1940–the Rawlins family and the little house on its cedar slab foundations, just before David was born.
During the Great Depression, my father built a little house in the Robe Valley for his family. His total cash outlay? Less than $50 for the house and $100 for two-and-a- half acres of land.
He salvaged timber from an abandoned lumber mill for the stringers and other timbers used in the house. Since he had no cement blocks, he cut slabs from a cedar log to make the foundation for the 18 by 24 foot house. He placed four slabs on each side and one in the center, then nailed cedar uprights to those. He laid stringers (timbers) across the uprights and a shiplap floor across the stringers. He built the floor several feet off the ground so the house would stay dry. The walls were shiplap covered with tarpaper, then with shakes that Dad split himself. He used salvaged windows and doors.
That snug little house eventually became home to other families. Thirty-three years later, youngest brother David bought the house and remodeled it. One of the first things he did was to replace the cedar slabs with a cement block foundation. He was surprised that the wood had lasted as long as it had.
About the same time Dad built our house, a neighbor just up the road built a house on a wooden foundation. I don’t know if he used cedar or not, but a creek ran through the swamp next to the house, and that plus our rainy climate quickly rotted his foundation. All during our growing-up years, the neighbors often heard him comment on how he needed to fix that foundation. But he never did, and the house sagged and rocked on its unsteady underpinnings while his wife and six children suffered frequent illness due to the damp conditions.
A good, solid foundation is the first essential for any quality building project. The St. Vincent islanders in the Caribbean understand this. My husband Hank and some friends spent two weeks on the island helping a group who wanted to build a church. The Caribbeans had very little of this world’s goods, but they understood the basic principles of building. The Americans brought tools and cement. The islanders had already laid out the shape of their church and collected piles of rock for the foundation.
Americans and islanders worked together digging trenches along the lines marked on the ground. They passed buckets of water hand-to-hand from the water source to the cement mixer, where men mixed water and cement. Then they passed the buckets of mortar hand-to-hand to the person down in the trench who fit stones and mortar together until the foundation rose above ground level, after which they skillfully leveled the top with more mortar.
In this painstaking manner, the foundation took two weeks to build. Hank didn’t get to see the church rise atop it, but he knew, that though it was simple, it would be sturdy and last through the storms and torrential downpours that often sweep across the island.
Jesus once told a story about two builders. One was wise and built his house on a rock foundation. But the foolish builder set his on sand. When the storms came, they washed the sand from beneath the foolish man’s house, and it fell with a crash. The wise man’s house withstood the storms and sheltered those within it.
Jesus’ story is just as appropriate now as it was two thousand years ago. We still need strong moral and spiritual foundations. All around us, we see lives wrecked by bad decisions and do-it-your-own-way building methods. God gave us His Book of wisdom and the gift of common sense to establish a basis for living. We can be thankful indeed for parents or other mentors who pass on values gleaned from God’s Word and the wisdom of history.
Does your foundation need a little work? It’s never too late to rebuild.