Friday Firesmith – An Ax To Paint

Rarely do I ever get a call from a contractor of a previous project, unless we’re going to work together soon, and the guys I worked with in Fargo ought not be in the state for a very long time. Someone in their front office thought it was a good idea to invade south Georgia and monetarily speaking, they took a beating. Seven hundred a day for a month in late penalties.

The superintendent sends me an email, an official thing, requesting a phone conversation, with his foremen, and there’s little reason for me to turn it down. We talk for five minutes, I send them some photos of some work done by a subcontractor, and it’s a fight neither I nor my employer have a dog in at all. The foremen leave the conversation, and Bill and I spend some time talking about bridges.
The conversation strays, and I knew it was going to. Bill has an ax to grind. The origin of that phrase is fairly simple, yet it’s been distorted over the years. In the beginning, it meant someone came over to your place, ostensibly for one purpose, but they brought their ax with them because it needed sharpening. Bill started this conversation for one reason but he wanted to tell me something.
“You remember that kid, that one they called Stick Man?” Bill asks.
“Yeah, he thought a branch was a Cottonmouth,” I reply. Dear dog, what one earth has this kid got himself into now?
“He got into some trouble, stole a four-wheeler from a man. He did some work for the man and didn’t get paid. One thing led to another, and he wound up in court. His lawyer told him to plead guilty and take a lesser sentence, but that got him fired. So he went to the judge and told the judge he wanted to prove he was right. The man who hired him said Stick Man did a terrible job painting a shed, and Stick offered to paint something for the judge to prove he had done it right. The judge was impressed, so he bought the paint, and put Stick to work painting the outside of the museum in town. Hell, I thought he would mess it up something terrible, but he actually did a damn good job. Got his ex-brother in law to help him, so the judge vacated the sentence. The story got out and now Stick and his partner both have jobs.”
“That’s damn good news,” I say, and I am happy.
“You going to hire him back?” I ask.
“He won’t work concrete again, the man has found a calling in painting, and the money is decent enough, too,” Bill tells me, and he has to go.
“He wanted me to tell you he wasn’t a bad person, Mike, he wanted you to know that,” Bill says, and this is what he called to tell me.
“Thank you, tell him I said good luck, and give him my number, I’ll hire him to paint my house,” I say, and I mean it.
“Let him get some experience under his belt, he’s getting good but he ain’t there yet,” Bill laughs and the conversation is done now.
Stick Man as a professional painter. I wonder what he would charge to come to Georgia and spend a weekend painting a house?

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

10 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – An Ax To Paint”

  1. He did a paint job for a guy and didn’t get paid so he took a quad from the guy instead? Then his lawyer gave him the quick plea shuffle. When he realized that was cheap and expedient but not justice, he went to the judge and made a deal for a path to redemption.
    This and your dealings with him before tells me he’s wants to do the right thing but you were the only one along the way to help him find out how. Obviously you made, and continue to make, an impression on him.

    • Bruce, sitting on the edge of a bridge in one of the biggest swamp systems on earth, sharing energy drinks and sandwiches is clearly therapeutic.

      He’s a good person. I never stopped believing that.

  2. Glad to hear Stick Man may have found his calling and he is working on straitening his life out.

    I hope he becomes a successful person.

    Thank you, Mike, for giving us an update.

  3. I’m glad to hear he’s doing well. I’m glad to hear he was able to convince the judge to give him a chance to prove himself. That’s great news. So many young people wouldn’t have bothered, they would take the time and go one with their life. He obviously does want to be a better person. You obviously were a good influence on him.

    • Chick, he’s a young man in search of himself. I think the idea he wants to be a better for his son guides and drives.

  4. Kudos to the judge for hearing Stick Man out. So many wouldn’t bother.
    Our son when he was 18 was charged with dangerous driving. He didn’t drink, and was the skipper when he and college mates had a night out. One particular occasion after a few ales, 2 of the lads hopped into the car, son was at the wheel. The 3rd lad hopped onto the roof and pretended to surf. No amount of cajoling would get him down, so Son drove off, doing 5 kilometers ph for 30 meters, stopped while the surfer hopped off, and a police car pulled up behind them. We had our day at the magistrates court. The other three lads turned up all turned out in suits and ties.
    Whilst we waited the police officer called us aside and said to plead guilty. I was not having it. Anyway, I stood up and said a DD charge was far too harsh in the circumstances, tho I understood. The magistrate listened to me, questioned all the lads who testified that Son was always the skipper and a good safe driver. The surfer admitted he was an idiot. Summing up, the magistrate said as Son was still studying, and delivering pizzas at night, the charges would be dropped. Maybe like Stick Man, we were fortunate to go before a sympathetic person.
    Thanks for your influence on Stick Man.

    • SandG, I believe all Stick needed was to hear he wasn’t a total wreck, and from someone who was outside his life.

      I’m glad he decided to fight.?

  5. Having worked for FDOT for 40 years in bridge construction from the soil testing before the bridge was thought of to foundation testing during construction I love reading about your adventures. Retired now but miss the friends made. Take care and be safe sir.

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