Farm Wagon Rocking and Rolling
In graduate school, I took up painting barns as a hobby and for funds. DeKalb County, the location of Northern Illinois University, was at the time the eighth richest agricultural county in the United States. Another claim was how a local farmer--Glidden--had patented the most commonly used barb wire from which he derived a fortune and with which he started another business that farmers needed, Glidden Paint. Despite his extra-curricular activities, Glidden still farmed a large spread south of DeKalb upon which he built the largest barn in the county.
In contracting with the current owner--Mark--to paint the barn, I borrowed a contractor friend's scaffoldling wagon upon which one could build increments of a four-foot by sixteen-foot scaffold. Being on wheels one could pull the contraption around a work site.
One inconvenience was how the ground sloped away from the barn to channel rain away from the barn. This required blocking the outside wheels so the wagon top would be adjacent to the barn rather than tilted away. Moving the wagon was a headache but less of one than moving a ladder.
The scaffoldling wagon did fine on the east end. On the north end, more scaffoldling was added to reach the peak. Because the land sloped more, more blocks were added under the outer wheels. Happily listening to the music, I swung the paint nozzle as I was holding onto the barn's peak with the other hand. Suddenly, it was a blur as an earthquake seemed to take over my life. The wagon started rolling forward with me clamboring down the roof's edge with one hand going over the other as my legs entangled in the scaffolding went from being below me to above me. As this legs-up posture was proceeding, the wagon rolled off the blocks with a sudden jerk of the top outward away from the barn with my losing my hand-grip on the barn.
Thanks to Euclidian geometry, what was less than a foot difference at the bottom became several feet of reversed pendulum swinging at the top as I am holding on for dear life unclear of what was happening. After a few seconds the rolling and rocking wagon came to a halt. Out of breath and out of wits, I climbed down to terra firma. The wagon had moved from the center of the barn to the west end. No amusement park ride could be more amusing.
Lucky for me, I was not tossed off at a height of over 30 feet. Lucky for me, I had followed the contractor's advice of ratcheting the safety wire around the scaffoldling to keep it intact. Otherwise, the top pieces probably would have been flung off with me attached.
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