Looking Through The Layers: Of cement, weather, and Jimmy Hoffa lore - DeForest Times-Tribune: Columns

Looking Through The Layers: Of cement, weather, and Jimmy Hoffa lore - DeForest Times-Tribune: Columns

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Looking Through The Layers: Of cement, weather, and Jimmy Hoffa lore

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Posted: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 1:38 pm | Updated: 1:41 pm, Wed Jun 12, 2013.

There have been many jokes made regarding the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. Here's a couple I remember.

1. He was found in the yellow pages under 'cement.'

2. He was found in a maternity ward trying to organize labor. 

After all these decades, it has been recently reported that Jimmy Hoffa's remains may have finally been found. In a recent dig in Michigan, it is believed that authorities have found Hoffa's remains under two-feet of dirt. It would seem to fit the circumstances, too, because people who knew Hoffa said he was always pretty shallow.

I recall making a joke to our cement contractor that "now would be the time to get rid of any unwanted bodies you've got laying around."

"Some time around midnight would probably be the best time..." came the response. Yes, Scott has a sense of humor, too, but it has become very strained lately because many of his customer's projects have been squished together because of large amounts of rain this spring.

Scott is one of those contractors who refuse to pour cement in the rain because of his concern for quality. Besides having calluses on calluses, he also has ulcers because of the pressures being placed on him because of rain.

The dig and foundation process is the physical first step for the home building process. When the cement guys get held back, every 'domino' gets hit. And the pressure is tremendous.   

"Guys in my business are a dying breed," Scott said. He looked very tired. It was a long day and the hottest of spring at 92 degrees. Scott related that not many want to work in setting up and pouring concrete anymore.

"Nobody wants to work that hard?" I asked.

"No,” he said. "And, I'd have expected to have a lot of workers to learn as I did and I'd be able to manage more and do less of the actual concrete work by now. And here I am, almost 50 and killing myself trying to keep up with the demand."


This is when a general contractor can be a friend to himself or self-effacing.  

Reuben, our rough construction contractor, saw the footings and made the comment that he thought they were 'a little low.'  In Scot's defense, I replied, "he's been doing cement a long time – I'm betting it's right on the money – and, remember, this is a zero transition' house; handicapped accessible. Reuben nodded in a very doubt-looking affirmation.  

I mentioned to Scott what Reuben said about the elevation.

"He was kidding, I hope," Scott said.

"No," I returned. "He was not. He is a great builder, but I don't think he's ever built a zero transition home before. The Amish know construction well. They do not do cement." Scott quietly responded: "I wonder how they hide their unwanted bodies."

We both laughed.  

One of Scott's employees told me that the cement companies usually work like crazy in spring and early summer and then taper way off as they get into July. First feast, then famine.

Add to that the fact that many highly skilled craftsmen left the homebuilding trade(s) when the economy soured back in 2007 and you find yourself faced with the prospect of either a severe back-log or people who know little, doing a lot of what they know nothing about.

That's a scary prospect when it comes to foundations, electrical, plumbing or the construction itself.

Circumstances are what they are when it comes to nature's impact(s). And, I suppose, it's hard to keep a sense of humor in the midst of stress. (Ask the farmers. They know it, too!)

From my perspective, it costs nothing to be patient, nice and lighten the load a little with laughter. I figure that anything I can do that might make the burden come a little easier perhaps is a form of paying it forward.

We all have stress in our lives. My reputation and self-anointed crazy persona is the only way I have found to retain sanity while under intense pressure. In order to be sane, you must be crazy.

Try it some time.

And, in that context, my parting thought for the week is: "They say that the key to happiness is in keeping your mind full and your bowels empty. Interesting that in life we find the converse in actuality – way too often."

I am Brian Brown and this has been “Looking Through The Layers.”

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