The skeleton arises

18 September 2009, from Housetruck

Housetruck wall, on the workbench

Steel: the raw materials

Welds: the basic connection

A network of welds

I’d been waiting for Byron to finish his other projects, and start on my housetruck frame. I’d promised him, too, that I would get him the Isuzu truck so he could figure out how to mount the frame, as well as any other needed details. This wasn’t an easy task, as the truck, with a bare chassis, was difficult to drive, and I was worried that it would be stuck at the foot of Wayne & Julie’s field, where it had been parked for the last couple of weeks.

Finally I decided to risk it. I started the truck’s engine, put it in low gear, and, as expected, the rear wheels spun in the grass and the pears that had fallen from the trees overhead. But I rocked it back and forth, in reverse and in drive, and somehow the truck caught hold of the ground and moved forward. I coaxed the truck over the grass, over the wood-chipped paths, up the gravelly driveway, and finally to the asphalt road, where I took advantage of my fortune and headed down the hill to Byron’s.

The truck zipped along the road, and I recalled that feeling I had when I first drove the truck off the dealer’s lot south of Seattle. It is a surprising beast: lighter than one would expect, yet with a power and a zip that’s unexpected for a large truck. You know you are driving it: there is no subtlety and little comfort, but making up for that is a feeling of what I can only describe as being. It is difficult to be distracted or to daydream; you are, if nothing else, driving. I think that’s a good state to be in for a housetruck.

Just as I pulled into Byron’s driveway, rear wheels skittering on the gravel, my phone buzzed; as I walked into his office, Byron looked at me peculiarly and said, ‘I was just calling you, and here you are!’ I chalked it up to the god of nomadic living, and felt that odd confirmation of being in the right place and the right time.

Byron had been phoning me to tell me that he’d finished part of the frame, and that I should take a look. There in the large room that was his workshop lay the stacks of tubes and sheets of steel, the torches and saws, the winches and grinders, the fine metal filings from the cutting and the blue-gray patinas of the welding. Among all this, raised on steel sawhorses, was a full wall of my house, looking strangely like a 3D rendering of my SketchUp drawing. I had to blink to realize that this was not vectors and shading, but instead the tangible result of iron, man, and fire: the cutting and assembling and welding of the steel tubes into a structure that would, in not much time, be my home.