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Up on the rooftop and down.

After he spent the better part of 11 years on the roof, the question came up: Why wasn't he better acquainted with the edge of it?

Falling off a roof is not something you learn overnight. My own apprenticeship--you may remember this-began with tarring the seams on the roof of our front porch and my dear wife "borrowing" the ladder for the emergency removal of 5-year-old ivy from the siding. And I ended up behind the spirea with a bucket of roofing tar in my lap.

Although the next 11 years were devoted mainly to digging tar out of my bellybutton, I have still managed to spend quality time adjusting to rooftop situations. Only last week, for one situation, I mounted the old aluminum ladder to see if I could locate the source of a leak that had begun watering the flower pattern in our living room rug. Five minutes later, wind blew the ladder down.

No problem. Dear wife at the time happened to be mowing what we refer to as our front lawn. I had only to attract her attention to my predicament. Who can possibly avoid noticing a man stranded on a roof shouting and waving, then throwing a glove, then the other glove, then creeping to the very edge of the peak, removing his shirt and letting it sail off in her direction? (You thought I was going with it, didn't you? Sorry, but I managed to grab the antenna post at the last second. Better luck next time.) And did my dear wife at last look up and say, "Oh, I do believe that my dear husband is in trouble--l must race up on the mower and inquire"? In a pig's eye. I might as well have been shouting at the shingles, waving at the neighbors, and draping my shirt over the chimney.

Had the mower not run out of gas when it did, my headstone might very well read: "Roofed to Death, July 11, 1992." Her limp excuse for not routinely checking on my welfare was, she saw the ladder down and assumed ! had gone inside to watch the ball game. If my hands hadn't been covered with tar at the time, I don't know what might have happened.

A leak in the roof is about the only incentive for going up there. Unless it's to hit a high voltage wire while installing the antenna. You could go up there for the view, of course; it all depends upon who lives next door. You won't be going up there for your health, that's for sure.

I know how it is with you young, biceptical hubbies, you'll be couchpotatoing some evening, and you'll turn to your dear wife and say, "Tomorrow, I promise, weather permitting, I'm going up on our roof and fall off." The next day the weather is perfect for falling, but you keep making excuses: you can't find the liniment, where was that board you were going to use for a splint, and like that, until it's too late. Falling off a roof by flashlight is not wise.

The roof over our original four rooms and path failed to provide the leak incentive. The room we added, did. The room was an afterthought. Not mine. Actually, I didn't think much of it. But my bride of the Roosevelt era (no, not Teddy, for heaven's sake!) soon began campaigning for a bath to replace the path. And closets, to eliminate the need for hanging her clothes on hooks, which tended to give her dresses the appearance of having been hung on hooks. Which was particularly noticeable at the all-important occasion of giving our older daughter away. (We sold the younger one.)

This addition, luckily, had a nearly flat roof. So according to the carpenters' code, it had to be covered with roll roofing. And water on nearly flat roll roofing has no place to go but through--if it can find an opening. Which our roof soon provided. More fortunate yet, the opening happened to be over one of the three closets usurped by the person who had been clamoring for an added room. Had it been above the shower, no sweat, of course. Rainwater is billed as beneficial to the hair. But a songwriter has yet to come up with a romantic ballad about "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Dear Wife's Wardrobe."

Thus, for the past 11 years plus, I have mounted the roof after every rain. And after each dismount I have assured the one with the wet dresses that, by golly, this time I had it, no question about it. But the next time it rained, she would begin to ask questions: why? when? and how long, oh Lord, how long?

After one boisterous wet spell, I paid two men $250 to resurface the roof, the clumsier of the two men taking advantage of a weak spot to fall through. To conceal the blunder, he filled the hole with an extra five gallons of tar.

And it did stop the leak. After that, the roof didn't leak, it ran a stream. And the stream consisted of 60 percent tar. So instead of rainwater converting my dear wife's clothes to offwhite, they were so far off white they were black.

I had always thought I would leave my dear wife an estate consisting of stocks, bonds, cash, credit cards, and maybe a yacht or two. Then I thought of some hand-kissing vulture luring her to the altar and making off with the whole wad. My third thought (three in a row established a new record for me) was to invest the whole bundle in a brand new, leakresistant, perhaps even leak-proof, roof over the addition. With this last thought in mind, I phoned Larry Morley, a local Jack-ofall-trades, to come up and lay a new roof over the old roof.

"Never mind bringing a helper," I said. "I haven't spent the last 11 years of my

life up there without knowing my way around." My dear wife having already

regaled Larry on my attempt at draining the basement into the pond and through a slight miscalculation draining the pond into the basement, he said it wouldn't add greatly to the labor charges if he brought his 12year-old son.

They showed up the next morning with $318 worth of materials and Larry's workman's compensation policy. Which was akin to running out on the track before the start of the Indy 500 and soliciting the drivers for burial plots.

Surprisingly, except for sawing a new opening in my pants, I surprised everyone with my professional performance. Until it came to rolling out the roofing.

"I'll hold the roll from back here," Larry said, "and you roll 'er out."

Why he didn't say something before I rolled 'er off the edge of the roof, was my first question after regaining the power of speech. He said if I had been up there the better part of 11 years, I should have known the location of the edge of the roof.

Had it not been for the fiberglass overhang, I might be faxing this article down from "up there," or sending up smoke signals from "down there." The good news is, I missed going into the cistern by a foot and a half.

Funny, the thoughts that will cross a victim's mind at times of such crises. On the way down I thought of organizing a rock group and calling it The Collapsed Lung. This left little time for midair adjustments, but enough so that I managed to land on a freshly tended flower bed. I've landed on softer beds, of course, but any bed you can walk away from is a good bed, as World War I aviators used to say.

Hearing the commotion, my dear wife ran out and with deep concern screamed, "Look what you've done to my marigolds!"

Had I been up to it, I would have replied, "A woman with the sense God gave a retarded goose should have known better than to plant flowers where a man falling off the roof might land." But I couldn't spare the breath at the time.

In fact, I still walk with a slight hitch in my south leg, and my neck is kinked at an angle that gives the appearance I'm trying to spot the planet Pluto.

If current therapy fails, I may have to fall off the roof from the other side to get straightened out. I'll let you know.
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Title Annotation:roof-repair adventures
Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Nov 1, 1992
Previous Article:The Stranger's Surprise.
Next Article:Men: don't sit on the problem.

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