Climbing the walls


This isnít about walls. Itís actually about roofs. Sort of. More about working alone. AndÖ wellÖ

There are certain projects that I wonít take on when no one else is home. Two good examples would involve anything that uses chainsaws or ladders. Because if Iím going to get attacked by a chainsaw or fall off a ladder, Iíd prefer to have someone around that could call for help. And those preferences essentially explain how being on the roof led to this essay.

Was talking to a friend of ours the other day. Seems that about two weeks ago, he was out clearing a roof of some snow.

(For those that donít know, a snow rake is an actual thing. Seriously. LookÖ go Google it. Weíll wait for a second.)

(You back? Cool. Letís head over to our friend at the house clearing the snow.)

He was up on a ladder using a snow rake. And, he was experienced enough that this should have been an easy enough job for him. Pretty basic stuff. But there was a bit of ice that the rake was catching on, and he pulled a bit harder than he should have to get it to give, andÖ

Öand, the rake came free after a particularly good tug, which in turn shifted his balance incredibly quickly in such a way the additional momentum and direction of movement began the process of the ladder moving away from the house.

It was roughly an 8-foot fall onto the concrete walkway. The only injury Iíll mention was his concussion.

(Yeah, there were a couple more. Heís doing ok now, but still feeling it. Friend is a dedicated guy though. Got up, finished the roof and shoveled a deck. Only after completing his job did he go home and shut things down for a while.)

Point of the story is not to get you wondering whether or not you should be raking your roof. To be quite honest, if youíve never need to address the presence of snow on your roof before thatís probably a really good bit of information you should apply to whether or not you need to be raking snow off it in the future. (Yes. It can help. But many experts seem to believe that for sloped roofs people will normally never reach a point where itís necessary, and an inexperienced hand can do significant damage with the attempt to clear it. Theory of more harm than good. Investigate wisely before attempting.)

For me, the story just reinforced a few beliefs I have about power tools and assorted home projects. Iíve already mentioned two of themÖ chainsaws and ladders.

I have this fear about handling chainsaws. Iíve used them many times. Have even owned a couple, with one in my possession right now. I simply donít like how easy it is to get lazy with it or tired. Those arenít the perfect words, since I donít truly mean getting lazy. But Iíve shared chainsaw stories with many people. And one thing we all seem to have in common is that every story reaches a moment where a person is working on a project and encounters a distraction or a feeling of casual overconfidence. Next thing you know, jeans are torn and someone is looking up at the skies thanking the heavens it wasnít worse. (And, scary reality, that isnít the only result. Many times it is worse.)

So, when I wander into the yard with one and the intention of firing it up, I do so by telling my wife Iím headed outside with the chainsaw. Itís nice to have someone around for an emergency if needed.

A few years ago, we had a problem on our roof. My wife was at work when I spotted the issue, and I decided to check it out. I figured it was pretty basic. Sunny day. I was just going up to check on something and not planning any real work or activity. As I came off the roof, my footing wasnít perfect, and if I had pushed any harder when placing it on the ladder I would have knocked it over. Didnít have my phone. No other clear way of getting down. I have no clue what I would have said to my wife when she eventually got home and found me on the roof seven hours or more later. But I learned my lessonÖ no more ladders and roof exploration on my own.

A few people are chuckling right now at this, and I get it. In my lifetime, Iíve known some guys that can be multiple stories in the air, on an unfinished roof, bouncing around on ceiling joists and crossbeams like a mountain goat. And if I was using chainsaws and ladders professionally, for hours each and every day, my thoughts would likely be much different. But I donít, and they arenít.

Much like my experience with the falling ladder that would have stranded me, hearing about the snow raking adventure reinforced my opinions and practices. Often times, when facing a task with warning labels all over it, youíre probably better off not trying this at home (unless someone is there to call an ambulance).


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