Brother Mark Gets an Owie

Mark Steinhoff repairing roof at Dutchtown 02-09-2013

Brother Mark came down from St. Louis to help me with some domestic repair jobs. Mother has two toilets that have taken to running at odd intervals and driving up her water bill. I’ve thrown new flappers at them the last couple of visits, but that doesn’t seem to have fixed the problem.

Let’s get one thing established: I am not a friend of plumbing. Like I’ve said before, I can go to change a simple washer and before long somebody is digging up the street in front of my house. Electricity obeys simple rules: It works or it don’t work. Plumbing is insidious. It’s a plotter. It appears to be perfectly happy for years, then picks 2 a.m. the day after you leave for a two-week trip to go berserk. I always peek in the window before I open the front door to see how high the water level is if I’ve been gone more than a couple of hours.

Anyway, Mark claims not to afraid of pipes, so I ceded the task to him. He says we need to replace the Douglas valves. He says that with such certainty that I feel comfortable until he adds, “It’ll go smoothly if the screws aren’t rusted (they are) and we don’t crack the ceramic (OK, thanks for telling me the kind of disaster we’re going to confront in advance). Oh, yeah, there’s one other issue. There’s no shut-off valve on the basement toilet, so I hope you can hold it until I can put one in.”

He’s going to be touching pipes that were installed 57 years ago. See any opportunities for problems?

Plumbing had to wait

Mark Steinhoff repairing roof at Dutchtown 02-09-2013But, plumbing had to wait. We had something else to tackle because it’s supposed to rain Sunday. The last storm ripped some tin from the roofs of our buildings in Dutchtown. There’s not much in them that can be hurt (the floods of ’73, ’93 and 2011 have pretty much taken care of that), but we didn’t want the wooden beams to rot.

We’ve got a short extension ladder down there, but I suggested to Mark that it would be faster and safer to rent a taller ladder that would get us (I use “us” in the royal sense) to the rooftop. I played the Medicare Card, telling Mark that once you have one of those in your wallet, you’re not allowed to prance around on rooftops. To my surprise, he agreed. That worried me. That must mean he was planning to drop heavy objects on my head.

I called a rental joint at 2 minutes past 5 only to hear the phone ring and ring and ring. Then I surmised that Wife Lila’s Brother John would have a ladder we might borrow. You might remember John from when he came to Florida to help us with some repairs.

He not only had a ladder, he was willing to loan me his manly pickup truck. I’m pretty sure he weighed the amusement value of watching the two of us try to figure out how to carry a 24-foot ladder in a Honda Odyssey against how much he liked his ladder and didn’t want to find it bent and broken on the side of the road. I thought I was going to need a stepladder to get INTO this beast. Wife Lila would have been appalled to see me cruising down the road with a pair of Truck Nutz dangling from the back of the truck if she hadn’t been the one to buy them for him as a gag gift. I don’t think she thought he would not only put them ON the truck, but he paints them to go with the season. They’re still red from last summer, but that’s OK because Missouri has had a warm winter, he justified.

We made it to Dutchtown and Mark tackled the main shed first. He said only a couple of panels of tin needed to be replaced or patched over. It turned out to be pretty much a one BLEEP! job when he discovered that a thumb that is caught between the nail and the hammer causes a large blood blister. He insisted on sharing his wound with me.

“This probably isn’t good”

Mark Steinhoff repairing roof at Dutchtown 02-09-2013We checked out a smaller row of sheds that we knew had some damage last summer. This turned out to be a two BLEEP!!! job. When he came down off the roof, he showed me his left glove thumb which was red at the end. “This probably isn’t good,” he said.

I assured him the red was simply the manufacturer’s way of color coding the glove so it was easy to tell which one was for the left hand.

When he went on the roof to make one final touchup, he wanted me to document his owie. I would have shown him more sympathy if I had known for sure that he hadn’t secreted a packet of ketchup in his coat pocket.

I can’t wait until we (meaning him) tackles the plumbing tomorrow. My job is defined as standing by with 9-1-1 entered into my phone and my finger poised over the SEND button. If you are the lowlands of Cape Girardeau or live along the Mississippi River between Cape and New Orleans, you might want to pay close attention to your alert radio. If John can do THIS – and he’s a trained professional – you can only imagine what Mark is going to do.

Mark would like you to click on the photos to make them larger so you can appreciate his sacrifice. Just remember: packets of ketchup.


Happy Bday Marty Perry Riley

Wife Lila’s sister, Marty Perry Riley, Central High School Class of 1968, has a birthday today. This was taken at Christmas around 1972.

Pictures on the wall include John Perry, our wedding picture, John in the navy and a piece of art by Marty. Note that the TV’s rabbit ears have been “improved” by the addition of aluminum foil.

Other Marty stories


55th Vandivort Reunion

When your family is small enough that we could hold our family reunion in a phone booth (for you young whippersnappers, go see an old Superman movie to see what a phone booth is), the Vandivort reunion made my head spin. Gosh, that sure is a lot of people.

Harriet Smith and Ron Stein

Harriet Smith, a regular reader, sent me an invitation to the 55th annual reunion of the Clyde and Julia Vandivort family to be held over the Fourth of July weekend. They were going to tour the old family home at 630 North Street, visit one of the old family farms and even have a paintball melee for the youngsters. At the last minute, though, Harriet sent out a message saying that the weather was too hot for the outdoor activities. They might have lots of members, she implied, but they didn’t want to lose any to the record-breaking heat wave.

I took lots of notes and even kept a digital tape recorder running for much of the visit, but I’m going to invoke the “Suzy Rule” and run mostly photos. (The Suzy Rule came about when Second Son Adam brought home his first date; I could tell that it was going to be E pluribus unum, so I told him that all subsequent girls would be called Suzy. Because of the high incidence of Julias in the extended Vandivort family, I modified it to be the “Julia Rule” today.)

I just couldn’t keep track of all the names, faces and stories. Sorry.

Ties to Cape

Paul Arthur Stein, a grandson of the Vandivorts, echoed the sentiments of many in saying that all of them have pieces of the family history.It was fun listening to the same account told in slightly different versions by different people.

When he was making the pilgrimages back to the home place, he and the other boys were exiled to the third floor where “it was really hot.”

Harriet made mention of the boys sneaking in beer and “having a gay old time.” Paul didn’t reference that. While the boys were sweltering on the third floor, the girls, she said, were in the carriage house “raising holy hell and having a wonderful time. Grandmother had lots of help and lots of patience.”

When Paul’s generation got older, they put the kids in the basement with a babysitter, games and a TV set so the adults could talk. Now, he said, THOSE kids are adults, the best of friends and come from all over the country to get together.

Owners opened house

The house stayed in the family until it was sold to a fraternity in the early 1970s. “Unfortunately,” said Harriet, “they just ruined it. We would come to town, drive by the house and cry.”

John Perry (no relation to the John Perrys in my family) and Steven Williams bought the house and have spent a lot of effort renovating it. The older family members could point out changes that had been made to the layout of the house, but they seemed to be happy with the job John and Steven have done.

With the exception of an apartment house on the east side, much of the neighborhood has remained the same, with some of the same neighbors. Half a block to the west is the Lamkin home where I photographed the children selling Kool-Aid

Vandivort Reunion Photo Gallery

Thanks to the family for letting me spend some time with them. You all have the same connection to Cape as I do. Even though we’re miles away from the place, it’s still close in our hearts. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.