Monday, June 26, 2006

De Ridder Louisiana 2006 Part 1

Hello, Wandering Old Dave here,
I have been home for awhile so it's time to start sending out reports about what's been happening the the life and times of Old Dave. I have some catching up to do and want to start with the trip to Louisiana.

This is a team picture of the group that went to Louisiana this time. The two people that I'm standing beside are the founders and chief leaders of Rapid Response the organization I'm under when I go on these trips. Ken and Joni have been to just about every disaster starting with 911. They have been to the tsunami in Sri Lanka and the earth quake in Pakistan. They go more to the international disasters. This was about 6:30 AM and we all were excited to be leaving once again to work disaster relief.

This is a nice park we stopped at to have a lunch of sandwiches and fruit. Once again the food on this trip was excellent. We had Louisana hospitality to the max. For breakfast each morning people would bring home made biscuits and jam, pigs in a blanket, and boxes of donuts. Like I really need donuts. I already carry about a 30 pound donut around my middle. I sure didn't want to offend anyone so I did the best I could to stay fed well. I like to think I was keeping up my strength for the hard work at hand. However the scale sure didn't think so when I returned home. We stayed over night in Texarkana. There was a Huddle House across the street from the Motel which is good in a pinch when there isn't a real Waffle House around, but I didn't go there because the Motel had an excellent breakfast with make your own waffles. However I did get in quite a lengthy morning walk as is my custom on these trips. I just couldn't help myself when I walked up on a young man and woman struggling to unload a sofa. It's just in my blood to help people move stuff. I had to offer to help and they graciously excepted the offer. So miles away from Omaha, I can still find a sofa to move before breakfast. I little farther down the road people were packing up a truck and looked like they were seriously moving an entire household of furniture, but (sigh) I just didn't have the time to vounteer to help with that one. It did look pretty interesting though.

We only missed a couple turns on the way to De Ridder which turned out to be more an adventure then irratation. At least for me it was, but then everything for me is an adventure. We chugged in to home away from home Sunday afternoon. Our accommodations were in a real live FEMA trailer. My space consisted of a six foot bed placed along one side of the trailer. It was about 2 to 3 foot wide and had head space of about the same while laying down. Half of the bed space was tucked behind a bathroom wall so when I crawled into the space all that was seen was the bottom part of my legs.

The bathroom was about as big a postage stamp. Maybe the stamp was bigger. To squirt yourself off in the shower I had this sensation to keep ducking because the ceiling was about 6 foot and again about 2 to 3 foot wide. There was no turning about in the shower and if you tried it just caused a person to stumble around and make quite a racket which entertained others in the trailer. One other member on our team took the fold down sofa and our team leaders got the dinky bedroom. Are you getting the picture that this was a small trailer. I always thought that a FEMA trailer was like a trailer house. Not so. A FEMA trailer is a plastic toy looking tow behind your car travel trailer. It's been said in Louisiana you don't want follow to close to FEMA when they're towing a trailer somewhere in order to avoid the plastic parts that flying off while in route. I imagine we are probably the only Nebraskans that got the full body experience of living in a FEMA trailer. I just can't imagine anyone with a family living in such cramped spaces for months.

The house we worked on the second trip to Louisiana has been completed. This is a picture of the house. The inside has panelling on the walls and beautiful ceiling titles for the ceiling. It turned out excellent in every way. Those that finished up the house did an awesome job for sure.

This is the Pastor's house that we worked on this time. It was about 3,000 square feet I think with a magnificent set of double doors for the main entrance and 20 foot high ceiling in the entry way and a vaulted cathedral ceiling in the living room. More about that later. A fireplace against the back wall with tons of windows gave a view of the woods in the back of the house. Such a joy it was to see this house going up. The inside of the house had framed walls and a pile of dry wall when we arrived. Our task was to get as much done as we could in five days. The Pastor said that he would be real happy if we got the upstairs finished in our time there. Little did he know what lay ahead.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

De Ridder Louisiana 2006 Part 2

Here we go. The first day and the ceiling of the first room goes up. This sheets have to be shoved up a ramp to the upstairs before many times being cut to hit the rafters or studs.

Here you see Larry and Pastor using their heads to hold up the dry wall. With screw guns in hand they begin the task of fastening the rock to the ceiling. I on the other hand will be seen in many photos lingering in the background. My task became pretty much to cut the dry wall and get it to the guys to hang. Also being the chief gopher. You know go fer this and go fer that. I did wield a screw gun a time or two but mostly for me it was just muscle work.

We are cruisin' now. The ceiling's up and the walls are being screwed to the studs. Once we got the routine down it seems to move right along. Each of us found our niche and worked at it with vigor. Who know how many screws were used over the course of the five days. We took a count of the dry wall and came up with about 280 sheets of dry wall they we hung. Some of those were the 12 foot sheets.

Here I am measuring the last little piece of dry wall to the cover the wall above the door. You will notice throughout the trip my feet were solid on the floors and not hanging walking or bouncing around on planks. My Momma didn't raise no fool. All of the guys I worked with were very much Wild at Heart kind of guys. I love being around those kind of guys because they are fearless and no challenge is to big. I on the other hand am a kind of Purpose Driven life kind of a guy. We really fit together and work together well.

Here's another shot of me working on that last bit of dry wall. Aaron is making sure that it passes the scrutiny of his eagle eye. I and Aaron had a good time while on the trip. I really do have fun working, sweating, learning, and Oh yeah eating when I'm on these trips. Most of all I like making new friends and once I've made a friend it's kind of forever. Sometimes it may be a while between e-mail or letters, but I do like to hear about lives and tell people about the goofy things that I get myself into.

Friday, June 23, 2006

DeRidder Louisiana 2006 Part 3

The next project would be the entry above the staircase and above the front door.

This would about 18 feet above the main floor. It's quite the challenge and I was really wondering how in the world we would get the dry wall up to the ceiling which is the first to be installed. Watch and learn.

Oh, yes that is planks nailed on top of 2x4s toe nailed into the studs of the walls. These planks are about 10 feet up and have a tendency to bend and sway as these guys walk and lift the dry wall panels up to the ceiling. Not a task for the faint of heart. As you can see wild at heart Aaron is really enjoying the art of walking the plank. Where is old Dave? Why he's behind the camera. Nice and safe and has a purpose.

There goes the second sheet with a little help from the workers. The muscular handsome guy in the dark shirt is the youth Pastor Vic from sunny California. It's quite the story about how he came to Louisiana and became the youth Pastor of a church in DeRidder Louisiana. The other handsome fella in the very clean Omaha shirt is Ken Smith the founder of the Rapid Response. Ken spent a couple days just checking out our project before cruising off to other areas of Louisiana to do what ever founders do. Just kidding. Ken was checking out areas to send later teams. He returned later in the week to check our progress.

This is really using your head. Aaron and Pastor Ken are holding up the dry wall sheet with their heads while putting screws to fasten the sheet to the ceiling. Yes, the pastor of the church in DeRidder is also named Ken Smith.

Well, finally the last sheet goes up and a big sigh of relief at least for me that everyone is still safe and sound.

This the best picture of the day. The guy that's looking at my belly with the look on his face of "Holy Smokes look at the size of that belly" is Captain Larry the leader of this rag tag bunch of sheet rockers from Omaha. "It's all good" and "A good mud man can fix that" were phrases used very loosely throughout the week. There's just something about working with a group that works hard and still has a good time.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

DeRidder Louisiana 2006 Part 4

I have this routine I do in the mornings when on this trips that I started with really the first trip. I usually get up about a hour before the rest of the group and head out the door for a walk in the countryside. It was a little hard in Nicaragua, but I still could spend the time getting ready for the day. There's just something about being able to walk and listen some inspirational music. It sets the day when the first part is just appreciating what God has created including watching the animals starting the day.

Old Dave is thinking pretty hard about something here. I'm praying that he is getting that measurement right. I learned how to scribe a sheet of dry wall with only a tape measure and a utility knife. It still requires a skill that escapes me. I tried it a couple time with out much success so I went back to slower chalk line and straight edge method. I guess it takes a little more practice.

Here a good shot of the landing upstairs in front of the one of the bedrooms. There were two bedrooms upstairs and two bedrooms down stairs. The sheet of plywood you can see in the lower part of the picture was actually a fabricated ramp used to slide up the dry wall sheets from the lower level. About 100 sheets were hand lifted and slid up this ramp for the upstairs. You can also get a grasp on the height of the living room ceiling. This was about a height of 20 feet and required us to use some regular scaffolding.

We rocked the upstairs so fast that the downstairs wasn't quite ready so we grabbed some insulation and started insulating the next room. The down stairs had 10 foot ceilings so to keep the seams down to just two we used 12 foot sheet rock which was 5 foot wide. Sheet rock is installed horizonally which being 5 foot wide would be a perfect fit for 10 foot ceilings.

Here is an awesome picture of Pastor Ken and his wife Sandie. This was such an honor to help with building a house for these two. They give so much of their life to helping others it is just a awesome thing to be able to return some of the help they need to complete their own house.

Whew, I'm really beat. Been liftin' rock all day and my dogs are barkin'. I think I've been in Louisiana too long. I'm starting to pick up on their phrases and culture. The thing is I like it. All three times I have gone there I've wanted to stay longer. The week just seems to fly by and when it's time to leave it's hard to believe that it's time to go home.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

DeRidder Louisiana 2006 Part 5

Let's get started with the living room ceiling. The scaffolding is up and it's time to stuff the insulation in the ceiling. This shot was taken from the landing in front of the bedrooms upstairs.

Here goes the first sheet of rock on the living room ceiling. Grunt grunt grunt. It was a strength, skill, know how, and planning. You don't see me in the picture do you. My purpose driven life directed me to be on the camera with skill, strength, know how, and planning.

Here we are putting up the second layer of dry wall on the ceiling. Double screws were in order to make sure no sagging or falling would happen. This was probably the hardest part of the house to dry wall next to the entry.

Hey, I finally found my job. It's nice and close to the floor. The closer to the floor the better for me. When this floor is finished a railing will keep bodies from flying off this level. Hopefully.

Time for some R & R. One day we knocked off at 5 PM which was a short day for us there. We usually worked from about 9 AM until sometime around 9:30 or 10 PM. We would then sit on the porch and see who could outdo each other with the most impressive story. I have to say those Louisiana boys have some terrific stories and they are awesome story tellers. You know how I like to hear a good story. It just doesn't get any better than to end the day with a good session of story telling. Anyway we got to endulge in a genuine Louisiana meal and then spend some time fishing the pond stocked with Prim a hybrid fish and catfish. I caught a good sized cat and others caught an assortment of fish. Since we weren't going to eat them, we just turned them loose.

The night ended with a chance to take the 4 wheeler for a ride. I sped off up the road with cloud of dust surrounding me. This 4 wheeler was a super ride. It had the power to give the feeling of riding a rocket. When I was in Nicaragua we rode the 4 wheelers along the beach by the ocean and that was fun, but I tell you this machine was much more powerful than the machines we rode down there. I only have ridden one more scary than this machine. When I was a part of the pit crew for the race car, the driver of the car had a racing 4 wheeler that was not much more than a frame with a motor and wheels. Now that baby would rocket you around the track just by breathing on the throttle.

The week was now nearing the end. One more day left then it would be home again to get ready for the next trip which would be Canada and fishing for the big one. But that's another story for later.

DeRidder Louisiana 2006 Part 6

Here you can see the eating area that I frequented. It was here that we ate our meals morning, noon, and most evenings. We did have a meal at the local equivalent of Texas Road House with buckets of peanuts and baskets of bread.

The front porch became the gathering place to take a break or snack. In the evening after the day ended, this is where the tall tales were told. All of absolute truth so help me God. Many memories have already happened on this porch and the house isn't even completed yet.
This was the last day and in this picture is Pastor Vic, Captain Larry, and his wife Cindy. Pastor Vic cooked up the best barbecue ever which included all the trimmings. With our work completed, our hearts were saddened to think about going back home. One week is just not enough. Here is one last look at the feasting table that served us well. I carried some tonnage back with me from this table. It was around my middle and only now have I removed it from behind my belt.
So when the disaster has happened and workers are in short supply, who you gonna call?