Column, Mountain Meditation

Mountain Meditation: Building a Killington Dream Lodge: Part 4

Flat tires, Dad’s right hand tomboy, roof leaks ad infinitum

The year Dad bought two acres in Killington was when my older brother, Jack, left home for the University of New Hampshire to study forestry. Our brother Billie played high school football and wasn’t free to join us most weekends. So Mom, Dad, our lab Black Star of Highland, and I headed north to our Green Mountain wilderness, unless we’d convinced a friend to come along on the (working) adventure of a lifetime.

En route to Vermont on our weekly pilgrimage to build our ski lodge in Killington, a flat tire was not infrequent since our station wagon doubled as a Mac truck. Dad constantly searched for good second hand tires that could withstand another year. Once ours were bare and no longer had tread, the time had arrived for the next “new” pair. Dad played a tire juggling act.

A flat tire was a major production, but Dad was prepared with all the right gear. He put out flare but the car was so full, it took us half an hour to access the spare. As giant trucks and cars sped by, we unloaded boxes, suitcases and furniture on grass or pavement, backroad or highway, either by night or by day. It was hard enough in the daylight, but in the dark, it was treacherous and easy to lose things by the side of the road. I held the flashlight and lug nuts while Dad did all of the hard dirty work. We managed to finish the job and head north, arriving in Killington late at night.

However, when an engine issue arose that mechanically-savvy Daddy couldn’t fix, we slept in the car in a gas station parking lot until the mechanic showed up. After repairs, we raced onward to Killington so all of our Saturday wouldn’t be lost.

Once we began spending weekends in Vermont, due to necessity, I was Dad’s right hand man. I was often the other guy on two-man jobs. Luckily, I was a tomboy at heart and loved this. Mom was fed up and had run out of patience, standing and waiting in heat or rain, shivering in cold or bracing against wind, while Dad tightened or replaced one thing or another. So, I was relegated the tasks she refused.

I became accustomed to holding Dad’s wrench, flashlight, screw driver, crowbar, etcetera. I didn’t mind terribly. I liked helping Dad, but it was often uncomfortable and tired me out, leaning over engines until my ribs hurt, bending under chassis while avoiding the oil, or holding the other end of whatever. I would have preferred continuing to play, but I didn’t want to hurt Daddy’s feelings, abandon him, or slow progress down. So, I carried on like a trooper.

Besides, I felt sorry for Dad, who worked all the time repairing what broke in both New Jersey and Vermont—our car, washer, dryer, plumbing, electrical, mechanical gadgets and fixtures. One day I asked, “Daddy, aren’t you sick and tired of fixing everything that is kaput?”

“No, honey-bunch. I love to figure out what’s wrong and what it takes to make it work.”

That’s when I knew Daddy didn’t need my pity. He just needed me to hold the flashlight. “I guess that’s what makes engineers tick.”

“Yes, sir-ee Bob!” Dad agreed.

Raising three kids with college aspirations (the eldest, a freshman at UNH), steep taxes and mortgage on our Upper Montclair home made building a second home in Vermont a luxury requiring a very tight budget. Dad’s salary and Mom’s piano lessons (for extra wishes and unplanned expenses) barely covered family expenses. So, Dad planned and researched our Vermont building process and spread out expenses, one week at a time. Reclaimed materials and sales helped. But he was also a perfectionist and made certain each step in the process measured up.

That’s why we assumed we’d be safe from rain, ice, and snow with our temporary roof, but boy, oh boy, were we ever wrong. It was well built for a tar paper roof, but since it was flat, moisture remained. Each weekend we found more cracks in the junctions and leaks in old and new crevices. Any activity up top was perilous for the fragile seams and tar paper, especially in cold weather when it became brittle and cracked easily.

When the weather cleared up, I climbed onto the roof to follow directions Dad yelled from below. He knocked with a hammer where the ceiling was leaking. I circled the spots with pencil marks. Once the sun re-emerged and the roof dried out, we spread gooey tar on the seams and pin holes with our  fingers crossed we’d stop all the leaks. Often a crack or leak was nearby, but channeled out of sight to mysterious dripping. We had to be exact, but it was hard to tell, and so the battle with leaks continued….

Mom’s friends in New Jersey were very curious about our weekend disappearances to Vermont to build the “Vermontclair” ski lodge.

When they asked her, “Do you have running water?” Mom replied, “Why, yes, when it rains!”

So, we ran around with buckets and pails as fast as we could when we spotted more drips for the years our temporary roof remained.

Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who divides her time between Killington and Florida.

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