Being raised in suburbia, the very
idea that tin roofs still existed, let alone that I
would ever own a home with one, was completely foreign
to me. My naiveté of tin roofs went so far that I
actually planned to replace our home's tin roof with a
shingle roof soon after purchasing the farm. Bill, my
younger brother, gave me his best "I'm not related
to you look" when I broached the subject. As I
began to iterate my reasons, Bill took the glass I was
holding and smelled it. "I thought the doctor told
you not to mix alcohol with those pills..."
Bill's argument that tin roofs were
great, and the sound of rain on them was the most
pleasing sound you'll ever hear, causing even an
insomniac to sleep like a baby, fell on deaf ears. It
wasn't until he mentioned that tin roofs last a
lifetime, and only need an occasional coat of paint,
that my mind began to change. I mentally summed up the
cost of the two or three gallons of paint to the cost of
replacing the roof and reluctantly agreed with his
Over the ensuing years, I kept a
watchful eye on the roof for any signs of rust. As the
last of the initial farm improvements was completed, I
broached the subject of changing the roof's color. My
wife Audrey concurred, and green was quickly agreed to.
When told that the roof was my next
adventure, Paul at Zurgable Brothers Hardware grinned,
"The roof -- does Audrey know you’re doing this?
I don't think she's notified the ambulance squad
yet." In response to his inquiry of why I was only
buying two gallons, I reminded him that I was a nuclear
engineer and had scientifically calculated how much
paint I needed. Paul smiled, "Didn't you say the
same thing about your tractor?"
When I returned home, I grabbed a
paintbrush and headed to the attic. Now, I should have
been a little bit more tuned into the fact that if God
had meant man to paint roofs on blistering hot August
days, he would have given us skin that could withstand
three hundred-degree temperatures. To steady myself
while I opened the paint cans, I touched the roof with
my hand. The smell my skin gave off was reminiscent of a
blacksmith hot shoeing a horse. I tried to scurry back
to the attic opening, only to find that my sneakers had
melted fast to the roof.
Pain, as I quickly learned, is a
powerful motivator, and before I knew it I was safely
back in the attic, albeit barefoot. Unfortunately, upon
realizing that my roof was the equivalent of a frying
pan, I jettisoned the paint cans, which promptly rolled
down and off the roof and onto one of Audrey's prize
gardens. I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to
scrape my sneaker off the roof and dreaming up excuses.
"See, I knew you'd need more
than two gallons" Paul smugly said, looking
inquisitively at my banged hands, arms, legs and feet.
"Yeah, yeah, just give me two
more gallons. By the way, do you have paint
remover?" I asked.
"What size do you need?"
"Hum, do you sell it in 55
The next evening I ventured out onto
the roof once again. Up until now, I had managed to
delude myself into believing that I had no fear of
heights. But as I looked down at the ground, a mile or
so below, I suddenly realized that I had a very real
fear of heights. Once again I found myself making a mad
scramble for the attic opening, again to the sound of
paints cans rolling off the roof in the background.
The following day I returned again to
Zurgable Brothers Hardware for more paint, paint
remover, and all the clothesline they had. That evening,
I made a roof ladder and cautiously crawled onto the
roof, reassured that I was securely tied to our bed, two
stories down, with six separate lines. Over the
following two hours, I strung lines every which way
imaginable across the roof. By the time I was done, the
roof looked like it had a cargo net strung over it.
The painting on the shallow sloped
sections of the roof went quickly. My nerves started to
get the better of me on the steeper sloped front roof,
but as the porch roof was below it, any fall would be
short. The west side of the roof, however, was a whole
different story. No roof was below it, and thus any fall
from it was going to hurt.
After much haggling, I finally
convinced Audrey to join me on the roof to watch for any
signs of failure or movement in the roof ladder. In
spite of all these precautions, my nerves quickly
returned. Before I knew it, I was slopping the paint on
as fast as I could while simultaneously reciting,
nonstop, the act of contrition. Once secure again in the
attic, I cut lose all the lines. Unfortunately, I never
considered the possibility that they might stick to the
wet paint. By the time I finished pulling them off and
with it the paint holding them, the roof looked like I
had painted it after one too many gin and tonics, which
I had. Up close, the silver lines looked like tinsel on
a green Christmas tree. Fortunately, they couldn't be
seen from the ground, so I took refuge in an old painter’s
saying, "high work is not eye work," and moved
onto the furnace chimney.
Now I had held off painting the
furnace chimney in hope that I would be rewarded for all
those acts of contrition with some divine inspiration on
how to paint it. Rising over ten feet above the roof,
there was no easy way to get at it. I eventually settled
upon the harebrained idea of using a four foot step
ladder, propping up one side of it with some boards.
With a full can of paint in my hands,
I nervously ascended the ladder. Once on the top step, I
reached up and grabbed the chimney liner. The ladder
thought this an excellent time to slide down the roof. I
called for Audrey. No response. I called again. Again,
no response. I rationally assessed my situation, and it
occurred to me that I had only one option ... I
screamed. Still no Audrey. By now I felt like I had been
hanging for hours and started to consider my options,
all of which started with dropping the bucket of paint I
was holding down the flue and into the furnace.
Just about the time I had convinced
myself that a gallon of paint wouldn't hurt the furnace,
and that two broken legs really weren't that bad, Audrey
appeared from around the corner, "What are you
yelling about now?"
"What do you think I'm yelling
about? The ladder's slipped. Will you come up and put it
back into place?"
"Do I really have to get back on
"Do you promise to stop making
me look mean in your stories?"
"What? I don't make you look
"Have it your way, see you