Columnists, V6I6

Of Green Cash and Orange Sheds

“I need you to move my shed over to Wyoming ASAP. My brother Fat Albert got a job, and he needs a place to keep his donkeys!” 

I sighed and rubbed my forehead, wondering why every crazy in Montana was calling me these days. I’m busy enough as it is with normal work, but every time a crazy calls me, it’s sure to be super weird. 

“Absolutely,” I replied. “I have a few openings next week, but I’ll need to charge you for a full day. Will that work?”

“Sure, here is his number,” said the caller. “Please call him immediately! We need to get this done right away.” 

And that was my introduction to Humphrey Otis, retired pilot and current artist, and his brother Albert, occupation undetermined at the moment. However, as is typical of jobs for such clients, the shed would not get moved to Wyoming that week. 

Or the next. Or the next.

As a matter of fact, after a few weeks, I got a random call from a Francis Weatherby who lived in a nearby town. She informed me that she had purchased the shed from Humphrey and needed it moved to her place. At the same time, my phone dinged with a text from Fat Albert wondering if I was still bringing his donkey shed that week! 

After a few more texts and phone calls, I determined that Humphrey and Albert had had a big fight, and Francis was the proud new owner of the disputed shed. 

Okay, then, I thought, I hope Francis knows what she’s getting into. I moved the shed and promptly forgot about Fat Albert and Humphrey Dumpty, as I thought of him privily. 

Fast forward three months, and Shifty, my favorite salesman, called me about a fancy custom shed he was pricing for two brothers in Wyoming. As we talked it over, I got a familiar feeling as though I’d had this dream before. 

I quickly scrolled down through my thousands of texts, and by magic, I found the exact thread where Fat Albert was tearfully begging me to still bring him his brother’s shed.  

“Is the guy’s name Humphrey by any chance?” I asked.

“Oh yeah, that’s his name. Why?” Shifty asked.

I choked back my consternation and started laughing. “You won’t sell that guy anything,” I said.

“He’s a shady dude with no money, and he changes his mind every two hours. He couldn’t afford to pay me the $500 I needed to move his shed this spring.” 

“Okay,” Shifty replied, “but he sounded pretty serious.” 

“Well, good luck getting that sale,” I laughed.

A few hours later, Shifty called back, breathless but triumphant. 

“I’ve got $25,000 cash sitting here on my desk from Fat Albert and Humphrey!” he exclaimed. “When can you build this cabin and deliver it?”

Rarely do I find myself as completely speechless as I was at that moment. Cash?! Well, it appeared Humphrey and Albert had reconciled and wanted a custom, two-story shed. It so happened that the brothers were in a terrible hurry and asked if we could do a rush order for them.

Normally, I don’t make exceptions to my timeline, but a big pile of cash can affect my scheduling priorities. Besides, I had two extra guys helping out that week, so I reluctantly agreed. Thirty-plus years in the shed industry should have taught me better, but I’m a sucker for a challenge. We slipped this huge, two-story shed into our crowded schedule and rushed to it.

Now the weird thing is these brothers had a few ideas that were as strange as their names.

First off, they wanted a custom green color on the entire shed, including the windows and the roof. Their chosen color was remarkably like the stuff you find in used sick bags on planes.

However, it was slightly darker than the variety found behind bars on St Patrick’s Day. I had visions of laughing crowds pointing at me as I delivered this ugly monster. What was up with these guys? 

Of course, we aim to please, so puke green it was. At the last minute, however, Humphrey changed his mind and ordered the roof in bright red. In my humble opinion, that was no improvement, but then again, who am I to criticize his life choices? 

So that’s how I found myself late one Friday night, crossing the line into Wyoming with a sick green, half-built shed on the trailer behind me and pilot cars front and back. 

I’m sure the scale master at the port of entry laughed himself sick because he didn’t even call me in to show my papers. He was probably wiping too many tears from his eyes at the ghastly sight of this monument to the color of vomit being towed across his scales. Besides, I was underweight by 2.3 pounds. At that moment, I was thankful I had skipped the extra burrito for dinner. 

Darkness was knocking on the door when I finally arrived at the delivery location. Shifty had scoped it out and was confident I could make the turns and get this monstrosity into location.

However, he had never driven a semi-truck nor hauled a building nearly 18 feet wide. Luckily for him, Shifty wasn’t with me that night as I drove frantically around the ever-darkening roads trying to find this place. His absence later proved to be extremely beneficial for his general health and wellbeing.

Predictably, there were no house numbers posted, and every driveway I looked at was far too narrow to enter. I parked my rig and hopped into my lead pilot car to scout out the delivery before complete darkness fell.

Just about then, the radio squawked, and the drawling voice of my tail pilot car driver rumbled in the truck: “Did y’all know you have a tree stuck in your shed?” 

Nope, I had not in fact known that. I jumped out and ran back to check. Well, to my consternation, I discovered he was right. On my blind side, hanging out of a window opening, was a tree about 6 inches in diameter and 20 feet long. Somehow, on one of the turns, it slipped into the rough opening and broke off, catching an undocumented ride for a few miles. 

Thank goodness it hadn’t happened before I crossed the scale because it surely weighed more than a few burritos. 

I returned to the lead car, still determined to find this place. Running around in the dark, I couldn’t shake a horrible feeling that I was the butt of an ongoing joke.

That’s when I saw him. I rounded a corner in the road, and there was a possible driveway. No house number, of course. That would be too civilized for this neck of the woods. However, a short, fat guy was standing about 100 feet away, gazing down the hill at my parked rig. He was dressed head to toe in squeamish green. 

He turned and looked at me and my flashing lights. I waited for the wave or beckoning motion from him to signal he was the customer. Instead, he looked somberly at me, then regally turned to stare at the parked rig below us on the steep mountain trail. At least, he turned as regally as possible for a guy just barely over five feet tall and dressed in puke green clothes.

“Well, that can’t be him,” I muttered. 

Up the road we continued. One driveway after another proved to be wrong. Finally, I went back to the driveway with the spooky elf-colored guy, but alas, he was gone. Muttering under my breath about all the things I was going to do to Shifty if I ever made it out of here, I turned up the dusty, empty driveway. 

No house, no people, and no cell service. And at the end, the road narrowed to approximately 6 feet with a cliff below and trees and bank above. 

That’s when I heard it—an unbearable whining from a beat-up snowmobile coming up the trail.

I scarcely believed my eyes when Humphrey Otis roared up, churning billowing clouds behind him. Through the blue smoke and powdery dust, he emerged grinning at the top of his lungs.

“You found it!” he roared over the skipping screams of the vintage contraption he somehow kept running. “Shifty said you were good!”

Right then, I decided Shifty had better have his bags packed and his running shoes on because I was ready to start redecorating his facial features. 

“This is the driveway?” I asked in slight disbelief. 

“Sure is, my man!” he bellowed. 

I choked back my response and looked around. I saw at least 50 trees I would have wanted removed and about 20 truckloads of dirt that were going to be a problem. 

“Sure thing,” I muttered under my breath. “I work miracles all the time.” 

“You do realize that with these trees and this dirt bank the shed will get scratched and scuffed a bit while I’m bringing it in here, right?” I asked Humphrey. “It will need a bit of touch up paint when I’m done.” Like ten gallons, I added silently to myself. 

“No problem, bro!” he roared. Roaring seemed to be Humphrey’s preferred communication method. Then again, it took some doing to talk above the banshee wail emitted by his mode of transportation. 

The dark thoughts rumbling through my mind matched the darkness falling around us as I drove back to my rig. Thankfully, it wasn’t quite pitch dark yet. You could still see your hand held in front of your face, but you couldn’t count fingers, if you get my drift. 

Clambering into my truck, I ground it into gear and flipped my lockers on. It was going to take everything I had to make that hill without falling off the side of the mountain. I refused to ponder the trees and dirt that would be moved by the front left corner of the shed. When in doubt, pour on the coal, I thought as I started up the hill. 

There are plenty of dozer operators who can cut a driveway across a mountainside, but I doubt they’ve set any speed records doing it. That is, until that fateful night. I believe I officially hold a record of sorts for widening a driveway and uprooting 23 trees in 3.76 minutes. 

The shed was set and I was ready to leave before the falling leaves and pine needles all hit the ground. Of course, the updraft from my bellowing stacks helped them reach higher altitudes than are normally achieved from trees being violently shaken by a passing shed, but it seemed to take less time than usual to get finished that night. My eagerness to get back and work on Shifty was a motivating factor for sure. 

As Humphrey handed over the balance of the cash owed to me, he introduced me to his brother, Fat Albert. Low and behold, he was the stocky gnome who had so solemnly peered at me in the fading daylight earlier while I was frantically looking for the correct driveway.  

Albert shook my hand and peered up at me. 

“Hey, how easy would it be to paint this thing orange tomorrow when they put the roof up?” he asked, but the last few words were spoken to an empty spot where I had been standing.

“Gotta run, guys!” I shouted out my truck window as I sped down the mountain in a cloud of dust that obscured the whole disastrous scene from my rearview.

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