Columnists, Tyler Mahan, V3I6

Three Men and a Barrel

Shed builders are very creative folks. You must be creative to put food on the table every week on a builder’s paycheck.

My fellow hammer-swingers have learned a few things over the years to simplify tasks, and to save wear and tear on our bodies and equipment. We innovate for many reasons. However, the most common reason I have witnessed for invention is necessity. Seems like some wise fellow said something like that one time….

I have found as I have grown older that necessity seems to happen more often. Whether it is back trouble or knee pain, our bodies push us to find new solutions for old tasks. Youth and energy give way to wisdom and patience over time. Instead of just rushing through and wearing down the only body we ever will have on earth, those of us with a few years under our belt analyze the situation and determine how best to approach the project.

Let me give you an example.

Years ago, when I was still in my teens, we used 6 by 6 timbers for our longer skids here at Better Barns. The longest shed we built at that time was 30 feet long. Since I was only about 19 then, I thought it was a good idea to try to carry one by myself. A 6 by 6 by 30 treated timber weighs in at somewhere around 350 pounds, and I never have been considered a great weight lifter. I would drag one end and wrestle the skid into position with much effort and many sound effects. It took time, but it was worth it—I was proving to all the guys around that I was tough.

Meanwhile, the other guys on the crew would all team up on a timber. These men were all older than me. The youngest was in his early 30’s, and the oldest was 50. These three men would
manage the other skid for the shed.

Three men, one timber. Not only that, but they would pull the forklift up next to the garage door so they could just carry the skid straight in. Not only that, but they placed a 55-gallon drum a little way into the shop so they could slide the timber from the forks of the forklift onto the barrel. Then they just pushed the skid onto the barrel and let it roll into the shop. I never heard them grunt and they didn’t even act like they were straining.

What a bunch of sissies! I laughed at them and told them how I hoped I never got so old I had to do that. I told them, “Just put me in the old folk’s home if I ever do that!” I told them that if I ever wrote a memoir about my life at Better Barns I would title it Three Men and a Barrel. I said all manner of very dumb things that I thought were very witty and smart.

Now, I’m not 19 anymore. I don’t even care if you think I’m tough. I wish I had worked as smart as they did. They tried to tell me I would regret the way I was doing it, but I listened about like most teenagers. I now look for ways to save my aching back as I work through my day. Now, give me three men and a barrel any day of the week.

Being creative at work is not about being lazy. It is not about getting out of working hard. It is about saving time and effort over the long haul.

Don’t always do what you have always done. Look for ways to make your production processes better. We shed builders are creative folks. Let’s keep creating!

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