More — Travels With Sandy
A minor restoration project turned into a fairly major event, which was duly recorded by Sandy. I had been scraping and cleaning up the bottom of an ancient claw-foot cast iron bathtub which had a white porcelain finish on the interior. The tub had been sitting outside for quite some time before I acquired it and had quite a bit of rust on the bottom. Chet the carpenter and I managed to get the tub upside down aboard a cart he made with wheels so I could move it around and pull it inside the shop in case of rain. I removed the legs so I could soak them and scrape off the old paint and rust. After several coats of stripping gel and a couple of weeks, I was finally ready to paint. I applied two or three coats of enamel and waited in between coats for the paint to dry.
Throughout all this activity, Sandy and I had coffee together a few times and conversation usually centered around our latest projects. Sandy was always busy with something and had no fear of any chore she took on. She was a bang-up carpenter, seamstress and general all-around hand. We both decided to paint our houses that summer and she went to town with me to pick up paint samples. She wanted a particular shade of red and wore me out with her decision-making process. It had to be just the RIGHT SHADE OF RED! We decided to try power washing before scraping and priming, but that’s another story.
As Chet finished the bathroom remodeling, the day came to install the bathtub. We bolted the legs back on and hauled the tub on the cart into the house and into the bathroom. It practically filled the dinky room, just as the old tub it replaced had done. You can only do so much in an old house! We had ripped out the old plastic tiles on the walls, replaced the drywall, installed new wall coverings, laid a new tile floor and repainted. After much chaos and hard work, I decided to try the tub and soak my aching back.
I ran the tub full of hot water and bubble bath, climbed in and leaned back to soak. My tiptoes barely made it to the end of the tub and the sloped back was made for comfort. I had barely begun my sudsy immersion when something resembling an earthquake took place. The tub tipped, the bath water became a tsunami rising toward my head, and the faucets began to spew a stream straight into the air. In no time, the room was engulfed in a downpour of record proportions. The tub’s plumbing was a free-for-all and as I raced from the room for shoes and a robe, I could not even think how of where to turn the water off.
Later, after I had twisted every water line faucet in the basement, I was able to bring the disaster under control, sort of. The water by now had reached other rooms in the house. Fortunately the old floors sloped down to the east and a lot of the water ran down the hallway through the door. I was finally able to see that one of the legs had come off the tub, causing the whole business to tip downward, disrupting the plumbing.
By this time I decided I needed to talk to someone who had been through a flood. Sandy had saved and restored her historic home after a 100-year flood on the Middle Fork of Powder River. My troubles seemed tiny in comparison.
“Guess what?” That’s a good way to start a conversation on the telephone. As I sat with dripping hair and a cup of tea, I recounted what had just happened with my new old bathtub. She offered sympathy, advice and told me to go to bed and “forget about it.” Later that week when the Kaycee Voice was published, there in bold print was an illustration Sandy created of a wild-eyed woman in a capsizing bathtub that brings me to laughter whenever I think about it. Sandy added the title “Porcelain Bronc,” and her illustration was as good as any I’ve seen.
Sandy’s vision is limited due to a hereditary condition that makes it very difficult for her to read or draw. She had to have labored over her cartoon and put in a great deal of effort. But that’s the way she does everything she takes on, and her determination, grit and savvy have always pulled her through.
Postscript: Turns out the legs are numbered to coincide with numbers on the tub. I remembered seeing raised numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 as I scraped, but did not give it much thought. After a great heave-ho, we got the legs to match up to the numbers on the tub, re-installed the whole thing and it works just fine.
Epilogue – Sandy left many good memories and I have tried to capture some to remind me of her. She died October 6, 2017.