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The Handyman Cometh

When I think about a handyman, “versatile” comes to mind. They are the guys with ample tools, know a little of everything, and can tinker, putz and fix the odds and sods of homesteading with the proverbial butt crack for all to see. When I left teaching, and The Virginia May was coming to fruition, what I learned quickly was that there was no shortage of small (and large) projects that needed attention and I was ill-equipped. While I certainly was brutally educated in all things construction as I marched to opening up a business, there was no shortage of carpenters, electricians, plumbers, AC dudes, and landscape guys, all traipsing around the property. I used my witty personality and award-winning Canadian personality to get them to “just do one more thing” before they wrapped up whatever job they were there for. They all felt sorry for the single gal– and I absolutely did pour on the damsel in distress to get what I needed. 

Later, I borrowed all the neighbors, then my bestie’s husband, for various tasks until my welcome was worn out. I was cautious in my asking and always, always bartered with food. The last time I asked for a “favor,” I was commissioned to make southern chili and sauerkraut over hot dogs. Not to be discouraged, I made (what I thought) was amazing Northern chili. Oh, didn’t I turn out to be the laughingstock of a Texas supper? Northern chili and southern chili are epically different, and for Christmas, I got a can of Wolfe Brand Chili in my stocking as a reminder of my supper blunder. What I needed was to change my strategy – enter the dating game. 

The tall, red-headed handyman showed up on a Wednesday the last week of March. True, we had met the October before at an anniversary party held here at The Virginia May, but he was a guest, and I was busy being a host at that event. Although a native Texan, he was living in North Carolina at the time and dating a girl who apparently had “the whitest teeth he had ever seen,” but when he rolled back into Texas as a permanent fixture in late February, I guess “White Teeth,” ( as I had dubbed her) had lost her shine, and so back to Texas it was. We had mutual friends, and on the way to a St Patty’s Day event with said friends, I was bemoaning the fact that I had a list a mile long of little things I needed to do and how difficult it was to find someone. They suggested giving Big Red a call, as he apparently was quite handy. I think asking for something when you are desperate leads to misfortune later on, and one should always be careful what one asks for. 

Fast forward to November, and the handyman hasn’t left. I akin it to Eldin on Murphy Brown, except Mr. Texas is way cuter. Apparently, he likes my cooking, and “keeping him alive” is high on his list. That being said, he can procrastinate to the fullest on any project on his list. He is also good at talking me out of projects I really thought I needed, such as insulation for the attic. Apparently, blowing insulation into small spaces isn’t a fun job, so in retaliation, I refuse to turn the furnace on in the house to illustrate a point. When asked what the state of the furnace is, I simply replied, “it isn’t on.” Seemed obvious to me. The house was registering a cool 59, and all that was really needed was a sweater. For me, watching him wander around in two sets of long johns over jeans, 27 shirts, and two coats has been nothing short of comic relief. 

I asked him to split the wood a few weeks back, and off he happily trotted for a wood splitter at Home Depot. He did a fair amount but somewhat rolled his eyes when I said we might need more. He assumed his pay would include heat. All I can say is he has had a fire burning every day this week. He has moved furniture around to be as close to the flame as possible. I taught him that a “toque” is a hat, not a toboggan. And now he is wearing one. Yesterday, he suggested returning to Home Depot for the wood splitter again…. I guess more wood-splitting will happen.

Over my last two years here in this great state, I have observed many times that Canadians and Texans are completely different folk on many topics. Chili aside, temperature for sure. On any field trip the handyman makes from his fine abode to here, I notice upon his return there are substantially more clothes in tow. During the summer months, it was “too hot,” and now it’s “ too cold.” No pleasing. Albeit, it’s awesome having him around, and nice to actually get some of the list accomplished. Of course, I am wildly thrilled to think of new things to add to his list before he changes his mind and decides a cushy retirement life on Randle Lane isn’t for him. 

His tool collection has grown a bit, and I have acquired a new garden hose, leaf blower, and a few new ladders in which to use. That was part of the deal—if he leaves, I get to keep the fruits of his labor. He has done a few “art installation” pieces out of broken beds from the odd guest (a later story), made a directional sign pointing north to Canada, and six months later, he seems happy with his lot in life as he settles into his new role. I still like to refer to him as the handyman, but he has become a frequent sighting on the lane, and it doesn’t appear he will be leaving anytime soon. Every once in a while, I actually introduce him by his name, my eye candy– whatever the situation calls for. Hiring the handyman was cheaper than a dating app, I figured. 

As an added bonus to our newly blossomed relationship (no one was more surprised than I), I thought it would be really fun to take him to the motherland in December. I mean, why not? It’s a quiet test of endurance, really. I have touted the beauty of my country a number of times– albeit, the summer months may be far tolerable to someone who is now walking around with 408 layers on. He tells me he is an avid skier, so what better way to continue a great dating streak than by taking him to the Canadian Rockies? Maybe he survives, maybe he doesn’t. He has commissioned all my northern friends to just “keep him alive.” Survival seems to be a recurring motif for him, whether here or in the north. Honestly, I hope he makes it up there, but time will tell. 

Colleen McCullough is the owner of The Virginia May Bed and Breakfast @ Eagle Mountain Lake. You can follow the BnB on Instagram and Facebook @thevirginiamay

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