May 102012

I’ve reached that time of the year when it’s hard to concentrate on blogging. Lots of work in the garden, new bees to feed and then there’s that fence on steroids that’s happening in front of our house. The Project Manager and Designer keep coming up with new ideas and things for me to do like carve totems and build fake birdhouses. I try to stay away from them but they keep finding me.

Then there was the “historic monument” project. Here’s the story:

About eight years ago Linda was driving through Sedro-Woolley where she spent many happy days, days of safety at her grandmother’s house. She can get very nostalgic about old Woolley. The thing I don’t like about Sedro-Woolley is that it took me many years to learn how to spell it. Just remember, “Two O’s and two L’s.” But, I digress. She was driving past her grandma’s old house and a contractor was there tearing it down. The house didn’t stay in the family, you see. Linda’s parents inherited it, sold it and bought a Cadillac and a mink coat. So, the house was gone and now it was being torn to the ground. Linda spotted her grandma’s kitchen sink in the front yard. She had, in fact, had her first bath in that very sink. Our oldest son had his first bath in the sink. She had spent many, many happy hours in that kitchen watching grandma make jam, learning how to cook and being loved. The sink symbolized all things warm and fuzzy: food, warmth, shelter, a wood stove, the fruit room. (Don’t get her started on the fruit room). She stopped the car, jumped out and asked the guy how much he wanted for the sink. She wrote a check on the spot for $170. Unfortunately, the car was full of booty and there was no room for a 150 lb., one hundred year old, cast iron kitchen sink. Chuck, the contractor, kindly agreed to store it until she could pick it up.

Did I mention this was eight years ago? The subject of the sink sort of faded into the background. I didn’t bring it up because I didn’t want the dang sink. What were we going to do with an old sink? I had horrors imagining what might be conjured up: a sink in the garage perhaps, or nailed onto the side of the barn. It seemed like the sink had been forgotten.  I was relieved. Linda had actually lost Chuck’s name and phone number. But then he called. Did she still want the sink? Well, of course she did. The warmth, the love, the first bath— the fruit room. Apparently, all that was all still in the sink.

I’m no dummy. I knew it was going to be up to me to retrieve the sink. As it happened I needed to drive a couple of grandson’s home to Everett, visit my mom, then drive back to Burlington to pick up bees. Chuck the contractor lives in Clear Lake. It’s on the way to Burlington—sort of. Linda arranged a rendezvous. I would meet Chuck at the Clearlake School. I presumed he would have the sink in the trunk. We would transfer the sink from his trunk to mine and I would be on my way. Not so easy. Chuck got out of his car, a younger man than I expected, shook my hand and told me to follow him. The sink was stored up at his place. It was one o’clock. I needed to be at Belleville Honey by 2pm to get the bees. Chuck had told Linda he would store the sink for her. “Store the sink”, the beloved sink, conjured up a vision of a nice dry building. Perhaps a mini storage unit or an old barn. Not to be.

I followed Chuck up some back road out of Clear Lake into the hills, nervous as a cat, cuz time was flying. I kept expecting to drive up to a barn or garage where we would find the historical artifact, load it and let me fly back down the mountain to get the bees on time. We turned off the blacktop and onto a gravel road which soon turned into a dirt road. Chuck stopped his SUV at the intersection of two dirt roads which bordered a grassy field of about five acres. Chuck got out of his car again, walked over to my window and pointed to a solitary blackberry patch in the middle of the field. “The sink is over there,” he told me. “Follow me over there.” “I don’t want to get stuck,” I told him. He assured me I wouldn’t so I drove in his tracks to the blackberry patch. I could see grandma’s sink in there. It was upside down and the bottom and back were covered in mud. Chuck pulled on some leather gloves and, muttering something about loppers, starting pulling at the canes until he could get a grip on the sink and drag it out.

It looked pretty sad. All that history. All those stories. All those good times. Now the porcelain was stained brown. There were some chips, rust and mud. Sad to end up tipped over in a blackberry patch on a hill above Clear Lake. Chuck wanted to talk. He wanted to tell me about his hard times and how the neighbors had sicced Natural Resources on him for cutting down trees in the watershed and how the Navy had sent three A-6 missions from Oak Harbor to fly low level to see what he was doing. But I had to go. I was wishing Chuck had a happy sink to make him feel better about life but I just didn’t have time to deal with his problems.

Chuck and I picked the sink up. It made me groan. That freakin’ sink was heavy. I was pretty sure I pulled something when I lifted it. There was a sore spot in my back. Me and grandma’s sink weren’t off to a very good start.

I got the sink home (with the bees) but it stayed in the back of the car for a week until I could find someone to help me lift it out. During this interlude we began to debate what to do with it. I knew we had to do something with the old sink. It couldn’t just rest on concrete blocks in the yard or take up space in the garage. My thought was to install it in the garden next to the frost free and use it to wash vegetables. I tried to explain my design for holding the sink but my remedial draftsman abilities let me down. I couldn’t convince the Linda that I was capable of building a structure that could hold the sink.

In our family there are certain factions that are overly (IMO) concerned with safety. Thus, I was presented with the specter of tiny children climbing the sink and toppling off, impaling themselves on the many pieces of rebar I use to hold boards that bulkhead my veggie beds (notwithstanding the fact that said rebar is protected with bright orange safety caps). There was also discussion that revolved around the possibility of the sink falling on top of and crushing one of the tiny ones who love to race through the garden hallooing as I mess about in the tomatoes like The Godfather. Clearly, I do not wish to crush a grandchild. Compromises were put forth suggesting the hiring of a professional carpenter which I rebutted as an attack on my manhood.

Alternate locations that made no sense at all were put forth. The sink discussion was driving me nuts what with the totems, the fake birdhouses and the five hundred plants that had appeared in the front yard. We now had what appeared to be several full time employees. I thought I overheard a discussion about a 401k plan. I got stubborn. I said, “It’s going in the garden. I’m going to build it.” “Let’s talk about it some more,” she said.

I got a break when an old friend came to visit. He is pretty much a can do kind of guy and assured the happy sink person that my plan was sound. It was a doable deal. We got to work. Actually, he did most of the work but I wore my little tool belt and handed him stuff that he needed. We did follow my plan. It worked. It’s mostly level. It doesn’t jiggle. It won’t crush a toddler. It’s sturdy enough for an adult to bath in and it’s in a useful spot where I will use it regularly to wash veggies.

The first bather was shockingly happy with the finished product. I suppose she was just worried that this important historical monument wouldn’t get the respect it deserved. Of course, the drainboard is already decorated with flowers. Other art work is certain to appear as there are flat surfaces and places where one can nail to. The sink is down there in the garden radiating happy memories. It’s probably happy to be back to work. Trend setters that we are, I am convinced that every gardener will want one. But don’t call me. I’m marking it down as my final sink project.


  12 Responses to “A Shaggy Sink Story”

  1. I love this story! I want to see the sink. To touch it. To share in Linda’s memories. These are truly the only type of possessions that matter in life. You have done more that restore an old sink Randy, you have brought back the best parts of a life. Well done!

  2. That was a great story! But no child of mine is going to come near that death trap!!! : )

  3. The English are famous for “follies” in the garden — fake temples, ruins and hermit caves. This may be the first sink folly — Randy, a trendsetter extraordinaire. Kudos to Linda for her sensitive heart and a
    prince of a husband.

  4. OMG! Way too much credit Randy! Still look like I’m 4 ft 11 or so (truely a vortex there). Just an old, titanum reinforced back that was really wanted to get dirty and loved every bit of it . Randy’s design (fabulous!), Randy’s tools and supplies (over-the-top good). Feel priviledged to be a tiny part of this history! Well written Randy. LOL Noble!.

  5. Well done! Both the doing and the writing of it! Hysterical! You should write a book of transition humor!

  6. Here’s a fund-raising idea: you could charge people for the pleasure of a moonlite bath in your garden sink. I’d pay 5 bucks.

  7. That would look great in the right setting. I know of just the place!

  8. Ah, hearth, home & garden… Hey Randy, bet you could get more than $5 from Leslie for the pictures you snap of her moonlit bath to keep you from posting them on TLI.

  9. Great tale!

  10. Very funny. I sink you made Linda very happy!

  11. Love this post. What a great idea to wash garden veggies outside, and thus not have to track the dirt indoors, and at the same time enjoy using an heirloom. Funny story, too! Say hello to Mary.

  12. i love your blog, your ideas of barter and being self-sufficient. these have been two of my goals. i am currently in the process of buying a home on the island and am so happy to hear like-minded, not to mention humorous people are living there.
    this sink story is fabulous and i hope you do more and more writing.
    thanks so much for sharing.

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