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In good taste.

"Now that the kids have gone," said the woman who had promised to love, honor and, evidently with fingers crossed, obey, "it's crazy to have a house with four bedrooms hta tI have to keep dusting every couple of months."

"Just what does that mean in plain English?" I asked, clutching our checkbook for support.

"It means that it's time we bailed out of this Noah's ark and bought a house the dog can dust by wagging his tail."

"Sell our house, after all the work Ihve done on it!" I cried.

"If you'd worked on it any more we wouldn't be able to give it away," she replied, trying not to cry. "As it is, we'll have to show it after dark." She then said she didn't care if we had to buy an older house, just as long as it was smaller and "in good taste."

Well, if my dear wife never got her way before (as she claims), or never will again (if I can help it), she surely got it with this view we bought overlooking freedom, Indiana. The house attached to the view is being tasted to its very foundation by every species of wood-dieting insect and animal in sweet Owen County.

How people in the bug business decide a house has termites, I'm not sure. I did it by carrying a bushel of cucumbers into the house and sticking my best leg through the kitchen floor. Clear to the hip. And stopping there, according to one observer, only because of the size of the hip.

While I was busily hitting my thumb, repairing the hole, Lois got the idea that perhaps the trampoline effect one felt while crossing the living-room floor was not the natural elasticity of genuine Tasmanian rubber-tree lumber, as I had assured her. The matter came to a head the night she thoughtlessly moved all the magazines to one end of the coffee table. I suppose she thought the dog's tail would dus them when he walked past. Anyway, the two table legs beneath the load shot through the floor into the root cellar. And there's nothing more damaging to the male eardrum than a woman who thought all the time that he didn't know what he was talking about.

"I'll relocate the table over the hole until I can find a piece of wood to fix it," I said, relocating the table over the hole.

"You'll fix it before we both end up in the sweet-potato bin," she responded.

And there the matter stood for--oh, it must have been seven or eight hours. The next morning is when it was. I woke up to the depressing sounds of furniture being moved. A quick stumble to the bedroom door, and I stumbled even more quickly back to bed. All the furniture had been stacked at the far end of the living room and the rug rolled back. And there must have been at least five strata of Early American Flooring showing around the hole waiting for me to rip it up. And in the doorway stood the woman who had promised to love me for better or for times such as these, smug, I-told-you-soish and tapping her toe. I somehow got the feeling that breakfast that morning would not be the social event of the season.

Actually, it would have been better if she hadn't said, "You might as well eat that last biscuit." And much better if I hadn't got cute and said, "I'm saving it to drive nails into the floor."

The truth was, I didn't even need her biscuit. I could push the nails in with my thumb. As we weren'st speaking by this time, I said to the dog, "Would you ask my wife if she'd go into Spencer and buy a dollar's worth of spikes? The biggest they've got." My wife returned with exactly 11 spikes and eight cents change. With these I proceeded to convert 11 of the boards with ends curled up liked fried bacon into 22 boards with the ends curled up like fried bacon. And before I could pull the rug over them, Lois looked in, rolled her eyes and called a carpenter.

After paying him at the end of the first day, I saw but two options for staying out of bankruptcy: Either adopt the fellow or put him on salary. And you know women. Once they've got a carpenter who will show up faithfully every morning, they aren't going to let some other woman get her hooks on him until they run dry of ideas. Thus we added to our termite smorgasbord a new room, built on one half of a concrete slab, the other half being left for a patio. The sticks supporting the roof--joists, I believe the carpenter called them--that extended out over the patio the carpenter covered with fiberglass panels to form a canopy. Cement, new wood, fiberglass. Let our temrite connoisseurs try their taste-buds on these delectables, I said to myself, as in pride goeth before a fall.

The morning after my dry-eyed farewell to the carpenter, I was standing under the canopy of the patio and inhaling the heady bouquet of freshly hewn sticks, or joists, when I suddently came down wiht an acute attack of dandruff. Looking up (and there are smarter ways of seeing dandruff fall), I saw a bee about the size of a hummingbird excavating a hole the size of a hummingbird in one of our lovely new joists. In fact there was a whole crew buzz-ily converting our brand-new 2x6s into cribbage boards. A bee bee, in other words.

Too stupid or stunned--let's make it stunned--to get in out of the shower of dust, I was still standing there when my neighbor Gail Abrell climbed the line fence to return a Golden Ram golf ball I had sliced into his pasture the previous evening and which had, he said, caused one of his brood sows to stop brooding.

"So you've got carpenter bees," he chuckled, brushing bee dust from his shoulder. "i haven't seen any at our place for a couple of days."

My look of incredulity, barely distinguishable from my look of complete ignorance, encouraged him to explain that carpenter bees attack new wood as well as old, drill an opening, tunnel along a board and drill their way out. What they do in the tunnel he wasn't sure, but he thought it had to do with "propagating the species." Gail is a retired schoolteacher.

Whatever they did, I was going to put a stop to it, species or no species. Collecting the kitchen stepstool and my caulking gun, I waited until I saw one of the bees knock off for the day, then mounted the stool and began caulking its hole. The hole being directly overhead, the caulking suddenly dropped out, covering my glasses. This caused me to mistake the next-to-last step on the stepstool for the bottom step. This in turn caused me to go plunging off the patio and land on both knees on the cistern platform, retiring me for the day.

I was still regrouping on the sofa the next afternoon when the idea of filling the holes with cement crossed my mind. Double-crossed would be more accurate. What i would do, see, was hold the cement in with my thumb until it set. I failed to take into account that the bee might be inside his tunnel and he would be coming out. Which would cause me to leave the stepstool from the very top. At least this time I cleared the cistern platform by a substantial margin.

Before I could come up with another idea, the daily sound of chomping from beneath what remained of our house attracted our attention.

"It's probably just a termite with a bad overbite," I shouted to Lois over the racket one afternoon. Ten minutes later she came into my study with the news that "your termite with the overbite" just crawled out from under the house and was headed for the shed. "And if a termite weighs 20 pounds, you were right."

Now, I know even less about guns than I do about woodchucks. but our son had left one of his pistols with us when he moved.

My only gun had been an air rifle that I had earned as a kid for selling 144 packages of bluing for this soap company. My aunt Blanche bought one and my mother 143. I did kill a sparrow with it once, but only because the insides and all 500 BBs came out at once and weightd the poor thing to death.

Anyway, I grabbed up this pistol or whatever, sneaked around to the corner of the house, took careful aim and sneaked back in to have Lois show me how to unlock the safety on the dumb thing.

Sneaking back again, I took quick aim at the beast, now hightailing it for the shed, shut my eyes and pulled the trigger.

For my first time with a pistol, I could have done worse--though I can't at the moment think how. The bullet penetrated the fuel-oil tank near the bottom and blew the left front tire on Lois' Monte Carlo. The explosion caused the woodchuck to start back toward the house. I as promptly dropped the gun and headed for the back door. To my recollection it was the first time I had ever gone through the screen door without opening it.

"What was the rush?" Lois asked as she tried to work the remains of the door back over my ears.

"I need a clothespin for the fuel-oil tank," I explained, without bothering to explain.

Neighbor Gail happened to be returning another golf ball one day afte the woodchuck had recovered its never and was agin busily trying to chuck our house down. I said I saw no reason for the thing working on our timbers when we have ten acres of woods he is free to chew on.

"He doesn't give a hoot for your wood," Gail explained. "He's after termites."

If Gail knows his stuff, it'll be our first break since moving into this delectable dwelling.
COPYRIGHT 1984 Saturday Evening Post Society
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Title Annotation:home anecdote
Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Apr 1, 1984
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