Today Marsha is getting her new handicapped shower and Dan, the carpenter shower removal/installation expert, is here. Can you imagine doing nothing but tearing out and replacing old showers for 15 years? You know all the questions the old folks are going to ask before they ask them.

Like standing on a stage, you do your same old thing in a different environment and, because you’ve done it so many times, you pretty well know how it’s going to go once you’ve had your first look around.

When it comes to telling funny stories on a stage, the venue and room setup and time of day have more to do with the success of the performance than anything you say or do. I would imagine the same is true of installing shower units.

To facilitate easy removal, Dan sliced up the one-unit built-in-seat shower stall I put in 26 years ago. Had I known back then that the seat was going to cause problems, I could have installed the shower we are getting today. You’ve probably never said: “I wish I’d known that 20 years ago.”

When he had it out, he said I wrote “1997” on a floorboard when I put it in. Hidden in the walls of this house are many dates. Whenever I built a new closet or anything else, I tried to remember to pencil a date on it. I have a sawhorse that has “1926” on it. While it’s not as nice as finding silver coins when you tear out a wall, finding a date on a board gives you a topic for conversation the next time you’re at a gallery opening.

Next door there are “1914” dates Gramp Wiley’s “Uncle” Ern Wiley put on the barn wall. And I have a wooden barrel that has “1914” written on it. I like to see dates on old boards. I seem to recall that while doing renovations a few years back, someone uncovered an “1812” date in a house down Martinsville way.


As I write, I can feel, as well as hear, Dan sawing through that sturdy old plastic shower on the other side of the wall. The floor shakes until it tickles the soles of my feet. It could remind you of the wonderful, tingly, vibrating sensation of having a tooth drilled.

To say that he is intensely focused as he races to his small dumpster would be an understatement. Not a movement is wasted as he rushes through the room carrying out large chunks of detritus. Tomorrow he comes back to finish the installation of the unit.

This looks to me like a union job. A plumber was here and he refitted the pipes. Dan, the carpenter-installer, handles the wood, glue and screws. My father told me that during WWII, strict union regulations could slow things down in shipyards. As a carpenter he might have to wait hours for a machinist to come cut off a bolt.

It transpires that the man who sold Marsha the new unit left sales and went back to plumbing. He left no instructions for Dan on the size of the unit or exactly where it was going to be. Even the experts, about whom we have heard only raves, have little bumps on their highway to excessive profit.

It is my dearest wish that Marsha gets what she wants and that she is happy with the end result. Anything that happens in between is irrelevant.

Shower installation has been a learning experience. When I saw blue PEX pipe go by on an arm, I looked it up and learned that PEX pipe is color-coded. When I hooked up my solar water heaters, I used white. And any plumbing I’ve done since has been with white. But red PEX pipes can be used for hot water lines, blue for cold water supply, and white for either hot or cold. The colors have nothing to do with plumbing code, they’re just for your convenience. These things are nice to know.


When we went down to the cellar I inculcated Dan into the mysteries of humble Farmer plumbing and the location of shutoff valves. He shared this information with the plumber. To say that he was amazed at my work would be an understatement. Stupefied would be closer to the truth.

When he had a handle on it, he said: “Get out of my way.”

You should be so lucky to have such a man on your payroll.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:

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