saturday hours 9-12.

I was not happy. While waiting in the truck for Michael to buy our lunch in Mr. Gyros, I fired off an email to the place on the website where it says “Contact us.” I complained. I figured that would be the end of the story, but I did feel a little better. Before we even got our gyros eaten, the owner of the company had emailed me back apologizing and offering me a FREE gallon of BenMoore paint! Yippee! So now I have nothing but good to say about those nice people at Westmoreland Supply! What a generous thing for him to do. Turned unhappy :-( into happy :-) in about two seconds. One free gallon of Winter Wheat! Whooo-eee!