Monday, December 29, 2008

Mexico Trip

I cracked the code of the Easy Share camera and pulled out the Mexico trip pictures. The secret was in the sequence of events. First the camera must be connected to the computer with the camera off. Then when the camera is turned on it really doesn't turn on but accesses the computer and begins an automatic hand shake with the computer. Then low and behold a download wizard pops up and asks the question, "Where do you want to store your pictures?" How easy is that?

This is what the work sight looked like when we reached it on the first day of the project. It was nothing but a hole in the ground with a cement foundation to place the block walls on. The dirt there is quite sandy. I'm surprised the walls didn't cave in while we were working on the blocks but they seemed to stay in place pretty good.

By the end of the first day we had completed about 2/3 of the block walls. The blocks there are a little different then here in the States. As you can see they are narrower and have three holes instead of two. I think they are a little lighter than the American blocks and weigh in about 30 to 40 pounds each.

This would be the cement mixer. Yup, you just pile it on the ground, grab a shovel and start mixing. This is a teeny little batch made for laying the block. When the lid for the tank was mixed we started with 80 five-gallon buckets of sand, ten bags of cement, and numerous buckets of water. Three shovelers mixed the huge batch and two wheel rickety barrows were used to move it, move it, move it. We got to move it, move it, move it.

Sometimes the blocks had to be custom fit which required skill, strength, and a accurate eye. Right. You can see a number of broken blocks laying around the site that didn't quite line up with my accurate eye. The structure in the background is the actual community center which will have a second floor when completed to house teams like ours. I learned a lot about laying block on this trip.

Old blocker layer Dave

Saturday, November 29, 2008

2008 November Neuavo Laredo, Mexico

Well, guys I did it again. I inadvertently left the memory stick out of my camera and now I have more pictures stuck in the camera and can't get them out. I'm not sure what the issue is this time so I'm just moving on with the information about the Mexico trip.

We arrived after traveling through Houston to Laredo, TX to a balmy 70 degree weather. The pastor where we were going to work met us within a few minutes and before we knew it we were in the country of Mexico. The border guards had no problem letting us into Mexico, but as we crossed the bridge over the Rio Grande river the line coming back into the States was miles long and not moving. Pastor Jeff said that it took sometimes 3 hours to get through the border guards and back into the States. It took us a miserly hour and a half when we returned.

I am used to sleeping on church floors under adverse conditions so when I found out that we would be staying at a Holiday Inn Express with soft beds, warm showers, and flush toilets, I simply rolled my eyes. Little did I know what I was in for. That soft bed and those warm showers were indeed refreshing at the day's end.

Wednesday morning we hit the work site bright and early. Well, maybe about 9:30 am. That was after breakfast of scrambled eggs and pancakes. They had Mexican food as well which I sampled. Mexican people have refried beans and rice for every meal. It just didn't seem quite the thing to gulp down when trying to wake up. Besides the only bathroom at the work site was out behind the cactus. Everything in Mexico has stickers or thorns especially sand burs. I think they were on steroids. Anyway our project was to build a fosa. Not up on your Spanish heh. We affectionately called it the dookie tank. In English it's called a septic tank. The pit was already dug and a foundation for concrete blocks had been already poured. One of the team members was a seasoned block layer of 18 years. As I looked around for the place to mix the mortar for the blocks, Mark the block layer, pointed at an area in the dirt and indicated that eight 5-gallon buckets of sand from that pile over there with one bag of concrete mix was the beginning of how to mix concrete the Mexican way. Upon finishing that task, scooping and turning the mixture until the concrete was mixed with the sand. OK, now where is the hose with water. A chuckle came from Mark as he pointed to a concrete structure about 8 foot wide, 12 foot long, and 8 foot deep. Mark told me to take a bucket and dip water from the water tank. So once again 5-gallon buckets were used to lug water to the Mexican concrete mixer. Now the procedure was to keep turning the mixture while adding water until your arms fell off. Well maybe just short of that. With the mortar made, now it was time to lug the blocks, lug the mortar, lug the boards to slide the blocks down in the pit. I got real good and lugging.

Thursday it was pretty much the same as the last day. We finished up the block walls just as darkness fell which was a good thing as there was no electricity at the work site. In fact our total work site tool inventory was 3 hammers, 3 shovels, 1 saw, 2 rickety wheel borrows, and a few concrete finishing tools. I learned a lot about block laying. I learned the consistency the mortar should be, I learned how to break and make blocks fit, and I learned that laying block is hard work.

Friday it rained, so we had to switch gears. The weather there rarely gets too cold and many houses don't have heat, glass in the windows, or doors that seal tight. Therefore when the temperature falls into the forties at night that's really cold there. This day we loaded up a 5-gallon construction site beverage cooler with hot chocolate, bags of black turtle beans, bags of rice, and bags of corn flake breakfast cereal and headed out to neighborhood houses. In Mexico, one never goes up to the house unless invited. To enter someone's property, you would have to stand by the road and holler out to be invited on the property.

Our team leaders had the first of the two meetings. The church area was two tents put side by side with rented card tables and folding chairs. This meeting was on Marriage. At the end of the meeting, it seemed odd to me that as the Pastor wrapped up the meeting two kids were wrestling in the dirt at his feet while dogs of various breeds were sniffing out the area for food crumbs. Quite different from church here.

Saturday we finished up the dookie tank by putting a lid on the tank. This time we mixed up 40 5-gallon buckets of gravel which were placed in a huge ring. Five bags of concrete were emptied on top of the gravel. Oh, by the way, did I mention the bags of concrete were 110 pounds. Now that's quite a lug for this old boy.

Saturday night was the second meeting with a teaching from the leaders of our team on The love of God. Every meeting this pastor feeds the people because many really don't have much to eat and are hungry. There were about 50 people with maybe about 30 kids. So huge pots of beans, rice, and meat mixture stuffed in a tortilla by the hundred count were handed out.

Sunday we visited a orphanage and, of course brought food. We stayed about three hours and played Duck Duck Goose Goose with the kids. Always the Americans ended up in the middle. After the orphanage we hit the market place to buy Mexican artifacts which many were made in China. Imagine that. I bought a couple blankets and a wooden truck that I'm pretty sure were actually made in Mexico, but I would count on it.

It was certainly an eye opener to see such poverty only 15 miles from the border.

2008 November Iola Kansas Flood House Rebuild

Hey, drywall cutter dave here.
I left for Iola (eye-o-la) Kansas on the 9th of November to help replace drywall on a flood house. The house was moved from the flood plain and put on a new foundation. When we arrived there all the drywall throughout the house 48 inches up from the floor down had been
removed. Our mission was to replace the drywall and mud the cracks. Two drywall mud guys were on our team. By the end of four days our mission was complete and not only did we get the house done but we finished drywalling the double car garage. The decision was made to come home a day early which was OK with me as it gave me an extra day to get ready for the Mexico trip.

We bunked down in a church basement in Iola. Several churches in town of different faiths brought us food. It seems every time I go on one of these trips I bring home a little extra tonnage. Those church ladies really know how to cook. We made the Newspaper of the little town of Iola. One of the team workers actually got his picture in the paper.

A friend of mine has a house that I am kind of the first line of defense. She's a traveling nurse and so is out of town a lot. Last Spring a hail storm came through and damaged her outside unit for the cental airconditioner. When she heard that I would be in Kansas, she wanted to know if I could pick up a central airconditioner in the Fort Worth, Texas area that she found on the Internet. I could hardly say no to that. Ricky, my truck, hadn't been on a run for a while and likes to think that he is a big freight hauler like the big trucks. So Thursday night about 7 PM, Ricky and I hit the road for Texas. We hit the outskirts of Ft. Worth about 3 AM. We found a nice spot and snuggled in for a snooze. We were up by 7 AM, gassed up, Mc Donalded up, and freight loaded up and on the road home by 9:30 AM. We dashed through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and up through Nebraska to home in 11 hours. Both Ricky and I fell asleep, he in the garage and I in my bed, with memories of the work week and travel dancing through our dreams.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Nevada Fishing in September 2008

Nevada Fishing
Here's Dad and Lad enjoying fishing together in sunny northern Nevada. As you can see we don't exert ourselves too much. I learned everything about fishing from my Dad. It took years of training to become the expert that I am.

This is the catch of the day. We tried to weigh it but the scales didn't work right. It said only 2 pounds, but then the smallest fish of the day only weighed 2 pounds as well. We took a guess at about 4 or 5 pounds. It's still the biggest lake trout I've ever caught.

This is the most interesting catch of the day. I was just sitting minding my own fishing pole like in the first picture. Wouldn't you know right in the middle of a good fishing story this bird come swooping down and hit my fishing line, tumbled into the water and started flopping around. My pole headed down the bank toward the water. With cat like reflexes, I scrambled down the bank to intercept the pole just before losing it in the water. The now frantic bird is trying to fly away so the fight is on between fisherman or would it be birdman and bird. The bird is up in the air but can't maintain altitude because of one wing being tangled in fishing line so comes falling down into the water. Flapping the wing doesn't get the line loose but does make for an interesting time at the fishing pole end of the line. After a minute or two of intense fighting the situation, the bird kind of gave up and considered himself dead and allowed himself to be reeled in to shore. With the help of my Dad and Brother-in-law, we managed to cut the creature loose and set him free. I don't think the bird even hit the ground. As soon as he was set free, he took off at maximum warp speed and was clear out of sight in a matter of seconds.

After the excitement was over my Brother-in-law turned to me and said, "I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like that before." We all had a good laugh and will most likely be talking about that catch for a long time.

You just never know what will happen when old Dave goes fishin'

Monday, October 06, 2008

Louisiana September 2008 Part 1

I'm still nursing an aching muscle or two from the chainsaw crew that I was a part of last week. We went to a small town called Denham Springs, LA. There we hooked up with a man called Link who had a beastly old boom truck. With the help of this truck we lifted 40 foot tree trunks off of houses that the trees had fallen on top of. I found my niche with a 460 Stihl chainsaw that had a 36 inch bar. With this saw we cut the tree trunks in 8 or 9 foot chunks to come within the weight limit of the scat trac. We usually piled these trees up either by the road for pickup or in the woods to rot away in peace.

We slept in a house owned by the hosting church and ate food prepared by the hosting church. All in all it was a terrific trip with lots of hard work.

The biggest tree we worked on came on the last day. It was a 60 inch across the stump, 100 year old, oak tree. Lightning had struck the tree and bored a 3 inch hole right down the middle of the tree all the way down into the roots. We hooked a 100 foot rope about half way up the tree and tied it to the boom truck. When the tree gave a crack Ron, the cutter, ran and the truck driver gave it the juice. The tree fell right where we had planned to fall. That's always a good thing.

Earlier in the week on a much smaller tree that wasn't quite the case. They left me in charge of cutting down a much smaller tree. Well, the rope came off the tree and the tree strayed off course. The tree christened a home made flower pot. The tree fell smack in the middle of the cut in half water heater. How ever the good news was that it missed the cable TV wires. The cable man had just left, so it wouldn't have been a good thing to cut off the cable right after just getting it fixed. I can just see this Cajun lady chasing me around the property because I had cut off her just fixed cable TV. If you get chased by a Cajun you can be assured it isn't with a broom. Guns abound in Louisiana. So I for one was glad to see the wires remain intact.

I was seriously thinking about hooking up with another team that was coming to the same area and staying another week, but maybe it's a good thing for me that never happened.

There is so much left to do there and news coverage has subsided due to elections.

Louisiana Chain Saw David

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Denham Springs Louisiana

Hurricane Gustau was born on August 26, 2008 and hit the Gulf coast on September 1st. Although it was only a catagory 2, it was huge and powerful and caused much tree damage in Louisiana. This was just one of the trees we cut and moved from property and buildings. We are trying to get a plan together to best remove the tree safely.

Here's what we were looking at. Much of the work we did with tree removal was from buildings. Most of these trees were Oak trees with an ocasional Walnut tree in the mix.
Here I am all dressed up in the chainsaw gear making short work of the tree on the storage shed. One thing stressed was the safety gear and safety proceedures. The orange chaps woren were special in that if the chain saw should hit the chaps the material in the chaps would instantly get caught up in the saw chain and stop the chain from moving. The helmut woren had face protection and ear protection attached to the helmut. It was a little hot under all the stuff, but we all drank lots of water and rested often.
Here's the whole crew taking one of our frequent breaks. The trailer you see us sitting on carried the Scat Trac that you saw me standing on the lift to saw the tree in the previous picture. We worked a total of 6 days cutting up trees with a 16 hour travel day on each end of the trip. We traded off drivers so the ride wasn't too bad. Then at the end I had another 6 hours to get back to Omaha. It made for a long day coming home.
This is one of the trees I had the task of cutting into firewood lengths. The saw I'm using has a 36 inch bar and as you can see it's just barely making it through the trunk of this tree. I learned a lot about cutting and using wedges. This was a Oak tree and took the better part of a couple hours to make about 10 cuts through the tree trunk. It wasn't all cutting time. The temperature was in the 90s and many breaks were taken.
This was our crowning glory for the trip. The tree was probably 100 feet high and we measured 60 inches across the base after the tree was down. It had been hit by lightning and blasted a 3 inch hole right down the core of the tree all the way into the ground. The home owner was afraid that the tree would fall on the house because of the weakened state.

Here you can see the hole that was blown down the trunk of the tree. The lightning, as you can see, has discolored the wood from dark near the hole to lighter farther away from the hole. A man named Link had a beasty old boom truck to lift the tree chunks off of buildings took a slice of this tree home to make a table out of it. I make the comment to him that the hole in the center would make a good place to put an umbrella. He laughed and said, "Naw, that hole is to throw the empty crawfish shells into the bucket under the table when eating crawfish. Ah huh, different place, different culture. So far I haven't had the delightful experience of eating crawfish.
Here's Link and his beasty old truck that he bought off the internet because he wanted to hual some big rocks. It just happened to have a boom on the truck. I sure was a huge help for us as with our tree removal.

Well, that's about it for this trip, but there's always another coming up.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Greensburg Kansas Part 3

Greensburg Kansas
Heading Out

Here's the rig we pulled to Greensburg. The church that put this trailer together is in Tekamah Nebraska with a total membership of 27. Amazingly this trailer was loaded to the gills with equipment. We had a generator to use along with many ladders, drills, crow bars, etc. Dale one of the guys I went with said that every time they take this trailer out to help with a disaster trip it comes back with more stuff in it.

High in the Sky

One of the things we had to wire was a light on each end of the attic with a junction box and a switch. Here I am up high standing on the ceiling rafters wiring in a light. Quite a bit of my phone company safety training came into play. Such as in this situation I almost with out knowing it will make a three point stance. The most stable stance is a three point stance. Two feet and one hand or two hands and a foot or in this case hip lean with two feet. Safety is always a given in these projects.

You got to love California Girls.

I don't have any pictures for this little story because I didn't think it would be appropriate for an old gray haired geezer taking pictures of 18 year old California girls. I have to tell you my perspective of California girls has drastically changed.

When the contractors built the house we were working on they laid in the sewer line to the house but didn't connect it to the sewer line for what ever reason. They also didn't put a cap over the pipe leading into the basement so when the 4 inch rain came it sucked about a foot and a half of mud into the basement. Soupy, mucky, stuff. You get the picture.

The second day we were wiring on the main floor a group came from California church to help. They had skills in cement, roofing, and general contracting work. Along with this group came kids from their youth group of I'd say 17 to 24. Half were girls and half were boys. They split up some went with roofing crew, some went with the cement crew and the rest were to clean the basement up. The only way to clean out the basement was to scoop up the mud with shovels and put it into 5 gallon buckets. Then set the buckets out the basement Egress window. Then someone from above would hook the bucket with a long rod with a hook on the end, haul it up the window well and dump the slimy sludge.

It was decided the girls would go to basement and the boys would do the hook and dump from outside. I'm listening to the planning as I'm working a junction box near the basement stairway knowing what's coming next. You have to understand these California girls came to the job site with dangly little ear rings, designer finger nails and nice looking clothes. They trudged down the stairs to have a look at the basement and with big gasp the words, "OH MY GOD" came out of their mouths. A few moments of silence then, "OK let's get busy". Never once did I hear a complaint or negative word all day.

At the end of the day those California girls came up out of the basement looking like they'd been in a mud wrestling match. They had mud head to toe. Mud in their hair and all over their faces. You couldn't tell what color their clothes were. They grabbed a hose and started hosing each other off.

Next day here they come again. They were put to work outside moving dirt around the foundation. While I was wiring a porch light out the back door, here I see one of the girls with her dangly little ear rings and designer finger nails running a Bobcat moving dirt up against the foundation.

So when it comes to prissy California girls with their dangly little ear rings, their designer finger nails, and their fancy looking clothes, don't let that fool you. They are tough, rugged, and aren't afraid to get dirty right along with anyone else.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Greensburg Part 2

Dale on the left pastor's a little Southern Baptist church in Tekamah Nebraska, a little town just north of Omaha. Dean on the right is retired and lives in Fremont Nebraska. We saddled up about 2:00 PM on Mother's Day Sunday and headed out across the plains of Nebraska and Kansas. The drive was enhanced by the conversations and the beauty of spring time in the midwest. Field after field of wheat was lush and green. Oil wells that I didn't know existed were pumping away in the Kansas wheat fields. Dean explained how the oil was pumped out of Kansas from the shale rock as he had worked on the pumps before retiring. We arrived at Pratt Kansas where we would sleep each night at about 10:00 PM.


We hooked up with another three people from the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Association. These three were the leaders of our team as well as being in charge of other projects going on in the town. We had the job of doing the electrical wiring in the house we were working on. Now I've attempted wiring before but found that there's a better way. One night we actually had a class on how to wire three way switches and how to trouble shoot circuits that just don't work quite right. Touch, that's the Master Electrician that was in charge of all of us, explained how to connect wires together that would identify the wires on the other end of the circuit. This trip was not just a working trip but a learning trip as well.

Wall sockets that I'm working on here were pretty simple, but it really got interesting when working on a double gang switch box that had a three way switch and switches connected to a ceiling fan, regular light, and night light in the bathroom. It really intrigued me and because of my background in electronics I started catching on to the pattern of wiring by the end of the week. One thing I learned is that when wiring a house the blue print is just a suggestion. It's up to the electricians to actually decide how and where the wires are connected to the different circuits. Lots of rules go with wiring, like a staple to hold the wire no more than 8 inches from the box and then every 30 inches after that and every wall that is 24 inches or more has to have a electrical outlet, then there's only four wires in a junction box, arcfault circuits go in bedrooms, and ground fault circuits go in kitchen and bathrooms.

Who says old dogs can't learn new tricks.

Greensburg Part 1

This is a picture of Greensburg Kansas after the tornado passed through the town on May 5th 2007. Picture in your mind all the debris gone with a sprinkling of house building and you have what the town looks like today. Only a short time ago has the new water tower become functional. Yes, it blew the water tower down. The tornado had such power that it sucked the stadium lights for the school sports field right out of the ground concrete and all. It also slurped up all the water in a pond. What intensified the damage was how the tornado passed through the town and stalled then backed up through the town again then forward over the town again. In a sense the town was hit by 3 F5 tornadoes in a matter of minutes. What used to be a little quiet Kansas town of 1500 is now mostly deserted except for the volunteer workers and a few contractors.

My connection was with the Southern Baptist disaster relief association. Three of us went from Nebraska. We hooked up with three more in the town of Pratt about 30 miles from Greensburg. The First Baptist Church in Pratt let us use the church to use as a base station. We slept there and great disaster stories were told until late night hours each night.

Each day went something like this: It was up at 5 O'clock to read my bible and pray for the day, hit the road at 5:15 AM with a stop for coffee before leaving Pratt, breakfast at 6:30 AM, prayer and devotion at 7:15 AM, and at the job site working by 8:00 AM. We broke for lunch at Noon and back to work by 1:00 PM. We were done for the day by 5:45 PM with cleanup at the job site. We had dinner at 6:00 PM and traveled back to Pratt by 7:00 PM. Clean up and showers were done by 8:00 PM. Then we sat around and told disaster stories until all hours of the night. It was sweet dreams until 5AM and then do it all over again.

Friday was an emotional day for me. As always I don't want to come home. We left at Noon and I finally made it back home by 11 PM. It's about a seven hour drive, but we stopped for gas and dinner at York, so it took a little longer.

The Baptists take a team down to Greensburg every month, but because of being gone to Sherry's, my oldest daughter, wedding in Vegas I will miss June. There's always July. This is truly what I am supposed to be doing. There's just nothing like being able to help someone that you don't know get back into life. There's nothing like sleeping on the floor and eating food in the temporary food building. There's nothing like working until you just can't wiggle then shower in a portable shower trailer outside in the church parking lot. There's nothing like no TV, e-mail, computer, cell phone, or any other technological things. Well, I did have a cell phone but it was off most of the day and I only used it to call home, Mother-in-law, once a day to let her know that I was alive and well.