Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Whiteness Of The Gate

Someday, this job will be finished. As the sun was setting this evening, I stopped working and put my tools away, but I know that I will soon hear the siren call again, and I will be back at it, trying to make the gate on our fence as functional as possible. This one little section of my house has become my white whale.
What started as a simple construction project more than ten years ago has become a decade long obsession. When we first moved into our house, my brother-in-law and I spent a weekend rebuilding the fence that runs around our front yard. If we didn't need to get in and out, we would have been done in a day, but engineering a ten foot swinging gate took both of us and our college degrees to their limit. When we were done, we had achieved something that would have fit right in at Jurassic Park. Entering and exiting our driveway had the feel of entering the compound, always with an eye for roaming wild things.
The absurdity of this was that, at the time, there were no wild things to contain. However, once we did acquire our dog, we discovered that our gate was no match for her leaping ability. The lovely scallop effect was the first thing to go. After our first rainy season, it became apparent that ten feet of wet wood soaks up an awful lot of water. I put a coat of varathane on when we got a break in the rain, but to no avail. I ran a cable from the post to the far corner to give it some support, but this just gave me more moving parts to tend to.
By the third year of near constant maintenance, It occurred to me that I might be better off with two smaller gates, so I put another set of hinges on the opposite side, then ran a circular saw right down the middle. Then I spent a couple more years trying to find just the right mechanism for keeping the gate closed: latches and loops and handles and levers. Just about every trip to the hardware store found me dragging home some new method of securing the portal. For a short while, there was even a wheel on the bottom to minimize the sagging.
Today was the long overdue restoration of the gate. New lumber was brought in, and I started over from scratch. Five hours and a few near misses later, we had a gate again. It's new and improved. Everything I know about building gates went into this one, so for now, you can call me Ishmael.

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