Putter Season

Let’s get it straight right now: If you run into me at Home Depot, no, I’m not building a chicken coop.


This whole new raising chickens thing strikes me as extraordinarily effortful for a fad, not to mention rife with opportunities for contracting salmonella. Don’t misread me. I get why people do it — fresh eggs, on-demand hot wings, free manure. It’s just not for me. Neither is growing a handlebar moustache.

Also, lest the “putter” in the title of this column cause further confusion, no, it’s not about golfing, although I get why people do that, too — nice relaxed pace, good excuse for daytime drinking, primal urge to wield a club. Same reasons I play rec league softball.


They say Juneau has two seasons: Winter and Construction. Aside from the fact this particular joke isn’t exactly ROFLMFAO, it ignores a third distinct season, and I don’t mean Rainy season, because obviously, that’s every season here. You’ve got to love a town where people book Hawaiian vacations in the middle of “summer.”

No, I’m talking about Putter season. And we’re in the thick of it.

Again, I don’t mean “putter” as in golf putter, nor, for that matter, do I mean “putter” as in shot putter, although shot put is a fine sport with a long and distinguished history (see Ville Pörhölä’s heroic performance at the 1920 Olympics).

I’m referring to the intransitive verb “putter,” meaning “to work at random or tinker.” You know, often in a yard or garage, sometimes a yard and a garage simultaneously, sometimes a yard, a garage and Home Depot simultaneously (again, no, I’m not building a chicken coop).

During putter season, the desire isn’t simply to fix or mend, but to draw out some needlessly complicated, increasingly expensive project that involves the use of more and more elaborate equipment, mostly as an excuse to use whatever elaborate equipment you already have. Or buy some piece of elaborate equipment you don’t. Or rent some elaborate equipment, preferably one that attaches to a trailer hitch.

Understand, I grew up in the suburbs of New York, where nobody builds their own anything except maybe their own omelet at IHOP, and the only time people get their hands dirty is eating pizza (no self-respecting New Yorker eats a pizza with a fork and knife; or with pineapple on it). Instead of puttering, my dad diddled with papers in his office. Indeed, he’s spending most of his semi-retirement diddling, which is the white-collar equivalent of puttering.

Until I moved to Alaska, the only tools I possessed were a ball peen hammer and a Swiss Army knife my aunt gave me for my bar mitzvah. Now, I find myself owning — and more or less knowing how to use — of all sorts of wrenches, multiple saws, screwdrivers both in gun and traditional form, snips, shears, drills, pliers, pry bars, axes up the yin-yang (wait, I don’t like how that sounded), several pieces of gas-powered machinery and a very large hammer (so no one questions my masculinity, which happened regularly with the ball peen).

I want to use that stuff. And borrow other stuff. And plant subtle hints about yet other stuff, what with Father’s Day coming up. For instance, an air compressor — man, that would open up a whole world of pneumatic puttering.

Anyway, as the saying goes, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Well, when all you have are all sorts of wrenches, multiple saws, screwdrivers both in gun and traditional form, snips, shears, drills, pliers, pry bars, axes up the yin-yang (I still don’t like how that sounds), several pieces of gas-powered machinery and a very large hammer, everything looks like something that needs some kind of adjustment.

During the last two weeks alone, I: de-molded my deck; replaced two door knobs; wall-mounted a fire-extinguisher, a dust buster and incoming mail bin; made several pieces of junk I said I was going to make into flower planters into flower planters; re-routed our cable so that it’s (mostly) hidden behind the wall; gutted my barbecue and replaced every part that didn’t cost less than the shipping to get it up here; built an extension on to my garbage shed (the garbage was starting to feel cramped, I guess); fixed someone else’s garbage disposal; re-squared my kids’ sandbox; took apart both the washing machine and dish washer and actually managed to repair the washing machine. Sadly, looks like the dishwasher’s going to require some more advanced puttering.

Oh! I almost forgot. This putter season, I finally got around to building a couple of box gardens. Those babies are going to keep me puttering for years to come.

• “Slack Tide” should appear every other Sunday in Neighbors. Sorry for the recent spottiness. Geoff promises to be less flaky moving forward.


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