Some of the two-by joists from the rotten back deck at the rental house we bought were salvageable, so I put them to use rebuilding the old tractor shed here at the farm. The old shed had an asphalt shingle roof that had given way to rain rot and carpenter bees. So I tore it down and milled the good deck wood into rafters, while using a bunch of four-bys from the deck for shed posts. I bought two pieces of used billboard vinyl plastic (complete with pictures) to use as the roof; I figured it was lightweight material, so I could mill the rafters fairly thin. Probably not a good idea.

But I'm a cheapskate and a sucker for inferior materials, as long as it's lying around and I don't have to buy anything. I usually regret it, and expect to regret this design soon.

Here's the thing, though. There's another cheapskate carpenter in the neighborhood: the carpenter bee, aka bore bee. Why they're called carpenter bees I'll never know because they don't really build anything. They drill holes in shed wood or house trim to lay their eggs. And left to their own devices they will destroy a shed in a matter of years, especially when rain rot is doing its part.

I had intended to paint the rafters with used motor oil as a preservative and bore bee defense, but I didn't get around to it. Cheapskate lazy fool am I. Lo and behold, I saw my first bore bee hole today in one of my new rafters. The little pests were swarming, too, so I got the racquetball racket I use for this purpose and swatted a bunch of them.

Swatting is just a momentary pleasure, though. The invading army of bees doesn't care. Swat two, four more will show up. They chew through painted wood. There are little traps you can make (I have one), but they too are imperfect. I don't know how well the used oil will work, but looks like I'm going to have to give it a try.

I propose a new name: wrecker bees.

A balmy, clear and windy day, not as hot as expected. In theory, perfect for Founders Day. But there were odd signs, a prevailing lack of interest all around compared to last year. Vendors who signed up didn't show up. And a much smaller crowd. The civic club fell drastically short of the number of customers needed to justify buying and smoking 176 Boston butts. Don't know why. Maybe it's just the way the ball bounces.

Little White Cabin's first customer was a girl, not yet 12, who was running with a pack of her school chums. I could tell by the way the posters and books pulled her as if by magnetism from the street to the booth that she was a natural reader and a lover of books. Her interest was rather intense, and I despaired at least a little that I'd have to steer her away from Cain and Rufus with an explanation that they were for a more mature readership. Luckily, she chose The Relic. She pulled out a little ziplock bag and started counting coins. She was working on dollar #3 when she said she had a 20 and I let her know I had change for it. I signed her copy, she thanked me, and they all trotted off to enjoy the festivities.

I didn't expect a lot of buyers, especially after observing the low turnout, but of those I did get, all were female. (And not just this event.) It's certainly not the content, since nothing in the posters or books cries out "chick lit." And it's sho'nuff not my personal draw as a chick magnet. Do guys not read anymore? I don't know. These little arts and crafts fairs likely are not a good measure anyway. People don't come to these events to buy books.

But it's certainly not an atypical crowd in this community. So I do wonder what, if anything, it says about the place of books in general and the novel in particular in my "tribe." But that's probably the wrong question. I think I know the right question.

As Willie Sutton said when asked why he robs banks: "Because that's where the money is."


From the family collection:

Tommy, Chris, Chuck, and Burt. I'm guessing 1950. Kimball, in western Nebraska. Strong, tough young men who worked with their hands and welcomed a scrap now and then. Loved their women, raised their families, carried their burdens and then some.

These were men. Let not their spirit pass from this earth.