After completing that first house I stopped working for Kipper because of school and football going on. However, when summer came he asked if I would be interested in working with him again. I was a bit hesitant, given my last adventure with the crew, but the money was good and I didn't have another job lined up. It ended up being one of the best decisions I've ever made.
(Just a little background: Kip's crew was in the business of home construction, and all aspects of it. Other than pouring concrete, electrical wiring, and plumbing, we did all the other parts of building a house. We'd put up the walls and roof, sheet and floor the house, put on shingles and siding, install windows and doors, drywall, mud, and paint the interior, and then finish by putting trim around the windows and doors. We also did remodeling of existing houses and re-shingling of old houses)
I was a bit of a noob for my first summer working with the guys. I was essentially a spare set of hands, helping hold things, fetching things, cutting things for other guys to put up, stuff like that. Eventually I was given more responsibility, but the lessons learned at this point were invaluable: namely that there's always someone on the bottom that needs to do the grunt work so the higher-ups can do the more precise work. The second summer I worked for Kip another guy was brought one, Michael. Mike was the same age as me and the nephew of Kip. But seeing how much more I knew than him after only 3 months on the job did wonders for my ego.
Another good thing I learned is that a good leader can take any person and turn them into a highly tuned master of practically anything. The people on Kip's crew were all related to him in some way: brothers, brothers-in-law, cousin, nephew (and then there was me.....). They were mostly farmers in their off hours, but after a few years of working with him they all could read blueprints and practically put up houses by themselves. Kip would get to the site early, layout what needed to be done, and then we'd be able to just fly through the day, because we were never short of work. This leads into the best thing I learned while doing construction: hard work is king. We'd work harder, better, and faster than any other crew, and because of this our estimates would be lower than almost anyone else, thus getting more jobs. It was a self-renewing cycle. Going from a private crew of construction workers to an on-campus crew of college kids the next summer was terribly jarring. Here I saw how the other side worked: take your time, stretch out a task for as long as you could, take naps when no one was looking, take an extra long lunch. I fought that mentality for as long as I could, pissing off some of my co-workers in the process, but eventually lack of work and boredom got the best of me. That's a story for another day, though.
Anyways, I'd have to say that one of my proudest days was when we finished a hard day of work on a job site to see just how much work we'd done in one day. We'd arrive on site to a blank concrete slab, and at the end of the day we'd have all the walls up. To see the physical manifestation of your sweat and effort is something severely lacking from my current job. Best part of the day would be sitting around underneath a newly started home while drinking a beer, shooting the shit and giving each other a hard time.
In my time with Kip I helped build from start to finish 8 houses, helped with probably 6 others, shingled a dozen roofs, remodeled 15 homes, and helped construct a meat factory. My mental transformation into a man wasn't the only change: I started to fill out during the summer, tanning to a dark brown from being out in the sun all day. I learned how to properly measure, hammer, cut, screw, brace, anchor, hang, and prep all aspects of a house (which would come in very handy the following years). But most of all, I spent time and learned from manly men, guys who would get up at 5 to milk cows, work 9 hours on a roof, then come home again to bail hay for 5 hours. Men who would hang over the edge of a 40 ft roof just to make sure the peak of a house was straight. So thanks Kip, Ed, Dennis, Randy, Scott, and Rick, I'll be raising a beer to you guys tonight.