Our goal this year was to add a roof to our second floor. (See Building a dream–constructing a life) We started saving in June or so in the hopes that by the end of the year we would have the $20,000 pesos we estimated we would need. In October, Chuy, who lives up the hill above La Yacata and rents wood for construction, offered to exchange the wood we would need for the roof for our horse Beauty. No cash would exchange hands and both parties would be more than satisfied with the transaction. The deal would save us between $3,000 to $3,500 pesos. Hands were shaken, plans were made and we continued saving.
Chuy came for Beauty in November with the understanding that we would be ready for colando (wood frame put in place) the week prior to Christmas break. My husband made arrangements for the coladores (men who put the rebar in place and make the cement) to come on December 20 and went to request delivery of the wood. However, Chuy said he didn’t have any wood available at the moment. My husband had already purchased the sand and gravel and had the order for the cement delivery with the loan of a cement mixer, but we wouldn’t be able to use any of that if the wood framework was not already in place. There were several days of heated exchanges between my husband and Chuy. Fortunately, my husband had not given Chuy Beauty’s papers since the deal hadn’t been completed yet, so we were in a more secure bargaining position. The ultimatum was, either the wood was there on the 15th or Beauty came back to live with us. Monday morning came and there was a wood delivery–not everything we needed though. The next three days were tense as my husband and my father-in-law used each delivery of wood and requested more for the following day. Because of the piecemeal delivery, they were still working Saturday afternoon, the day the coladores came to set the rebar and el plomero from up the hill came to run the electricity tube. (We still cherish a wee bit of hope that one day we will have electricity.)
Sunday morning came and there were still some sections of wood to be put up. My son and father-in-law went up to the roof while my husband and I made a 5 am trip to Ojo de Agua en Media to fill 7 barricas (barrels) with water for the cement mix. At around 7 am, the workers began arriving on foot or by bike, quite a motley crew, ranging in age from early 20s to early 70s. They set to work making a wooden walkway from the street to the roof but ran out of nails. My husband sent me to town to the ferreteria (hardware store) to get a kilo of long nails. It being Sunday, the place that we normally go was closed. I asked the muchacha in the store across the street if she thought it would open. She said most likely since it was opened last Sunday. Since we needed the nails, I opted to stay in town in the hopes that it would open at 9. I went to the store and picked up some coke (requested by the workers), 5 kilos of tortillas, and chicarones (fried pig skin). The carniceria hadn’t received its delivery of carnitas yet, so I’d have to come back. As the ferreteria (hardware store) hadn’t opened yet, I started circling Moroleon in search of another place to buy nails. NOTHING was open! I drove around nearly 40 minutes, doing a complete circuit. On the way back to the first ferreteria (hardware store), I heard someone call my name. It was el plomero with his wife. In desperation, I blurted out the problem and asked if he had any nails at his house. He said he did and that I should follow them. I followed them to the carniceria (butcher) and the fruteria (fruit and vegetable store) and then to the place they rented a few months ago when it just became too much for them to live in La Yacata without electricity. He gave me a half-bucket of rusty nails that seemed to be the right size and I gave him 20 pesos and zoomed off.
My husband lunged for the bucket when I arrived and thought it would probably be enough. The workers set back to work on their walkway. In short order, it was finished and they were ready to rev up the cement mixer. It started but would shut off after a minute or two. The men ripped off the motor casing to have a look. The head guy asked for a spark plug–which we did have just lying around. He did some monkeying around and tried again. NOPE! More fiddling, and a nope! By this time is was nearly 10 am and we haven’t even started. Everyone crossed themselves for another try and…..finally it started. Then stopped after 2 minutes. This time, the gas valve wasn’t opened, which was a quick fix. Voila! The mixer started turning.
My husband sent me to town for a garafon (container) of gas for the mixer and more trips for water. I picked up the carnitas too. When I got back, there seemed to be decidedly less gente (people) than when I left. Three guys were up on the roof with my father-in-law and husband. The boss guy had gone to town to see about getting more men, as had 4 other guys–or so they said. One of the missing did meander back with a bottle of tequila and then we realized what the problem was. We hadn’t provided alcohol for the men! DUH! Here I was thinking that the booze was for after the job was finished. Silly me. So my husband hunted up his brother B and asked him to pick up a case of beer for the guys. When the beer arrived, so did more men. Now we were rolling! After the food was eaten, I made myself scarce so that the guys could enjoy their beer, call each other guey and insult each other’s mothers while they worked.
It took all day but the men were happy to continue as long as the alcohol held out. When they finished, the head boss guy received the $3000 pesos agreed upon and he doled it out to the workers as he saw fit. Most of the guys really only worked for lunch, a few beers and some change. After they left, the work still wasn’t finished. My husband, son, and father-in-law filled in any cracks, tamped down the roof and swept the new cement with a broom. They finally finished just as it got dark. For the next 22 days, the wood framework stayed in place and the roof was doused twice daily with water to reduce cracking. My husband also put a row of bricks around the edge, perhaps later to develop into a half-wall. We spent close to $25,000 pesos even with the free wood rent but it really is the last major expense on our house. Everything else can be done in bits and pieces as we have the money. Whew!