Sunday, September 25, 2011
Al and Emilio were from Italy, but had been in this country quite a while. They spoke English with heavy Italian accents, but were understandable. They were two of the best workers you could ever find: each strong as an ox who put in a full day's work. Doing virtually anything. Even weekends, if needed.
They did many things using simple brute strength. To break up old sidewalk they pounded away with heavy sledgehammers and iron poles. No pneumatic drills for them. The general contractor bit was their sideline. When there was real work, they were bricklayers.
They shoveled out an extension to our cellar by hand. Cubic yards and yards of dirt came flying up into the driveway, to later be shoveled into a dumpster. They resupported the sagging porch with a steel I-beam. There didn't seem to be anything they couldn't do, and do well.
So when we were having the bathroom redone we opted for a whirlpool tub. A porcelain, cast iron tub that weighed 450 pounds. Empty. Dead weight.
Had Al and Emilio ever installed a whirlpool tub? Could they even get it in the first floor bathroom? Good questions. All answered. Not all yes.
The tub was uncrated and Al and Emilio devised something with straps and yokes on their shoulders and hauled the tub up a short flight of front steps, through the living room, down the hall, and gently placed it in its new home. Perfectly. Nothing was damaged.
I always said they looked like a pair of oxen inching their way along through a very heavy task. In this case, one had the front and one had the back, and they grunted and seemed to be talking to one another, perhaps in Italian.
Several times we heard someone say "Gee." We also heard someone get very annoyed and start cursing in Italian. But then "Gee" came through again, and other sounds that I can't remember.
I always love telling the story when I talk about these brothers and how much work they did and how strong they were. I also love buying the local newspaper whenever I'm away on vacation.
So, imagine the memories that got resuscitated when I bought the Glen Falls Post-Star and read one of the day's stories on the Washington County Fair. This one was about teams of oxen and the commands that are used to direct them.
Gee: Go right.