I found the inscription on the concrete floor of the workshop.
L. B. Wright
R. T. Epps
Zoe Blair Epps
It still looks pretty professional, smooth. My first concrete job.
Me: Hey, Blair! Do you remember the time I helped you with that cement project?
Blair: (He laughs) Yeah, I remember you mumbling something, but I couldn’t quite make it out.
May 3, 1998
It was a pretty hot day. We had come over to Blair and Mary Jane’s house to lay a concrete pad for Blair to build a storage room onto his workshop.
Blair’s daddy had been quite on accomplished cement contractor, back in the day (as well as a blacksmith, horse doctor, and tenant farmer). Blair’s mom could do the figuring for his concrete jobs at the kitchen table. And Blair had learned what he knew from doing and watching and doing.
He still had his daddy’s old gas powered cement mixer.
And he had me for a helper. (I had never done this before.)
Wendy, Chelsey, Mary Jane, and two year old Zoë had chairs in the area to see this grand project develop.
My job was to pick up the 80 lb bags of concrete, pour them in the mixer, add water, shovel mixed concrete into the wheelbarrow, wheel the barrow over to the prepared spot, dump it where Blair told me.
His job was to make it smooth.
“Hurry, Randy, we don’t want it to set up before we get it ready.”
I didn’t see him wink and grin at his audience.
So I hurried.
Oh my gosh. I never even stopped for a drink of water. No time. I didn’t want it to set up too soon.
Every bag seemed to weigh five more pounds than the one before.
The wheelbarrow seemed more and more difficult to control.
Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth….
When the job was completely poured, smoothed and we began to do the part where two people move one long stick across the surface to remove the excess cement, (No, I cannot remember what that is called and I really don’t care at this point what it was called) I remember thinking how completely exhausted I was.
I may have mentioned this fact to Blair.
“Well, it’s no wonder. You didn’t have to work so fast. We had plenty of time.”
I mumbled something almost under my breath.
Well, almost everybody.
That day, I learned that I did not want to be a cement contractor.
I also learned that I learned more from my father-in-law than I learned from anybody else in the world.
And that was worth everything.