Kevin, home alone

I’ve always been easy to understand. Your first impression of me is guaranteed to be absolutely accurate simply because I have no way of camouflaging my blunderbuss of a personality. I mean what I say and I say what I mean not because I see any particular virtue in it, but because I am temperamentally incapable of doing anything else.

Believe me, I’ve tried, but I can’t hide an agenda to save my life. In fact, the only thing I do worse than hiding my own agenda is uncovering someone else’s. I take absolutely everything at face value, something my mother has been known to twit me about. “Concrete-bound,” she calls me.

Until about ten years ago, I used to say that I was the most straightforward person ever to walk the earth. And then I met Kevin, who makes me look like Henry James.

One of the reasons my husband and I live in peace and harmony is that we leave nothing interpersonal to chance. If he wants me to know something, he knows he has to tell me. In English. Body language and pointed hints will not get the job done. And this suits him just fine, as it is his first impulse, when he wants me to know something, to tell me. In English.

Kevin is a relentless and compulsive truth-teller, and tackles every situation head-on. Although he has a much more nuanced and sophisticated understanding of the workings of other people’s minds than I do, he calls ‘em as he sees ‘em. There isn’t much of a filter between what he thinks and what he says, which means you almost always know what he’s thinking – a wonderful thing for a woman who can’t uncover an agenda to save her life.

And you always know where he’s been. He’s fundamentally incapable of not telling me what he did while I was away.

And, while I’m away, he’s always up to something.

Last week I left him alone for an afternoon and evening, and came home to find him sprawled on the bed, with what looked like closing credits scrolling up the TV screen. “Hi honey,” he said. “I had a steak and watched a war movie.”

So you did.

“And you know what else?” he asked, a glint in his eye.

Alarm bells went off. Leaving Kevin home alone with power tools, not to mention a big hairy truck with 650 foot-pounds of torque, is not always wise.

He led me into the living room and picked up something that looked like a cross between a fishing pole and an electrical conduit. He could barely suppress his pride. “It’s a sabiki rod!”

A sabiki rod!

A sabiki rod, for those of you have never jigged for mackerel, is a rod specifically designed for a sabiki rig, which is one of the most diabolical of all fishing lures. It’s a length of line, five feet or so, with five or six teeny hooks spaced along it, each attached to the main line with a length of line about four inches long and decorated with a little feather.

To use the rig, you attach a weight to the end of it and drop it down to the sea floor. Then you reel it up to the depth you think the school of mackerel is. Then you jig it, jerking it up and letting it sink again, until you get a fish.

If your sabiki rig is in a school of mackerel, you will get a fish, or several fish, immediately. A mackerel cannot resist a sabiki rig, and it’s not unusual to pull the rig up with a fish on every hook.

But that is not why the sabiki rig is diabolical. The sabiki rig’s diabolical nature is evident only when it comes time to put it away. It is impossible to store a sabiki rig without tangling it hopelessly, and every fisherman has spent the better part of a full-length movie untangling sabiki rigs in preparation for the next day’s fishing expedition.

If there’s one job Kevin hates, it’s untangling a sabiki rig, so he set his mind to building a rod that would obviate the need for it. The internet has all kinds of suggestions, and he amalgamated a number of them into his own design.  As is his wont.

It started with a Zebco 404 reel, which is the kind of reel kids use – you press a button to release the line and cast. It costs about $13., and comes spooled with 15-pound test. The Zebco then got attached with a hose clamp to a five-foot length of PVC, and Kevin drilled a hole through the PVC a few inches above the reel. The line gets threaded through the PVC pipe and attached to the sabiki rig. At the end of the rig is a weight with a hook that’s big enough to not fit through the PVC.

So, when you reel in the line, the sabiki rig gets housed in the length of the PVC, and the weight on the end keeps it taut by hooking over the end of the pipe. Then a little pipe insulation on the reel end for grip, and a cap on the end of the PVC so the edge doesn’t abrade the line, and Bob’s your uncle.

Total cost? “Seventeen dollars!” said Kevin, “So I made two!”

Yes, while I was out my enterprising husband made two sabiki rods. I should go out more often, I figured. So, yesterday, I went up to Boston to interview a source for an article and have dinner with my friend Dianne. I came home quite late, but Kevin was still up. I put down my bag and was about to take my coat off when he stopped me.

“You wanna come see what I did?” he asked, flashlight in hand.

The same alarm bells went off. No matter how many constructive things Kevin gets done while I’m out, the alarm bells will always go off.

He led me outside, around to the side of the house that faces the pond. He shone the light on a hole in the ground. And then a second hole. And a third. All the holes were where stumps used to be.

“You pulled the stumps!” I said.

“It was awesome!”

Now, stump-pulling, under ordinary circumstances is hard, frustrating, sweaty work. It is most definitely not awesome. Which led me to believe we were not dealing with ordinary circumstances here.

“I’m afraid to ask how you did it …” I said.

“Well,” he began, “I backed the truck up by the side of the house.”

That would be the big hairy truck with the 650 foot-pounds of torque. I knew that truck was trouble. But I didn’t think he’d try to use a truck on the side of the house to pull a stump in the back of the house. I groaned.

He told me how it went down. He tied a rope around the stump, and then ran it around a tree down by the water, and up to the truck. Just because it’s worth picturing, I have worked up a crude graphical representation.

The house is our house. The red rectangle represents the big hairy truck (the other two vehicles are actual, less hairy, vehicles). The red X is the stump, and the white line is the rope.

He put the truck in its lowest four-wheel drive gear, and started to creep forward. The rope stretched. He crept some more, it stretched some more. And then, as he crept, the rope released and made that boing-oing-oing noise you hear in cartoons.

At first he thought the rope had snapped, but then he realized it had pulled the stump out with such force that it flew all the way out into the pond. He had to go down and haul it in.

It was so much fun that he pulled two others. The only reason he stopped was that he ran out of stumps.

“It was awesome!”

I am glad to be married to the kind of man who uses his time alone creatively and constructively. And if, some day, that means he burns down the house or totals the truck or severs a limb, I take comfort in the fact that I’ll be the first to know.

24 people are having a conversation about “Kevin, home alone

  1. Don’t leave home without him. There are times I wish my husband was industrious outside of work, but then I remember that is MY domain. I am a control freak. The last time I took a vacation without him, he painted the living room shit brown.

  2. That story about the stump and the line reminds me of one I heard about a sunken boat, a truck and a line, and the boat flying across the parking lot when it finally became free and hitting a cadillac. I’m sorry I wasn’t there to witness it because that too would have been awesome.

    I feel duty bound to point out that if you hadn’t told us all how to make a sabiki rod you’d have something with which to run down to the local patent office to register and possibly make yourselves fabulously wealthy.

    However, I also get the impression that Kevin’s the kind of guy who has more than one or two clever tricks up his sleeve.

  3. Accidental Mick says:

    Hi both,
    Kevin, we all know from what Tamar has posted before that you think things through pretty carefully before you do anthing so this probably comes into the granmother / sucking eggs category but I would feel real bad if an accident happened just because I was too lasy to post.
    I was doing the same thing a couple of years back but, on one stump, I hadn’t loosened it enough and the rope snapped. The whiplash took a neat 1foot section out of a 4 x 2 porch support that was a good 15 ft to the side of the line between me and the stump.

    All the power from your “big hairy truck” is stored in the rope so the safest place for Tamar (if she were there) is in the cab with you. Please don’t let her stand around watching or I might lose some of my education / entertainment.

    Sorry if this is all too obvious.

  4. How about some details for all us guys out here. How did Kevin keep the rope from chafing on the tree or riding up and pulling the tree over? How did he attach the rope securely to the stump? How did he get the proper ange on the stump–two trees maybe? The world needs to know.

    • Dad,
      The tree is about 75 ft tall and has a diameter of about 2.5 ft., making the circumference 7.854 ft as you know since they covered that at MIT. One does not need a slide rule to know that you couldn’t pull a tree that size down with any truck that can be found within a 1500 mile radius of Cape Cod.

      Next you need to tie the knot in such a way that it tightens when taut (does make it a bit of a challenge to get it back off).

      Step three is secure a 300 ft braided rope designed to secure a ship to a dock (purchased at a yard sale of course) to the brush-guard at the front end of your 6.4 Ltr. diesel truck and put it in 4wd low creep in reverse till the rope is stretched, pull forward and retie the rope. (Repeat this step until the rope is fully stretched.)

      All that is left to do now is close your eyes, put her in reverse and give it some gas (or diesel in this case). Mechanical advantage! What a wonderful thing to witness.
      Kevin F.

  5. There are many, many reasons I am glad to be married to Kevin, not the least of which is that he provides excellent material. I suspect Starving would be a big bore without him, and I thank all of you for your appreciation of my creative-thinking, risk-taking, tool-using, problem-solving husband.

    Mick, I do appreciate the warning. One of my first thoughts when Kevin told me about the stump incident was that I wish I’d been there to video it. And then I tried to figure out where I would have stood, and I was glad I missed it.

    • My darling bride,

      You would have been perfectly safe perched on the peak of the house with a full vantage of the entire operation!
      Kevin F.

  6. This is hands down my favorite new blog. I just love it. I live in the mountains and want to start hunting a foraging. We did a lot of that when I was growing up. Great site. Thanks!

  7. How does Kevin know how to pull a stump?!? I certainly couldn’t wander down to Wall St. and wave my arms around and buy stocks without some prior knowledge of the process. According to what I was taught, he tackled the stump removal safely. Respect. And can I borrow him? When my husband says “Guess what I’ve done” it inevitably ends with a trip to the Emergency Room.

    If you find yourself with further stumps to remove in future, tell him to look up a ‘stump grinder’. Aside from shaving with a straight razor while drinking 18 year-old Glenlivet neat, nothing makes you feel more manly than using a stump grinder. So I’m told.

    • Bill, I realized I never answered your question — pictures of the big hairy truck are forthcoming, I promise. And probably even before boating season.

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