Appreciate it I do. For a solid quarter-century of what is now a forty-year career and running, I framed houses as an exclusive means of making a living, a lot of them.
A majority of your new homes I was working on used engineered trusses built at a plant and delivered by truck for the roof structure, as opposed to “stick-built” on site out of individual sticks of lumber. It is a vastly superior way to build a roof in terms of both time and materials, with a few caveats like it being nearly impossible to convert a truss attic space into usable room space later, since as soon as you cut one unit with a saw you have both voided the warranty and rendered the engineering of them moot.
Some of those trusses can get pretty damn big, like sixty feet long or more, sometimes ten feet tall or greater at the peak, but each unit is only the thickness of a two-by, and inch and a half, so you can imagine how they give a whole new meaning to the term “unwieldy” to try and elevate them from a stack on the ground up to an upright position on top of your walls. The best way to set them is to suspend them upright in midair overhead from a cable with a hired boom truck. We called it “swingin trusses”, and doing it right is a big part of what makes a guy a true lead framer. This was an event that when I was running a crew I would take a week or more on the job to prepare for, given that at a hundred per hour or more you don’t want to be running around like headless chickens while that beast is on site.
My job would be to anticipate every last detail of the boom procedures and have everything ready. One of the early lessons I learned was that you actually have to be able to park the thing somewhere within range of both ends of the route for your loads, when anything from a power line to a trench to stacks of lumber to the house itself can become an obstacle making your boom plan utterly impossible to execute. On mountain sites or in close-in residential areas, there is usually basically one way to run the show, and my mission was to discover it beforehand and be so prepared that I was just loafing and bored when the guy actually drove up, absolutely sure of how this is going to go.
The last operator I worked with was a fellow out of Santa Fe name of Roger Lamareux, a real professional who had quiet hands and complete confidence about navigating all sorts of tricky situations, and a gorgeous, spotless, shiny brand new truck last time I used him that he said ran a hundred eighty grand when he bought it brand new. Word got back to me once on the carpenter grapevine that Roger had told someone that my job sites were always the best organized and prepared for his services that he ever encountered, which in a region loaded with experienced builders was quite a compliment.
Boom day was always my favorite part of building a house. It was like having a gigantic Tonka toy and a guy to run it on hand. But it was no boy’s pursuit, and it took a conscientious and thoughtful grown man to organize the event such that everything went safely and according to plan. A LOT of things can go wrong, and the job is to see to it that nothing does. If I did the job properly beforehand, it was almost comically easy: all I had to do after all that preparation was stand around giving everybody orders and feeling like some blue-collar Captain Picard: “make it so….”, and so it would be made.
Quite an ego stoke, when that big noisy unit drives up and then a couple of hours later the house has this huge roof in place that was just a big stack on the ground before, and everyone is looking at me with that “howdedodat” amazement that was always the best moment of the whole proceedings. And of course, my meeting the compliments with a sort of indifferent “yeah, whatever, another day at the office” kind of posture, while inside I’m jumping up and down like a kid over how impressed with myself I really am, and relieved like all getout that nothing actually did go wrong…..
Those are some of the best memories, of a phase of my work life that was about equal parts gratifying achievement and unbelievable pains in the ass, accompanied all along by that fiscal terror that any wrong move I make is going to be a right expensive one, if not land somebody up in the ER….