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Local Help

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Three years ago, a colleague of mine bought a house in a small town south of Rock Island. When she decided to get a leaking eavestrough fixed, she chose to use local labor rather than the professionals without realizing that she was also choosing a lifestyle.

Bob turned out to be a pleasant man in his thirties who lived in the next block. He showed up at nine one Saturday just in time for coffee and sponge cake warm from the oven. He fixed the downspout in less than a day, including coffee breaks and two trips back to his garage for the right tools.

Bob was able to point out things she had never noticed. Especially the hole the raccoon had made in the roof near the downspout, and the chimney that needed tuckpointing badly.

The following Saturday Bob came to fix the roof, along with two buddies to hold the ladder, his cousin who did cement work, and the animal control officer with the raccoon traps. Several other pickups stopped to volunteer advice.

My friend fixed chili with some venison Bob had brought. There were enough six packs in the pickup trucks for everyone.

Slowly, Bob put the house in shape. It was Bob who pointed out that an old window his uncle had in the barn would provide a great view of the woods from the kitchen sink. It was Bob who noticed that the carpeting was wearing, and that wood flooring of the kind his cousin sold would look better anyway.

My friend is pleased with the new flooring, but the work is slow. Bob works at the Case plant in Moline. Two months ago, he decided to move into a spare room to save time and the bother of hauling his tools back and forth. Especially since the new matching kitchen cabinets should be coming any day, and the stone for the new steps has just arrived.

Meanwhile, my friend feels welcome to remain during the remodeling; she's really very good about not getting in the way. Besides, someone has to make the coffee and cook—skills Bob and his friends just can't get the hang of.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.