The roof is up

Our new chicken coop has a roof now, and we pulled it up there just before the snow fell.

We did the job Sunday night, just as the light was fading. Ian and a couple of helpers had placed the tarp on the ground one side of the hoops they had raised up. They tied 8 ropes to the tarp and threaded those over the top of our hoops.

Our job, working all together was to pull that tarp over the hoops, which were maybe 12 feet high at their highest.

The tarp was enormous and inconceivably heavy. I started off on the side of the building opposite the tarp. Our friend John showed me how wrap the rope around each hand and then lean my weight back, pulling the tarp a little bit farther up the framework. I threw my whole weight into it and tipped over very slowly as the tarp moved a bit.

Just pulling wasn’t good enough though. We needed two people pulling ropes side by side, and on the other side of the building, we needed two people to lift the tarp and push it a bit. Our friend John shouted “One, two, three!” and then we all threw ourselves into the jobs of pulling or lifting, and the tarp inched up a bit over the hoops.

After we made a few inches of progress, we tied those ropes and then everyone shifted a bit down the length of the building to make the same few inches of progress a little bit farther to west.

Eventually I stopped pulling those ropes because it seemed like I was fiddling around with them much longer than everyone else, trying to tie them or untie them while John was ready to count to three again for another great heave. I went to help my 11-year-old son lift tarp at the count of three while the men pulled the ropes.

As dark settled in earnest, Ian started up a generator and ran some flood lights which made the work even more impressive because as the light reflected off the white tarp, I felt like I was in a glowing sanctuary hemmed by deep wintery night.

What impressed me the most was the way we worked without words. I have not often worked with a team of people on such a big job together, and it was my first instinct to chat a lot about what people were doing and how I could best help. I noticed nobody else was doing that, so I tried to take my cues from them.

In this quieter way of communicating everyone had to be so observant and sensitive with one another. We had to keep our eye on the progress of the tarp as well as the challenges that each individual was experiencing with it. It seems to me like another language that people have spoken since we started tackling impressive projects in groups. I can see it being used by people hunting big game at any time in human history, or by sailors handling the enormous sails of old ships. I’m sure it’s being used in construction projects in every town in the country right now.

It’s a beautiful way to communicate, and I am terribly awkward at it. With practice though, it might come more naturally.

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