Columnists, Operations, Tyler Mahan, V8I3

Healthy Competition

(Photo courtesy of samer daboul by Pexels)

The day I realized I was dealing with a unique young man stands out even after all these years. 

John was a high school kid from the small community of Byars where Better Barns is located. The few hardy souls left in this almost abandoned town are plagued by rampant drug use and poverty. It is the same sad story that could be told about countless other small towns across the fruited plain. 

At one time, at least 100 years ago, Byars was a booming town. The crumbling buildings and empty houses that line the streets testify to better days long ago.

From that bleak landscape came this fine, respectful young man. To add to the difficult environmental situation, his mother had passed away a few years earlier leaving his disabled father to raise five sons alone. They were of Native American descent and the tribe helped a lot, but the situation was still a terrible predicament. 

John was determined to succeed on the football field. In rural Oklahoma, that is the simplest way to gain recognition and popularity. He worked hard on his physical prowess. 

He joined our shed-building team for a summer job. Like many other high school students in the area, he had no intention of making a career out of the job. He was simply trying to make enough money to spend it all up every weekend. 

Since I knew that was the case, I had no intention of trying to train him thoroughly to build storage sheds. I mostly just wanted to use his strong back to help save mine. 

There was no way I could have foreseen just how much he would do that!

As the schoolteacher of a very conservative church congregation, I have often worked with several of our high school age boys during the summer. This year was no exception. There were two or three of them in the shop that summer along with John and the full-time builders. I tried to motivate them in all the normal ways, but the most effective way I found was to challenge them to outdo each other.

This is where John shone so brightly. I was getting ready to start a large building. I don’t remember the exact size, but I think it was 12 by 32 or bigger. With the joists on 16-inch centers, and double joists on the end, I needed about 28 2 by 6 by 12 joists carried from the stack outside the bay. 

Now, I don’t know how strong you are or how much you think you need to impress people, but I normally only carry four of those at a time. I have been known to only carry two to three sometimes, or occasionally strain myself with five. Remember, though, I had brought these youngsters on to save my back. I did not plan to carry very many of them!

I instructed John to go get some joists. I continued with my tasks, expecting him to take about seven trips with four joists at a time. 

Imagine my surprise when I turned to see him toting an insanely high stack of boards into the bay. He had carried NINE of them! 

You may think that I instructed him that he only needed to carry three or four. You would be wrong. Instead, I quickly found the other two teenagers and told them that they needed to help carry joists in. 

“You can carry however many you want,” I told them, “but John carries nine at a time.”

I did not have to carry floor joists all summer. It was a glorious day in the life of this shed builder. 

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