Life with Our “Cabin on Wheels”

I pulled into our spot at Circle B, the little RV park where we stay in Greer. The Airstream was waiting for me, beckoning. There was a huge pile of lumber and materials delivered by Home Depot in Show Low for our new deck, a storage shed, and a ‘catio’ for the kitties. The place looked like a lumber yard.

Gene and a neighbor were assembling the storage shed. There were no written instructions, just pictures of all the parts, the tools needed, and steps to take. The thing weighs 300 pounds and has more pieces than you can count. The wind was blowing, but it was manageable.

Gene and Rich assembled three sides and the four corners of the shed, and were starting on the roof. Last would come the two front doors.

The front roof panel was just high enough that the guys both needed to be up on ladders; it looked like an old-fashioned barn-raising! Except this barn was in no hurry to be raised. When one end of the front roof panel snapped into place, the other popped off. Try as they might, they could not get the panel securely in place.

Gene put in a call to Rubbermaid, and waited patiently for at least 30 minutes. When he finally got someone, they were useless. He tried the hotline, and was told he needed to send a video of the roof end popping off. Really? How are you supposed to get a video unless you have at least three people? Rich had gone home to his trailer for dinner. We called it quits.

The next morning, we had breakfast with people from church who have moved to Greer. It was fun hearing about their full-time involvement in our little summer community. When we got back to Circle B, we found the storage shed on the ground. The wind had picked it up and thrown it down! Three neighbors had seen the disaster and had come over to stack and weigh down the lighter pieces.

Gene got back on the phone and got some coaching on the roof. He watched a YouTube video. He went online and read comments from others who had put this particular storage shed together. He decided to give it another go. He took the advice of the Rubbermaid guy, and took the whole thing apart and then, turning a piece of the roof on its pointy head, attempted to attach it to the top of one the walls, which are seven feet high. No way.

Rich was leaving for Phoenix, but I offered to help, and Gene knew the drill this time, so it went together pretty easily. We had the three sides done, and while I was holding them, Gene turned to get a tool and bam! The wine blew the whole thing down! Time to call it another day.

Gene finally found someone at Rubbermaid who knew his stuff, and Vicky and Terry down the way offered to come by the next morning and help us try again. It was supposed to be calm. The four of us got the shed nearly finished. We bolstered it on all sides and went to dinner at Molly Butler’s.

We got home and all was well. Except Gene noticed that it was cold inside the trailer, and the temperature was due to drop to 37º that night. He discovered that the second propane tank, which the dealership had assured us was full (the gauge had been removed), was empty! We got into our warmest pj’s, put on wool socks, and with two extra blankets on top, slipped under the covers. We lay there wondering if we had bad karma, when Gene had a stroke of genius: he would go next door and borrow a tank from our deceased neighbor, Bob. (For those of you who follow my blog, Bob’s the guy in the story from last May whose wife whispered to me, “Now, don’t be pickin’ on your man.”) Bob died late last year of lung cancer, and his family has left the trailer in its spot, just paying the rent.

It was pitch black outside and getting colder by the minute. We put on our slippers, bundled up, and went next door. I held the flashlight, while Gene took the cover off the propane tanks and carefully lifted one out of the holder and laid it down. He replaced the cover and home we went, where he removed our empty one and replaced it with Bob’s full one. It worked like a charm, and we slept like babies.

The next morning, Gene took all three tanks to Springerville, filled them, and returned Bob’s tank to its proper place. We said a prayer of thanks to Bob, of course.

Gene finished the storage shed today, and life is good again.

6 thoughts on “Life with Our “Cabin on Wheels”

  1. Hello Pauline and Gene,

    Good to hear from you; not so good to hear of your shed mishaps.

    Reminded me of a sheddy experience from when I still lived in California, and had my dream property in the Fall River Valley.

    My mom, well-intended and typically not checking with me to see what I wanted, bought a storage shed for my property as a gift she thought I should have. I wanted to build a sturdy one out of wood: pole construction, dirt floor, rough-cut cedar 1 X 12’s that I already had purchased.

    Mom made up her mind that a metal kit-model would be better and insisted… and I, to preserve her from the hurt and underlying resentment she would have displayed if I didn’t go along, went along.

    I hated the damned thing before it was halfway up. Many the same foibles as you and Gene experienced, with weight, wind, and the extra problem of building a level deck out of wood and rocks to support the thing; plus having all those small screw holes in the aluminum pieces like up just-so at every joint, dropping the screws into the pine duff and having to find them after deciphering the near-useless directions and having to hold this and that piece together with two hands while fastening them into place with the other hand…

    Finally got it up – in the time it would have taken to build a cozy one-room cabin, bigger than the storage shed I originally envisioned, out of wood. It was a white-and-gas chamber green eyesore in the middle of our peacefully shaded woodlot of big native Jeffery pines. There was a suitably rustic outhouse and functional kitchen lean-to, and to blight the ambience of the place, that damned storage shed.

    If I had sunk some poles in the ground at each corner, and a couple of more for the door opening, and framed the rest from there, the door would have opened and shut, there would have been plenty of space inside for to sleep if we had to, and still store whatever we wanted to leave there permanently in sealed containers that would have been vermin-proof. The shed, built the way I wanted to build it, would have been bomb-shelter sturdy.

    The sliding doors on the gift shed didn’t slide without jamming and squeaking, and didn’t slide at all when the rain and snowmelt in their guides turned to ice. It was too small. But it still held stuff we didn’t have to pack back and forth for our next couple of trips that summer, and I thanked mom.

    And when we found it bent and buckled on the ground, collapsed by snowload our first trip back the following year, I was glad.

    The trip to the dump was less troublesome than bringing the damned thing in, packed in big cartons that were cumbersome and difficult to lift. On the way home we put the containers we had stored in the truck and said very little about the shed except for my muttered oaths that translated gently into “Good riddance.”

    If I ever – EVER – build another storage shed, it will be just the way I want it, built from my own fifteen-minute plan on a piece of binder paper, with materials I can haul conveniently from a lumber yard and stick together with some basic tools. There will be no awkward roof to put in place, Nothing will fall down and fall apart during construction. I’ll give it a littler over half a day, including a beer and burger break.

    I’m sorry that Gene and I aren’t in close enough proximity for him to have benefitted from the wise council of my past experience. By now I’m almost certain he’d agree.

    Life here goes well, and in one aspect that you, of all people, would understand, beautifully. God has given this only child who was adopted into your family as your father’s Godson, and who is estranged in some measure from his own sons who for various reasons haven’t bred yet, a lovely daughter and six wonderful grandchildren. We are family. Her kids call me grandpa. We all love each other dearly. Yesterday, I gave her oldest son a fly tying vise for his thirteenth birthday – just as I received one at about that same age from papa’.

    And that’s a story for another day.

    I’m still unpacking boxes and will forward that double-taper 7 wt. fly line to you when I find it, along with some other things you might be able to use. Please tell me where you’ll be – when – so it doesn’t sit and get lost when mailed.

    Love and blessings,

    – Chuck

    Chuck Stranahan Flies

    P.O. Box 594

    Hamilton MT 59840



    1. Hi Chuck –

      It appears my reply was not sent this morning. I want to thank you for your terrific story; it made me happy to think that my blog may have resonated with lots of people.

      Gene and I return to Phoenix tomorrow for a couple of weeks. We’ll be up ad back all summer. I think the best thing to do it to send what you have for me to our Phoenix address.

      We went fishing in our little John boat today; caught nothing, but it was beautiful out there on the water. We decided to blame the full moon last night.

      Chuck, I’m so happy you have children in your life. They keep us young, flexible, and always learning.

      Time to get organized! Love to you and your bride,


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