Huddle up, Wallowa County. Bring it in. We need to have a quick chat about handshakes.
The other day I saw a guy I know and right off he informs me he’s not going to shake my hand. So I automatically get into my fighting stance. I grew up on the mean cul-de-sacs of Pleasant Hill, Ore., where a refusal to shake hands means it’s two seconds from go time.
So I got my elbows in, feet little more than shoulder width apart, ready to initiate the Cloudburst Technique, which is a move where you rain blows out of a clear blue sky. But the guy is like, Whoah, whoah, hey ... I just don’t want to get the flu, so I’m not shaking hands until winter is over.
Well, OK then. I approve this plan. Makes good sense.
I’m going to adopt this. No more hand-shaking for me until we’re in the clear on colds and flu. So far I have avoided being sick all winter, and I’d like to finish out the season undefeated.
I have been less lucky in the winter hazard department of slipping and falling. Took a spectacular faceplant last week. Just a full body crater into the snow.
I was jogging across the frozen tundra of my yard at the time. Had a six-foot eight-inch board under one arm and a cordless drill in the other hand. It was dark. I had my toolbelt on.
Jogging in a toolbelt with pouches full of nails, screws, framing hammer, tape measure and other sharp pointy jangly things is not a natural movement.
The board under my arm was about to become the new shelf above the desk in my office. I’m looking up at it right now. Gorgeous plank of wood. Old red fir rough-sawn beauty. One inch thick, solid twelve inches wide. Grain standing out like a raised relief topo map.
Salvaged this board from a barn years ago and been saving it because it’s just too nice for any old project. I’d just attached two very custom supports on either end, fashioned from alder branches.
Same sticks Terminal Gravity tap handles are made of. Maroon bark with white flecks. Matter of fact, I went out and got these very branches with Todd Kruger, the TG tap handle-maker.
So these gangly sticks on either end make the shelf very tippy, I don’t have a proper center of gravity hold on it, and if it falls I’ll probably break what I just finished carefully crafting.
The thing to do would have been make two trips, but I didn’t have time. This board had languished in my shed for probably eight years, but suddenly it had to be installed right this instant.
So I began jogging with four pounds of decking screws jangling around in my tool pouches, the shelf tilting further from kilter with every step and right then the toe of my clunky insulated winter boot kicked a frozen gopher mound cleverly disguised by snow and moonlight shadows.
The mound of dirt did not yield and gravity took a sudden interest in the proceedings.
I could let go of the shelf, or the screw gun, or both, to catch myself. Or I could grip both with steely resolve and catch myself using my chin. I went with the chin.
It wasn’t great. But some of the impact was dispersed through my left thigh as it landed on something not soft in my tool bags. On the bright side, I did manage to not break the delicate stick brackets or the shelf.
After making this very unfortunate snow angel in my yard, I limped slowly the rest of the way, installed the shelf, and it looks pretty good, if I do say so myself. The bruise on my leg doesn’t look bad either.
Steady as she goes on the ice out there, folks. Cut back on the handshakes and we should coast through the rest of this winter just fine.
Jon Rombach is a curator of fine barnwood and a columnist for the Chieftain.