Summers were long when I was a kid. I always looked forward to school getting out, but it was because I wanted a change in routine, not because I had anything to do besides trying to avoid helping Mom in the house.
One spring, when I was about 12, my dad said, “You can start shingling the corn crib when school’s out.” He had a new shingle hammer for me. It had a handle a little shorter than a regular hammer, but instead of claws on one side, it had a little hatchet blade. That blade was for slicing the wooden shingle into the right width when you came to the edge of the roof. He got bundles of cedar shakes, set the ladder up, and set me to work.
Our corn crib was like every other corn crib on farms at the time. It was made of wood, slightly longer than it was wide, and had an alleyway drive-through in the middle. The alleyway was wide enough and high enough for horses to pull a high-wheeled wooden wagon into it, with room to walk on either side of the wagon. Later, Dad got rubber-tired wagons, and they were a closer fit. You could still squeeze past the tires along the sides.
The corn crib held a lot of memories. We kids played in it when it was empty. The alleyway was cool in the summer. There, I filled many a bucket with ear corn or oats for the chickens, hogs, or whatever was hungry. I was usually elected to help Dad with chores. My sister hated doing chores, and I hated housework, so that’s the way we worked it out.
Dad always used the alleyway to hang freshly butchered animals to cool. The overhead rafters were high enough to hang a side of beef out of reach of the dog or other hungry animals.
The day I started shingling the corn crib, Dad climbed up the ladder with a bundle of cedar shingles, and I followed him. It took awhile for me to get up the ladder. It seemed very high and shaky. Getting from the ladder onto the roof took even longer. There was nothing to hang onto on the roof, and it seemed as slick as a snowbank. I did eventually get up there, and I crawled around, as flat as possible, keeping both hands and both knees in contact with the roof at all times. My shoes had leather soles that were worn shiny from daily trips to and from school on the dirt road, so they were no help in getting a grip on the roof.
Dad showed me how to do the shingling, then he left me to do it by myself. He had a bad back and hip, and kneeling or squatting just wasn’t something he could do for any length of time.
I loved shingling. Up there, I didn’t have to be in the house helping my mom and sister with housework. After I had been working on the corn crib for a day or two, I suddenly realized I was standing up and walking around on the roof as if it were the sidewalk in front of the house. No more crawling. What an amazing discovery! And I wasn’t even thinking about how to get from the ladder onto the roof, I was just doing it! I went up there every day until I got it done.
I learned an important lesson that summer, and it has led me through a lot of things that at first seem hard. Just keep at it, and it will get easier.
Read more reader-submitted summer memories in Memories of Summer Fun.