Getting Started & Finding My Way
(Part 19)

This is part 19 in a series of essays about when I was a young man (30+ years ago) trying to figure out how to “make it” in the world. Click HERE to go back to the beginning of the series.


It was the spring of 1980. I was 22 years old, living at home, working on the Badman family dairy farm, and wishing I was doing carpentry work. Down the road from the farm where I worked lived a man who did carpentry work. His name was Clancy Edmonds. The Badman’s told Clancy about me and recommended me as a good person to hire. Then they told me I should go ask Clancy for a job. That’s what I did, and he hired me.

Clancy was a unique person. He had been an industrial arts teacher in New Jersey for many years. But his lifelong dream was to have a farm. He couldn’t afford a farm in New Jersey, so he looked in upstate New York. He ended up buying the old Freeman farm down the road from the Badmans. Crop farming (mostly hay) was his passion, but it was only a part-time vocation. The rest of the time Clancy worked at his own small business doing carpentry work around the area.

“Clancy’s Carpentry” consisted of him and one helper. Beginning in the spring of 1980, and stretching on for the next five years, I was his helper. On occasion, there would be additional help, but I was his right-hand-man.

Those were good years. Clancy was very talented. He could do anything, and I don’t think he ever turned down a job. We did a lot of work for farmers, fixing barns and building barns. We also did a lot of repair and remodeling of camps along Skaneateles Lake. We put additions on houses. We replaced roofs. We replaced foundations. We did it all, and I learned the different trades. In addition to carpentry and remodeling, I learned electrical and plumbing. It was an incredibly well-rounded, hands-on educational work experience. And in the summer, when it was time to make hay, I honed my skills with the hay hooks.

I continued to clean chimneys on weekends during the chimney cleaning seasons. In all, I worked my chimney cleaning business for five or six years before hanging up my top hat and tails. It had been a good business for me, but I didn’t carry insurance, couldn’t justify the cost, and was getting concerned about liability.

1980 (in November) was also the year Marlene and I got married. She worked as a medical office assistant for a doctor in town and we lived in a two-room apartment on a side street.

When I landed that job with Clancy’s Carpentry in the spring of 1980, I had finally found my way. I wasn’t making a lot of money, but I was doing work that I liked. It was work that suited me. I was learning and developing skills. I was using my hands and tools and my mind to build and repair. I was doing work that needed to be done--work that was appreciated. I was beginning to establish a reputation as a skilled craftsman. I was satisfied. I had found my groove.


In 1985, I decided to leave Clancy’s Carpentry to work for another local contractor. I wanted to do more finish work like kitchen & bathroom remodeling and interior trim carpentry. And I wanted to make more money. I worked for that contractor for four years and left in 1989, a year after my first child was born, to start my own remodeling business, which I ran for the next ten years.

Today, I am out of the work of construction and remodeling completely. I work within a government bureaucracy (you can read about it HERE). I miss the freedom of self-employment and the satisfaction of building and remodeling. But I do not miss the time-consuming nature of running a remodeling business, of forever working on estimates and trying to line up the next job, and the next one. I no longer have the drive and physical stamina that it takes to properly run such a business. I still love to do carpentry work, but not to have to make a serious living at it.

To be continued.....
Click HERE to go to Part 20 (The Conclusion) of this series

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