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The Observer, June 28 

Kayaking friends of The Observer’s went out to Lake Catherine last week to see the Ouachita sights. They reported back that the vista included ladies sitting on a porch on the lake with bowls on their laps. How nice and old-fashioned, the paddlers thought, to see ladies out shelling peas.

But they were off the mark. Drawing near, the kayakers realized these ladies weren’t shelling peas. They were washing artifacts! The house was the laboratory for the Arkansas Archeological Society’s summer training dig, the place where all the stuff that’s been dug up is washed, sorted and weighed and, depending on the artifact, numbered in tiny handwriting.

The Observer had just been to the dig, which is why we knew what the house on the lake was. We visited it after a trip to the excavation at Jones Mill between Malvern and Hot Springs.

The dig site, in a meadow next to an Entergy power station, was several thousand years old, yielding darts and knives and tool-making debris by the ton. The folks at Entergy own the land and didn’t want anyone to be electrocuted, so we had to have the safety talk when we visited.

You might think it goes without saying, but apparently there are people who see an electrical tower and have to climb it, oblivious, apparently, to the fact that several hundred thousand volts are coursing through its wires. It is the last thing these folks do, of course. You’d think the gene pool would finally be rid of such humans, but no, they still exist, and Entergy required all the real archeologists and their minions (as we amateurs like to be called) to be told not to climb. We were also told not to put our tongues on the wires. Again, there are people who like to pick up wires just to see if they are live and then, because they have rocks in their heads, like to lick them. It’s shocking, really.

We, in fact, couldn’t wait to get away from the crackling site, worried our genetic code was being scrambled. That, and the fact that electricity apparently attracts fire ants and scorpions. They just can’t keep the scorpions out of the building at the power plant. Remember that next time you’re walking under a power line, tongue out or not.

With only one bathroom to be had Chez Observer, remodeling our sad and yellowed little powder room has been quite an adventure these past couple of weekends. Keeping a working toilet and bathtub is a must, which has meant more than a little deadline work – not to mention at least one quick trip to the corner store so Junior could use the potty while our throne was out of commission.

With all the plumbing work finally out of the way, The Observer spent last weekend putting up Sheetrock. Our 1940s, do-your-business-and-get-out bathroom isn’t big enough to make a good robe closet in some West Little Rock spa-themed bathroom/retreat, and the small space has made putting up the walls even more of a challenge. We always seem to be bumping into something, usually while balancing Sheetrock on our head.

All the wall board finally up, we spent Sunday morning taping and floating the joints, slopping on the drywall compound, putting up the paper tape, troweling on more compound to make a smooth, clean wall out of a jigsaw puzzle of cuts and gaps. On Sunday night, the compound had dried and it was time to sand everything smooth. One foot on the toilet and one foot on the lip of the tub, Spouse begging us not to break an ankle, we closed the door, turned on the power sander, and let the dust fly. By the time all was said and done, walls ready for paint, The Observer emerged looking like a shabby stage troupe’s version of Hamlet’s ghost, powder white from head to toe. Even two showers and a day later, we’re still blinking gobs of crusty goop out of the corner of our eyes.

What we’re saying is: God bless the contractors, for they shall inherit the earth – and all the money in our checkbook if we ever have to face the scourge of drywall again.

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