The other day, I was in southeast Michigan visiting Steve Nikkel of Orchard Construction, a good friend of ours who runs a successful business in an area of the country beset by high unemployment. We were at one of Orchard’s jobsites, a stall barn addition to an existing riding arena, and Steve had some T1-11 boards he needed to unload from his truck.
While Steve’s son, Chad, carried some boards in by himself, I lent Steve a hand, and ended up with two slivers in my left pinkie. They didn’t really hurt, but I picked at them as if they did, and Steve noticed. It wasn’t a big deal, but it was quite embarrassing nonetheless.
Rural builders and their crewmen bust their butts doing hard physical labor in oftentimes demanding conditions, and I couldn’t even lift a couple boards without getting nicked, even if it was just a little bit. My “dishpan hands,” as former Rural Builder editor Frank Lessiter used to call his own, betrayed me that day.
The boo-boo aside, my visit with Steve was a terrific time. In just a few hours, we toured his new office, made a jobsite product drop, visited with a satisfied customer, and talked about every rural building topic under the sun. He asked me where my travels had taken me recently, and it was fun to recall the different rural builders with whom I’ve visited in the past few months.
Going to jobsites, riding around the countryside, and listening to contractors’ stories is far and away the most enjoyable way for me to spend my workdays. Getting up close and personal with the people that make this industry tick is crucial to our work, and to making sure Rural Builder is all it can be for our readers.
The good thing is, my hardhat still fits, and there’s still gas left in the tank, so there are more trips to make. We have a list of builders we would like to visit in the near future, but realize there are plenty of you out there that we don’t know yet, builders that have a good story to tell. We would like to visit you, for an hour, an afternoon, a day — whatever fits best into your schedule.
So drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 726-9966, ext. 428. Let us know what you’ve got going on, when would be a good time to visit, and where you are located. Central Wisconsin is home for us, but we’ll go just about anywhere an airplane and rental car can take us.
And in addition to a hardhat, next time I’m taking gloves.
Scott Tappa, editor