Twenty-five cents a bundle


Though it’s painful to admit, there’s no other way to say it: our dad was a liar — plain and simple!

The incident that proved it happened around noon on Saturday, two days before school started. Twin Brother Mark and I were finally joining Big Brother James and The Sister at Briarwood High School, home of the Mighty Buccaneers. We both were entering the eighth grade and starting football on that Monday.

Guess I could blame starting football for the incident, but no. Dad lied, and that lie was the reason one of us got badly hurt and had to be rushed to the hospital.

As I was telling this story to The Wife, she first started laughing, then her laughter quickly turned into shock, then shock into disbelief. By the end of the story she said, “I can’t believe your dad said that.”

Believe it, Dear Reader, for this story happened just as written below. I should know — not only was I there, but I’m also the one with the scars to prove it.

Throughout our teenage years, Dad owned a small apartment complex that always needed repairs. He’d do most of the work himself, but there were times he’d let us kids help so we could earn a little extra money. When he decided to reroof the complex, instead of paying a roofer, Dad decided to do it himself.

The Saturday morning before Mark and I started high school, all the roofing materials were delivered to the parking lot. Before he could start nailing them down, Dad had to get the bundles of shingles up onto the roof. That’s where us kids, and the lie, come into the story.

After calling us outside just after breakfast, my brothers and I met Dad standing next to one of two huge pallets of shingles that had been dropped next to the building. He gave us our instructions, “One of you hold the ladder down at the bottom; another hold it up at the top. One of you will then carry the bundle of shingles up the ladder, across the roof and then lay it across the peak. After that, you’ll switch positions. It’ll be a great leg workout to get you ready for football on Monday. The roof isn’t steep but be careful. I’ll pay you twenty-five cents for each bundle you put on the roof.”

And then the lie, “If the ladder starts to fall when you’re climbing, don’t jump off. Hug the ladder and ride it down to the ground. As long as you’re holding onto it, you won’t get hurt.” With the instructions given, Dad went inside, and we went to work.

Everything worked well for the first two hours. We’d made five dollars each, but still had a pallet and a half of shingles to get up on top of the roof. It was getting hot, and we were getting tired. That’s when Big Brother James said, “I got a great idea, and this time, it’s safe and no one’s gonna get hurt.”

Immediately I was worried because whenever one of my brothers says it’s safe and no one is gonna get hurt, it’s not and someone will. And it was my time to get hurt.

Still, the idea Big Brother James had sounded good, “One of us ties a rope around the bundle at the bottom of the ladder, then two of us can pull it up as that person guides the bundle up the ladder. We’ll make money twice as fast!” This worked great — until we returned after lunch.

It was my turn at the bottom of the ladder, and I had just tied two bundles to the rope. I thought two would be twice as fast as one and twice as much money. I didn’t know at the same time that my brothers were going to play a trick on me.

After tying the two bundles together, I gave a tug on the rope. Twin Brother Mark and James started to pull. I started climbing, guiding the bundles up the ladder. I had gotten halfway up the twenty-four-foot ladder and didn’t know that they had decided to run across the roof, causing me to have to run up the ladder the rest of the way.

I lost control of the bundles. As they toppled off one side, I toppled off the other! On the way down to the ground, I remembered what Dad had said, “Hang onto the ladder. If it falls, you won’t get hurt.” I hugged the ladder as tightly as I could while falling, but boy, did I ever get hurt!

I woke up, still hugging the ladder, upside-down tangled up in sticker bushes, and bleeding from my face and arms. Dad hovered over me shouting, “Are you all right? Where’re your brothers?” With no ladder to get down, my brothers were still stranded on the roof trying to hide from Dad.

That day I got a total of forty stitches, a childhood memory, and something else — important life lessons.

First, spending all day Saturday and Sunday climbing up and down a twenty-foot ladder, will insure you can barely move at football practice on Monday.

Second, even parents can make mistakes. My brothers and I should never have been on a two-story roof unsupervised.

Third, don’t ride a ladder down to the ground. You’ll get tangled up in it and get really hurt like I did.

Fourth, sometimes trying to save a little money could actually cost you more in the end. (It took months for my parents to pay off that hospital bill.)

Finally, when you do something wrong as kids, your parents will always find out. Even if you’re trying to hide out up on the roof.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]