MIKE WHITEACRE’S BIG BURGUNDY PICK-UP TRUCK eased quietly off the dirt road, parking near his pile of foundation building supplies. It was 7 a.m., a sunny 28 degrees. He kindly dropped off the morning newspaper at our front door, walked around looking at all the ditches cut by his man’s machine the day before, then retreated to the warmth of his truck to await his crew’s arrival.
By the time I had shucked my flannel nightgown, thrown on some jeans and brewed coffee, the sun was bright, the guys were building a good-sized bonfire, and getting their marching orders from Mike. The open tunnels had to be spaded smooth, even and to a uniform depth, before the rebar and rebar chairs could be fitted into the foundation ditches. Watching Eddie Rivers, Mario Perry, Reggie Kennedy and Leon Davis as they worked made me think of a troupe of well-choreographed dancers who have done a particular number together many times. There was a rhythm to their cadence, as they stood in the trenches of the house foundation, spades and metal measuring tape in hand, stepping back to scoop, forward to smooth, bending to measure. They worked together like a multi legged creature, jointed and segmented, but with one mind to accomplish their essential work.
Foundation guys don’t get a lot of respect. Their work gets completely covered up. But we all know what can happen in our lives and in our homes when we try to go out into the world and work without a net. Our foundations give us strength or contribute to our crumbling. Often, through no fault of our own, we have to go all the way back into our own foundations, digging out the rotted weak spots with a dull teaspoon; sometimes we have to become our own parents, our own mentors. Once done, however, that solid foundation gives us wings to fly.
I am grateful to these foundation guys, and I respect them. Their work seems to me the very essence of honest labor.
REBAR is a concrete reinforcing rod. A rebar chair is a device for spacing a rebar from a concrete form. This photo shows part of the future exterior front wall.