The Big Birds Distract From the Sandbox Rebuild


Four of  the six boards we bought--four to become new sandbox sides, two to provide some seating areas.

Four of the six boards we bought–four to become new sandbox sides, two to provide some seating areas. A fifth board is leaning against the sandbox in the background.

We had a busy weekend—a mini family reunion Saturday because my youngest daughter was in town to buy a new car that is a Taurus but not quite because it’s a Mercury and gray according to its legal description, but sort of blue and sort of green and sort of sparkly—one of those new car colors that would make it a great crime car because nobody could describe the color and nobody would see it and call it “gray.”

And today was bike ride day for my spouse and I, as well as shop at Menards and Home Depot. We were buying lumber and lag bolts and gloves for a project.

Basically, the sandbox I installed about 10 years ago is starting to fall apart because time and termites and wet have eroded the timbers used as the borders of the sandbox. My solution is to basically encase the old sandbox in a new one of roughly the same construction (10 years is 10 years, after all), but add benches on the sides.

I started the actual work around 6 in the evening. Early on, I was distracted when there was a loud sort of cheeping, and a shadow—a very big shadow—passed overhead. Something heavy landed in the big maple at the top of our backyard hill, and I found myself in a close encounter with the neighborhood hawk.

He or she has been around all summer, but we mainly spot the big bird of prey at a distance hanging out in the woods behind our house. This was a much more personal inspection, and I can’t help but think the child of dinosaurs just wondered what that big pink child of rats was up to.

He (me) was up to gathering the wood, digging trenches around the old sandbox, putting the new timbers in place, trimming them where needed (we bought all 10-foot lengths, the sandbox is 10 by 8, but I needed extra length so that the new frame would totally encase the old, so I cut two 10-foot lengths down to 8 and 4 inches or so). I was glad to have a power saw.

Mr. or Ms. Hawk didn’t stick around long and headed west after a few minutes of inspection.

An Iowa hawk eyes me as I work on the sandbox.

An Iowa hawk eyes me as I work on the sandbox.

I continued my slow work. About an hour later, I suppose it was around 7:30, my wife came home and noticed a loud stirring in the ash trees behind the fence. It could have been the hawk, but a few minutes later, after Audrey left to run an errand (fetch me drill bits, actually), I heard fussing again, and this time it was two wild turkeys engaged in some dispute.

They were a lot louder than the hawk. Not quite as big—still big birds—but much noisier.

I’ve heard of distraught turkeys occasionally abusing humans, so when one landed in the oak 10 feet over my head, I loudly encouraged it to move on and festively waived my hammer at it. It took the hint.

Turkey in a tree, in some territorial dispute with another turkey.

Turkey in a tree, in some territorial dispute with another turkey.

Anyway, I sized the boards, dug holes for them, put them in place and then lag bolted the corners together. I got all the corners pinned with one bolt each when my wife arrived back from a quick trip to a daughter’s to get back borrowed drill bits, and with the help of pilot holes, the pace of lag bolt installation picked up.

Me installing a lag bolt at a corner. Yes, the gap closed after the bolt entered the second board and was tightened.

Me installing a lag bolt at a corner. Yes, the gap closed after the bolt entered the second board and was tightened.

I didn’t finish the whole project by 9 p.m. when I called time due to darkness. I still have two boards to measure, cut and install as seating areas on the side of the new sandbox, but that should go fairly quickly. I would say the project is 80 percent done, and the new sandbox is mostly installed.

All in all, I don’t think I did too badly for several hours of work that started fairly late. I’m sure a person who is more handy with tools may have finished, but I am what I am, and “handy” is not in this writer’s self description.

Still, the sandbox sides are done and will hold for another 10 years, I think, which is good because the sandbox was originally installed mostly for the good of my youngest son, who turns 21 tomorrow. But, now, the sandbox sees heavy use by grandchildren.

The plastic pails and shovel has been passed to a new generation. And dinosaurs are among the most popular toys in the sandbox, so maybe having the biggest of the neighborhood dinosaurs stop by on inspection tours was only appropriate.

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