The VA kids and I had returned to the Trombley barn to finish painting it, except that the first coat we’d put on two weeks earlier had completely disappeared, soaking into the old wood like it’d never been applied.

When I reported this catastrophe to Rich he looked like he might have a stroke. Obviously, VA was going to have to buy a lot more paint, which would bust Rich’s budget completely.

Rich wasn’t exactly famous for taking responsibility when things went wrong, and when he finally recovered himself he pointed his finger furiously at me and said, “Thanks to you, the kids’ll have to survive on mashed potato sandwiches for a month! And they’ll probably die of scurvy!”

As it happened, I liked mashed potato sandwiches, so I wasn’t impressed.

We did eventually finish painting the barn, except for the back of it, which we had to leave as-is because Rich wouldn’t buy any more paint. Then we turned to replacing the part of the roof that was leaking.

Fortunately, the roof joists were in good shape so we only had to cut out parts of the old wooden roof on the weather side of the barn and replace them. Although I have a fear of heights, I liked being up on that roof, working shirtless, enjoying the sun on my back. I especially liked sitting way up at the gable, from where I had the most amazing views in all directions. Plus, this left Terry to supervise the kids down below.

My favorite view was to the south, where I could see more than one hundred miles, all the way to Killington Mountain. Depending on how the light was falling, the mountains might blend into the sky or the clouds or the land they were part of. As clouds passed over the mountains and wind blew the trees, more colors of green showed up than you ever thought existed.

One afternoon I was looking out to the west, watching the weather moving in, seeing it skating across Lake Champlain and up over the Green Mountains. Even though it was a perfectly sunny day in the Kingdom, without a cloud in the sky, I could see that it was already raining over towards Stowe. I climbed down off the roof and called out, “Clean up, people, we have to go, it’s going to rain soon!”

The kids laughed and snorted and complained that it was a beautiful day and we should keep working till dinnertime. They liked hanging around that barn and didn’t want to go back to VA until they absolutely had to. But I insisted. We made the short drive back to VA and had just started cleaning the paintbrushes when the first raindrops began to fall. The kids stared at me in awe, like I was some kind of rain wizard.

One day, as I was facing north and paying too much attention to the view and not enough attention to what I was doing, I lost control of the eight-pound sledgehammer I kept on the roof and which I used to pound sixteen-penny nails into the joists.

I’d tried to hang the sledge over the roof gable, but missed. The sledge slipped off the peak of the roof and slid down the shingles and I made a desperate grab for it but was too late. If that sledge landed on a kid’s head, it would be the end of him.

In a panic, I shouted, “Look out! Look out! Sledge coming down!” But in fact the sledge slid only a few feet and then disappeared into the hole I was repairing, falling harmlessly inside the barn. I watched it turn a slow somersault, then hit the barn floor and just keep going like there was no floor there at all. Wow, I thought, that is one rotten floor!

I was thinking that it was already late in the day and I might as well leave the sledge where it was until next time, when Eddie called out, “I’ll git ‘er fer you, Mr. C!” My mind was elsewhere and I was a bit slow on the uptake, but then I realized, belatedly, that if an eight-pound sledgehammer could pass magically through the floor, so could Eddie.

I cried out, “No! Eddie! Stay back!”

But it was too late. Eddie had raced into the barn and when he reached the spot where the sledge disappeared, Eddie disappeared, too. Just like that – one instant Eddie was there, and the next instant he was gone.

“Eddie! Eddie!” I cried. “Are you okay?”

There was no response from Eddie and now the other boys were beginning to enter the barn, intent on saving him. “Stay the hell where you are!” I screamed. Then, “Dammit, Terry, keep the kids out of the barn!”

I slid hastily down the roof, grabbed hold of the extension ladder and rode it down like it was a fireman’s pole, my hands and feet gripping the rails and ignoring the rungs completely.

Once inside the barn I found a solid-looking joist and tiptoed along it until I was about ten feet from where Eddie had disappeared. I was constantly calling out, “Eddie! “Eddie! Answer me!” But there was no reply and dread crept into my heart.

The floor had begun creaking under me and so I laid down flat on my stomach and spread my arms and legs, trying to distribute my weight as widely as possible. Very slowly I inched toward the hole Eddie had fallen through, still calling out, “Eddie! Answer me!” When I reached the hole I peered into the darkness and … there was Eddie, standing straight up on his feet, holding the heavy sledgehammer up above his head with both hands, grinning like an idiot.

“Tole you I’d git ‘er fer you, Mr. C!” he said.

Next up: VA, Part 9

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Please note that this post is intended to provide interested persons with an insight on the capital markets and other matters and is not intended to promote any manager or firm, nor does it intend to advertise their performance. All opinions expressed are those of Gregory Curtis and do not necessarily represent the views of Greycourt & Co., Inc., the wealth management firm with which he is associated. The information in this report is not intended to address the needs of any particular investor.


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