Where was the Magnum X7 when I was painting Erma’s fence
By Mark Rutledge
Saturday, February 2, 2019
When my brother came into the world, his older siblings were well into public education, and our mother had re-entered her career as a schoolteacher. I’m not saying Jeff wasn’t planned, but other plans had definitely been launched.
I cannot imagine life without my brother. If not for him, I never would have known Erma, who was sort of a nanny for Jeff. She was a widow in her late 50s and kept her hair “I Love Lucy” red. She volunteered at the center for senior citizens, with no thought of becoming one herself.
Erma drove a 1968 Buick Skylark. If it had seat belts, they were never used. She carted my toddler brother around standing “safely” in the seat beside her. A steering wheel knob allowed her to hold the wheel with one hand and catch Jeff with the other in the event of a sudden stop, never once losing control of the Winston clenched between her teeth.
My friends thought Erma was really cool. She would stay weekends at our house whenever my parents needed to leave town. She taught my buddies and me how to play Rummy and how to French inhale during those long card games in the basement.
Erma was my first source of steady income. I would ride my bike about four miles across town to mow her yard for $5. If she needed some painting done, that was worth $5, too.
Erma was big on whitewashing the tree trunks and other things around her little yard every other year. But she wanted the white fence along the road repainted every spring.
I could mow her $5 yard in about an hour. Painting the $5 fence consumed the better part of two Saturdays, and with cars whizzing past three feet away.
I tried convincing her that the garden hose could bring back last year’s paint job.
“No,” she insisted. “Just paint over the dirt.”
So I did.
I never spent the whole day on the job, of course. Erma was never one to hang around the house and watch a kid paint a fence. So I was free to take long breaks watching “Soul Train” in her living room or leaving pennies for the real train to flatten on the tracks beside her house.
I thought about Erma and her whitewashed fence this week while sealing the interior walls of our new house with primer. Painting has come a long way since 1973.
I bought the biggest paint gun on the shelf at my local big-box hardware store.
The Graco Magnum X7 airless sprayer can lay down five gallons of smooth finish in about 20 minutes.
After I figured out where to set the pressure gauge, it was off to the races. I covered every bedroom, closet and bathroom in an afternoon.
Oh, what I would give to travel back in time with the Magnum X7. Oh, what I would give to see the look on Erma’s face after I finished her fence in 15 minutes.
Five dollars. That’s what I’d give.
Contact Mark Rutledge at email@example.com or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.