Josh Magill – working with his father

Editor’s Note:

Josh Magill has sent the Mountain News another story about his life growing up – this time it’s an essay about helping his father build a shed and assist in cutting down a tree.  It’s titled, “A Day to Remember.”


By Josh Magill

His estimation of my strength wasn’t accurate.  It was my fault, yet Dad didn’t blame me for the hole in the roof of our kitchen—a hole my brother said you could watch a movie through.  

I had planted my feet into the ground so hard, hoping to prove my father proud; even so, when the tree fell, it pulled me toward the house and one of my shoes ripped off.

The incident had started the day before when the worst windstorm of the year had blown through our little town.  The tree, which stood about six feet off the back deck, had been reduced to half its size.  It was a fascinating tree that reminded me of a two-headed dragon because the trunk branched off and grew into two twin trees.  One of the ‘twins’ still stood, and Dad thought it should come down.  He’d always wanted a reason to eliminate the pair and this was his chance, but my mother was against it.

“I don’t want something bad to happen, like with the shed,” she told him.

The ‘shed incident’ had occurred a year or so earlier, and again I was out with Dad trying to prove my worth to him.  His idea for building the shed had come because we had nowhere to store the lawnmower, shovels, rakes, and other lawn tools except under the deck.  After our neighbor’s lawnmower was stolen, Dad wanted a place to lock his stuff up.  

The base of the shed was pretty easy, only taking us a couple days to build; then it was time to build the rest and that’s when I ended up in the hospital.  

Long story made short…Dad got upset at a 2×4 he was working with, ripped it from the frame and, without thought, tossed it in my direction.  Working on the other side of the shed and familiar with my father’s occasional bursts of outrage while we worked, I ignored it.  Minutes later I stood up, stepped backwards and BAM! – right on a sixteen-penny nail.  

The nail went clear through my foot and popped out the top of my shoe—the 2×4 still attached.  After falling off the base of the shed into a ditch next to it, my father calmly grasped the piece of wood and ripped it from my foot.  Most of the pain instantly left, but blood filled my shoe.  A few weeks and one Tetanus shot later, I was fine.

“That won’t happen,” Dad told my mother.  “We’ll be safe.”

She emphatically wouldn’t allow us to cut down the tree, but my father could be sneaky when he set his mind to it.  The day after the windstorm my Dad put his plan in motion.  

With my mother and sister gone to town for the day, we could get the job done before she got home, and all would be well.  The idea was for Dad to cut the tree with his chainsaw while I held a rope attached to the tree, hoping to coax the tree away from the house.  

Nope…the tree leaned toward the house already and was too heavy for me to pull.  My brother stood in the kitchen as a lookout for my mother.

“Run Joe, Run!” my father yelled, as the beast of a tree fell toward the house.  The injured ‘two-headed dragon’ hit the edge of the deck, causing a catapult effect, slamming the tree onto the house.  One of its fanged branches pierced the kitchen roof, stopping where my brother had stood.

“Oh crap!” my brother said with a grin.  “Dad, you’re in trouble when Mom comes home.”  

My father ordered me onto the roof with the chainsaw to cut the tree off our house.  He ran inside to cut the branch from the kitchen ceiling, and began patching the hole as best he could.  

Three hours later we were done.  It looked perfect.  Nobody would ever know what had happened that day except us, and my father said we should carry it to our graves so that Mom would never find out.

Dad was my hero that day.  We had taken care of what needed to be done – even with the declaration from my mother, and in the face of defeat.  The men of the family had won.  I was proud of us and would keep this secret safe, if only for my father’s sake.

When Mom returned home, each of us sat calmly in the living room watching a basketball game on television.  I had no fear that she’d ever know what happened, just the satisfaction of a job done, and the pride of working together as a family of men.

But only ten minutes after walking in the door, Mom spoke:

“I see that you cut down the tree, but what happened to my kitchen ceiling?” she asked.

My brother cracked wide open, spilling the whole story.  The little rat made Dad and I out to be the bad guys, sending us to  slaughter from my mother’s wrath.  

But, I still feel proud about working with my father that day, and even the ‘shed incident’ too.  Dad never backed down to my mother, and always respected her thoughts after a blunder.  Dad is still my hero, and I’m sure that my wife will enjoy many times of aggravation because of me.  I just hope my son has as much fun with me working on projects as I did with my father.

©  2013  Josh Magill

Josh Magill, headshot

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