The Painter’s Helper

Posted in Eternal Love | 8 comments


Home with Unique roof pitches

In the Fall of 1981, Frank, Scotty, and I moved into our home in Sweeny, Texas.  Although we did not know it at the time, it would be our final home together.

The house has over 1500 sq.ft., sits on a pier and beam foundation, and the detached three-car garage with a shop and washroom is an additional 1500 sqft., but sits on a concrete slab.  The house and garage sit on two & half large city lots, which is cornered on two sides by Avenue A and Orange Street.

In the Summer of 1982, Frank and I decided that the house and garage needed repainting.  I had never painted the outside of a home, but Frank had experience painting with his Dad and brother. Since I did not have the expertise, Frank told me he would teach me how to paint, and I would be his Helper. What could go wrong with this situation?

The Helper

After buying painting supplies and paint, Frank took two weeks of vacation from his work at Phillips 66.  He told me that our first job would be to scrape the wood around the windows then wash down the cedar-shingled house.  During the scraping, Frank informed me that he would be on the ladder doing the high scraping, and I, as his Helper, would be on the ground doing the low scraping.  Although noticing that I had to squat down to scrape the big 1 x 12 boards that ran all around the bottom of the house, as the Helper, I did not argue with his decision.

We worked hard for a couple of days scraping and washing the house, and then it was time to paint.  I nearly forgot how sore my calves and thighs were from squatting because of thinking about actually getting to see the house freshly painted. Hopefully, I had upped my job description from Helper to equal painter, and then I could climb on the ladder too.

Well, that did not happen.  Frank told me that he would paint high down to the middle of the house on the ladder, and since I was his Helper, I would paint low up to the middle of the house.  Something about the way Frank smiled while saying, “Helper,” really did not sit right with me, but I decided it was just my sore thighs and calves thinking.

Once the paint was mixed well in the paint can, Frank poured an empty coffee can full of the paint, then with a paintbrush and the coffee can, he climbed up the ladder to start painting.  I took the paint can and a paintbrush then squatted down to begin brushing from the bottom of the house up.

It seemed that I would barely get squatted down until I was hearing Frank ask, “Hey Helper, I need you to fill up my coffee can with paint. While you’re at it, I could sure use some ice water to drink.  Oh, and hand me my cigarettes and lighter too.”

It was probably a good thing that Frank could not read my thoughts as I replied, “Sure, Frank, I would be happy, as your Helper, to get you whatever you need. Just give me a minute to stand up from squatting to oblige you.”

Soon, I began to know that being the Helper meant a lot more that I thought it did but wanted to give Frank the benefit of the thought, I asked him, “Frank, why am I squatting and painting the bottom of the house. bringing you stuff and having to fill your can with paint too?”

Frank laughed then answered, “Lou, I am taller than you and can reach higher, plus I don’t want to climb up, and down the ladder, squatting hurts my knees, you are the Helper, and I am the Boss.”

Since Nancy Lou did not find that as a suitable answer,  I decided to take action.  The next time Frank asked me for paint, he got paint, alright, but not in his coffee can. Instead, I painted his bare calves with my paint loaded brush. In total disbelief, Frank looked down at my smiling face, as I added even more paint to his legs then laughing he asked, “Nancy Lou, I can not believe you just painted my calves. What kind of Helper are you?

I replied, “Well, Frank, you are wearing shorts, and a good Helper doesn’t want their Boss’s white freckled calves to sunburn.  You should have worn long pants.”

Frank started down the ladder, saying, “Paybacks are going to be hell to pay, Nancy Lou Helper. The paint war is now on.”

Realizing I only had seconds, I decided to reload my paintbrush and run.  Frank chased me around the backyard, tackled me to the ground, held me down, then painted my cheeks and nose.  I looked like a house painting clown. Of course, that was not the end of the battle of the paint. We kept loading our brushes, then slinging the paint at each other until the paint was all over us.  When we finally called a truce, Frank and I had more paint on us than we had brushed on the house, but we had so much fun. The next day, Frank and I went back to being serious and more tedious in our house painting, and with Scotty’s help, after a couple of weeks of hard work, we finished painting the house.

Years later, when we had the money,  Frank and I had the house and garage insulated, then vinyl sided and added storm doors and windows.

I would be Frank’s Helper on many more projects around and in our home, and the word Helper would become a joke between us.  If you have not guessed it yet, Frank loved bringing out the Nancy Lou in me to see how I would respond.  We were so connected as soulmates that it created a beautiful spontaneous playfulness with each other that only grew through the years.  I am sure as God was laughing too, as He looked down on us.

The home we bought will go under many changes, so there will be lots of fun stories that I will share with you. Frank and I stretched as far financially as we could to but our home in Sweeny. Hiring others to renovate our home was not an option, but with loving family members and good friends, we got the renovations done and had lots of food and a good time doing it.

Our home had a cedar shank roof, which developed some leaks.  We did not see that coming, but it is an old house.  Frank and I decided that the house needed a new roof, but also we decided to strip off the old cedar shingles then put up plywood, felt, and asphalt shingles.  Frank made calls to schedule free family and friend help and set a date; then, we bought supplies.  We purchased plywood, nails, felt, drip edge, shingles, roofing nails, and gutter flashing then stored it all in our garage until the schedule roofing date.


As with all good things, plans you make have a way of not working out exactly the way you planned, and our roofing plans were not flawless.

The first problem arose when we started stripping off the old cedar shingles. Strips of wood were nailed to the two by fours of the roof joists, and the shingles nailed to these wood strips.  While stripping off the shingles, if not careful, it was easy to fall into the attic between the strips of wood.  After a little discussion between the roofing crew, it was decided that they would strip a four by eight section then nail a sheet of plywood to the joists over the hole.  Removing the shingles while putting down plywood proved to be a tedious job and required some serious calculations, but eventually, the roof had a solid plywood top.

Our home has a unique roofline.  The original house had a triangular roof, but then a bedroom was added with another triangular pitch, which is not a problem unless you are trying to cut plywood to fit, then it becomes a mathematical nightmare.  Thank goodness, Frank’s brother and Dad did the measuring and the math.

The worst part of the roof was on the back of the house. A flat roof was attached to the original house. At some point, someone had laid the framework on top of the roof but did not attach it. This gently sloping framework ran from the pitch of the original house roof to the end of the flat roof. I am sure that explanation is as clear as mud, but it is hard to explain.

Under this genius framework, whoever had done this, left the original shingles. If that were not enough, the bedroom added to the original house came together with this framework to form an unbelievable weird valley, slope running down a slope.  On the other side of the added framework, a bathroom one time added had even a different pitch, and it just stuck up above the slopping framework. We must have had on blinders when we bought this house or never looked up.

Anyway, Frank and his team of trusty workers attached the framework then began cutting lots of plywood with strange cuts.  Plywood, lots of plywood, was on the ground, on the roof, and being cut with a skill saw.  There were people on the ground, cutting plywood then passing it up to the roof where others nailed it into place while people were still stripping shingles off of the roof.  In the front yard, there were lots of children and Moms picking up shingles then loading the trailer for the dump.  Everyone got into a rhythm, and we were all like a fine running roofing factory.

So what could go wrong?  Well, Frank was on the roof, waiting for one of the final sheets of plywood to be cut for the weird valley when disaster struck.  The piece of plywood had a very sharp point on one end, and when tossed up to him, Frank missed catching the edge of the plywood, and the point shoved into the pocket of his palm. Meanwhile, in the front yard, our little dachshund broke free from inside the house, ran into the road, and then nearly got hit by a car. We were in a fine fix.  Frank climbed down the ladder with his hand bleeding, I wrapped it in a dishtowel then ran to see about the dog while Frank got into our vehicle.

After a quick once over, I discovered the dog to be frightened but not hurt, so I jumped into our vehicle and rushed Frank to the Emergency Room, which was only eight blocks from our home.  After the Doctor rinsed Frank’s palm with at least eight bags of saline, he stitched up Frank’s palm and bandaged it, and then we drove back to the house.  When we got home, our family and friends had finished the roof and covered the plywood with felt. That was the end of the roofing for that day. The next day the shingling began, and needless to say, Frank was back up on the roof, of course, with me by his side.

Most of the shingling of the house was uneventful with one exception; our next-door neighbor lady decided to sunbathe in her back yard.  The neighbor lady’s husband had built a privacy fence for her to sunbathe in, but it did not have a roof, and from the top of our house, you could see down inside of the privacy fence.  All was well until I looked down from my perch high up on the roof then discovered she was sunbathing in the nude.  I reminded the shingling guys on the roof that they were to look only at the shingles as they nailed them down and that I would be vigilant in watching them shingle.  Frank and I laughed about that for years. Never a dull moment in the lives of Frank and Nancy.

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  1. You and Frank certainly had some fun painting that house Nancy. I wonder how well the roofing was done given the distraction from the neighbouring garden?

    • Frank and I had a blast painting the house.
      I am sure the roofing would have gone a lot slower had I not been up there. I never let those guys live that one down.
      Thank you for your comment Peter.
      God Bless You,

  2. Wow! You guys certainly knew how to make life “interesting”. Never a boring moment while accomplishing the work needing to be done. You’ve got more gumption than I have. Climbing ladders is not something I do, especially to get on a roof. But you sure had fun, and that means a lot and makes for great memories that you can now share with us.

    • Thank you so much for your comment Diane.
      I did climb ladders back then but not anymore. I don’t like heights and it always took me a little while to get my footing on the roof.
      We had so much fun together.
      God Bless You,

  3. I remember when I was a kid we played badminton in our backyard, but the yard wasn’t big enough for a real court. Sometimes the birdie would end up on the shed roof. I was OK if I could climb near the top and reach out to get the birdie, but if I had to get off the ladder to reach it, then I was in trouble. I didn’t know how to back down on the ladder. And the shed wasn’t very high.

    • That was always my problem too. Getting back down the ladder. Lol.
      Last time I went up on the roof, I had to get my Grandson to help me down.
      God Bless Diane and thank you for your comments.

  4. ROTFL!!!! great story, great memories, I’m sure….

    • Thank you, Kim. We did so many crazy things. I hope I got those names for riffing things right. Lol.
      God Bless You My Friend.

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