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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Measure (01/10/13)

TITLE: Measure Twice;Cut Once
By Sandra Wells


Michael stood alone in the center of his grandfather’s garage, breathing in the soft scent of freshly cut wood and varnish. He should be here, Michael thought mournfully. He should be over there making a birdhouse, or over there tinkering with the old tractor. But he’s not. And he won’t be again. The funeral had been but hours before; the church had been packed with family, friends and loved ones. Gerald Williams had touched many lives in his eighty-nine years.

“I miss you Gramps,” Michael whispered, as he walked to the workbench along the back wall and ran his hand across the much worn surface. Bins, drawers, coffee cans and mason jars lined the wall, all filled with tools. Michael instinctively reached for the measuring tape. It felt cool in his hand. He flicked the tape in and out with his thumb, as memories of long ago swirled around him. Michael was certain he heard his Grandfather’s voice

“Measure twice; cut once Michael. It’s important in carpentry and in life. Take your time, be careful, be prepared, and always measure twice.”

“But that takes so long, Gramps.” Thirteen-year-old Michael had replied. “I could make two bird houses in the time it takes you to make one. I measured once that’s enough.”

“You can do things the fast way or you can slow down and do them the right way. The choice is yours, but so are the consequences.” Gramps proceeded to measure the piece of wood a second time.

“Thanks Gramps, but I don’t wanna spend all day making this bird house. It’ll be fine.”

“Your choice. But Michael, it’s not a race. Quality takes time.”

The memory of that day caused Michael to chuckle. “Oh Gramps. I was such a know-it-all back then. How’d you put up with me?” He remembered the birdhouse he had slapped together that day. It was anything but quality.

Something on the uppermost shelf above the bench caught his attention. “I can’t believe you kept it,” Michael exclaimed, as he pulled the dilapidated birdhouse down. It tilted this way and that, the roof was uneven, and the floor tipped. No self-respecting bird would make that house his home. But his grandfather had kept it all the same. Michael flipped it over and read the words his grandfather had burned onto the bottom. “Made by Michael--July 12th, 1993--my grandson.”

“Oh Gramps,” Michael sobbed as he collapsed onto the stool behind him and clutched the birdhouse to his chest.

“I’m so sorry Gramps. You tried to teach me, but I wouldn’t listen. I thought I knew everything, and that you were just a persnickety old man. I’ve messed up so bad Gramps. My life definitely isn’t quality. I barely measured once, and now I’m living with the consequences. I need you Gramps.”

A gust of warm wind blew through the garage causing the loose sawdust to swirl and dance around a partially-completed bird feeder at the end of the workbench--Michael’s grandfather’s final, unfinished, masterwork. Michael set his birdhouse on the floor next to the stool and walked to the end of the bench. His hands gently stroked the perfectly measured wood. It felt smooth, and cool. His grandfather’s hand-drawn plans were tacked to a pegboard on the wall. Without thinking, or hesitating, Michael shed his black suit jacket, and white dress shirt.

Michael studied the plans carefully as he tied the straps of his grandfather’s gray, work apron around his waist. The wood and tools needed were still laid out--as if awaiting the touch of the master craftsman. “Okay Gramps I can do this. You taught me. And believe it or not, I listened. Measure twice, cut once.” A new confidence flowed through Michael as he measured a piece of wood-twice.

The first shadows of twilight crept across the garage floor as Michael, with sweat dripping from his brow, held the completed bird-feeder in his hands. The roof was straight, the walls true, the base even, and the wood sanded smooth. Michael carefully carried it out of the darkening garage, and sat cross-legged in the thick, green grass, just as he’d done when he was that know-it-all, thirteen-year-old. The evening horizon was aflame; red exploded into orange, orange into yellow, and on into violet. Michael reveled in its magnificence.

“Thank you Gramps. I get it now,” A soft breeze caressed Michael’s face.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Francie Snell 01/19/13
You are a true craftsman when it comes to writing. This story brought tears to my eyes and a lasting impression of such a great truth. I'm going to have my husband read this before he sets out to do the finishing trim work on our windows.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 01/20/13
This is a beautiful piece. you grab the reader immediately and lay out the inner turmoil that the young MC is experiencing. I think you will touch so many people with this piece. Great job.
Michelle Knoll 01/20/13
Awesome. Beautiful. Magnificent. Wow. I am so touched by this story. My dad used to work with wood, and made many birdhouses. The mention of "coffee cans and mason jars" brought a smile to my face, because that's how my dad stored nails, nuts and bolts, and screws. You brought a lot of memories back to me with your story. Thank you!
C D Swanson 01/22/13
One word - BEAUTIFUL.

God bless~
Virgil Youngblood 01/23/13
The title hooked me, for I too am a woodworker. And the rest of the story rang true and was delightful to read. Well done.
Myrna Noyes01/24/13
WOW, this is GREAT!! What a touching story with such an important life lesson!! No wonder it got an E.C. and a level win!! WAY TO WRITE!! :)
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 01/24/13
Whoo-hoo! Happy dance!! Congratulations on your EC!!!
Lillian Rhoades 01/24/13
Your title applies to sewing wood-working, and as you so beautifully portrayed, to the steps we carve out on life's journey.

Well done! Congratulations
C D Swanson 01/25/13
ongrats. God Bless~