Malcolm the Cynic recently wrote a post he called The Hand of Providence, wherein he describes a harrowing drive during which he might reasonably have expected to get himself killed several times over, and for which a person with a spirit of gratitude (broadly lacking in this age) naturally gives thanks to God for averting all the things that might have happened.
This post is about a few such recent incidents which happened to me, for which only gratitude is appropriate --
As I may have mentioned a time or two, a have an old house that I've been restoring (for about half my life). I haven't done much work on it for the past decade, what with not having time when I had money and not having money when I had time, and not having a reliable helper.
Last July, the neighbor woman who had tackled to punks who had B&E the house the Friday before Memorial Day introduced me to a young fellow who has since been helping me on the weekends. So, just for that, I'm grateful.
On the first project we worked on, I might well have put my eyes out, which would have made it rather difficult to continue earning my living, to say nothing of finishing the project.
I have a compound miter saw, which I've had seemingly forever (and which, thankfully, was passed over in both break-ins, probably because it's so heavy). For most of its life, I've used it simply as a chop-saw; but on that particular day, I wanted to make mitered cuts. To make a long story short, due to inattention, I had the saw blade and back guide-plate set on a collision course. So, on the first cut, the blade started cutting into the piece of wood, and then hit the guide-plate .. (part of) which turned into shrapnel, several pieces of which hit me in the face. Perhaps an angel tipped off my sub-conscious, 'cause my eyes were tightly clenched shut even before the shrapnel hit me in the face. I might even have had my left hand in front of my face before the shrapnel hit, but I'm not positive whether it moved before or after I was hit (in favor of the before, there were a couple of hits on the back of the hand). Also, a couple of the blade's teeth came off, but none of those hit me; I expect that those might have cut deeper that the shavings of the guide-plate.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, I might well have broken both arms, or my neck ... and been paralyzed or killed ... but the worst of it was that an earlobe got cut.
It had been threatening to rain all day, and it finally started in the mid-afternoon. So, we put away the tools and I took my helper home. By the time I got back to the house, it had all blown over and the sun was out. It hadn't even rained all that much.
So, since there was still several hours of light left, I decided to continue with the work I could do without help. We had just started screwing down the first piece of floor decking (tongue and groove OSB; I really dislike T&G, but that was all I had found in the thickness I wanted). So, I finished that, and got the second piece done. With the third piece, it was time to engage the T&G. Man! I *wasted* a good two hours fighting with that, and never did get it properly seated. I had my accident in the middle of all that.
What happened is that I stepped on nothing and discovered, yet again, that I don't float very well. When everything came to a stop, my head was about 9 1/2 feet lower that it had been just an instant before. My hands hit the ground first, the right taking the brunt. Then my right shoulder ... and head ... hit the ground, and then it was over. I was, of course, wildly disoriented. I recall thinking something along the lines of, "Man, my head sure is heavier that you'd expect", as though my head slamming into the ground with such force were due to its weight.
After the initial pain subsided enough that I could think, I found that other than brusing, the worst of the damage to me was a gash in my right earlobe, and that my wrists were a bit sore.
There are so many horrible things that might have happened: the stick that cut my earlobe might have got the eardrum ... or an eye; one or both arms might have been broken; my shoulder might have been mangled; my back or neck might have been broken; I might have been paralyzed (and then laid there in pain upside down till my helper showed up the next morning); I might have died.
What can one do but thank God for the Hand of Providence, which seems so often to protect us from so many of the consequences of our own carelessness?
Last Saturday, I decided to rent a small backhoe for the day; and I certainly wish now that I hadn't. Besides the expense (and the rest of the tale), it really wasn't all that useful. I think it might have been cheaper, and certainly more efficient, to hire someone to come up with a real backhoe.
So, I got out to Home Depot as soon as they opened, and bought a hitch for my truck and rented the backhoe. I got it back to the house and unloaded before my helper get there. As I had an appointment in Ashland (in the next county), I unhitched the trailer, and left soon after he arrived.
Since July, the weekends have been really good with respect to the weather; however, last Saturday was an exception. Not too long after I'd left for Ashland, my helper put away the tools and went home, as the threat of rain had become all too real.
But the time I returned, it was more a misty drizzle than rain-rain; though it kept at it for the rest of the day. So, I put on an old nylon coat and hopped on the toy backhoe. I had hoped I could just use the front-loader to move the dirt-pile, but that just stalled the engine. Did I mention that this backhoe is mostly just a toy?
About 4:00, I decided I'd had enough; I was cold and soaked, and the drizzle was getting heavier. I didn't have to have the backhoe back until 8:00 the next morning, but I figured there was no point in keeping it over night. This meant I needed to get it back by 6:00, when the tool rental office at Home Depot closed.
I dragged the trailer all the way around, to make hitching it easier. Man, it was heavy! Then, the backhoe wouldn't move! It started fine, but every time I tried to move, the engine died. So, I wasted about 15 minutes between calling the rental guy at Home Depot (the main guy was already gone), and the number of the company who actually owns the equipment. No answer on that.
Turns out, the last time I'd moved the machine and then turned the seat around to use the backhoe itself, the seat had stayed up. When I then turned the seat around to drive it to the trailer, it was still up too high. I'd noticed that, but I couldn't get it to go down; it finally dropped down on its own about the fourth or fifth time I got into the seat. I suppose there is a pressure sensor under the seat to prevent it moving unless the seat is in the correct position.
So, I got the machine cleaned up, and secured onto the trailer, and set off to return it. By now, it was 5:30. No sooner had I got onto the public street (my property is on an alley, rather than a two-way street), than the hitch I'd just bought that morning came undone! I haven't been able to find the pieces, so I don't know whether the receiving pin broke, or whether it was simply that the cotter pin had fallen off, allowing the receiving pin to work its way loose.
In any event, the trailer's tongue hit the ground ... and the bumper of my truck. I haven't even made the first payment on that truck (*)!
So, it's 5:35, and I need to get across town by 6:00. I'm cold and wet, and the rain is getting more serious. And I'm utterly helpless (and in mental pain -- Oh! my new truck!) Fortunately, a guy driving by had seen it all happen, and stopped to help me. He had a spare pin which he gave me (which I'm thinking is more robust than the one that came with the hitch), and he directed me backing the truck to re-hitch the trailer.
I got back to Home Depot at 5:55. It's a long time since I've been as glad to be rid of something as I was to be rid of that machinery!
Then, on Sunday afternoon (the next day), my helper and I went out to Lowe's to get more materials. Among other things, I needed some 14-foot 2x10s. Realistically, these are too long to haul on that truck, as it doesn't have a full-length bed. But, with enough weight in the bed over the 14-footers, it's doable. This time, I didn't have enough weight in the bed.
Just as I pulled out into the street, everything fell off the truck. So, there I am, blocking half the traffic on a very busy street. A young fellow who was trying to leave the Lowe's lot right behind me stopped and helped us reload the truck. The two of us could have done it, but it sure went quicker with a third set of hands.
Two helpful strangers in two days, right when they are needful! What are the odds, these days?
(*) A couple of weeks ago, one of the tires (which I'd bought last November) on my old truck died at 65 mph. So I bought a new(er) truck. ;)
"Whoa! You are certainly giving your Guardian Angel a good workout!"
Last night, I drove to Mansfield after work to work on the house a bit (and to set a tarp over a floor I'd decked over the weekend, as the weather forecast called for rain today ... which actually started while I was there working).
At one point in the evening, I was moving a 14-foot 2x6 from the lumber pile to the cutting station, and I nearly walked down the stairs backwards! It may be worse than it sounds, as there is presently a foot-wide gap between the stairs themselves and the floor, and that gap is what I almost stepped into.
I can't help but wonder whether an angel gave me a little push toward safety, because it really did feel like I was tipping. What I mean is that for a brief moment, at the same instant that I realized what was about to happen, it really did feel as though I had already lost my balance and had already started the backward fall.