Although my wife is too kind to say anything, she has a noticeable dislike for the re-wired reindeer setting on the front lawn at our house.
All doubt was removed last week, when she hinted that we might want to sell the yard ornament after this season and “change things around” for next year’s decorations.
Over the years, I’ve learned the subliminal message in her comments. “What if you wore something different?” Or “That’s a great idea, but…” And, “I love that choice of color, but I’m just not sure if chartreuse matches the décor.”
In my defense, when the lights stopped working last year, I honestly thought I could restore the deer to its pre-darkness form with help from a local hardware store. All I needed was a new string of white lights, plenty of zip-ties and a calm self to put it all together.
Seated in the middle of the living room with the four-foot tall reindeer, I calculated the length of the new lights, based on the old ones I cut apart to remove. There were three or four pieces stretching two feet, one long piece that was almost three feet and several others that varied in length from a couple of inches to one foot.
I remember my wife asking if I needed help—probably because I was sweating profusely as I partly disassembled the beast and surgically removed the old lights. Luckily, smartphone technology helped teach me to always photograph things in their “before” state. That way, later, when I toss the broken apparatus into the trash, I’ll have a nice reminder of what we used to have.
Once I had all the old lights strung across the living room floor, I decided that an eight-foot string was plenty long enough. And, as I began my quest to the store, I was reminded of a quote by Mark Twain, “All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure.”
The first thing I noticed was an endless number of bulbs and string lights that started at 12-foot lengths. Secondly, when I finally found some 8-feet long, there was very little difference in price, which shot apart my theory that fewer bulbs equaled fewer dollars.
With a large bag of zip-ties, a pair of pliers and the spirit of a real electrician, I began the painstaking task of reattaching the reindeer’s leg and head, then tying on the new lights.
Not long afterwards, I realized I may have miscalculated the number of lights I needed. That’s because my deer’s legs no longer lit up and when you plugged him in inside a darkened room, he almost seemed to hover, instead of stand tall and proud.
If I’m entirely honest with myself, he more closely resembled a UFO than a reindeer.
I cut a few zip-ties and rearranged the lights and ended up un-lighting a portion of his torso. And I still didn’t have enough left in the strand to go all the way to the base of his hooves.
Since I was too far into the project to simply take all the lights off and start over, I decided it was good enough. And, actually, it had a sort of abstract deer-like appearance. You just needed to squint to see it.
I stood the display near the house with steel stakes I crafted from old clothes hangers because I certainly wouldn’t want anyone trying to steal my reindeer.
It still seemed to hover above the lawn after dark, but the antlers were well lit, and I even managed one light in its nose, which provided a Rudolph-like appearance. Besides, I felt good knowing I saved a few bucks and fulfilled my obligation as family craftsman.
And, at the time, I felt my wife supported my effort.
“Well, you saved us some money, there,” she proudly commented.
So I hope she gets premium dollars for it on the buy, sell and trade website, where she plans to list it for sale. After all, it’s certainly one-of-a-kind, and I can safely say that nobody in our neighborhood has anything like it.
Ken, who often reminds his wife that although he’s glad to try home improvement projects, it’s the “improvement” portion that becomes the challenge, can be reached at: Ken.Knepper@gmail.com.