Up a tree? Don’t worry, Shaun has it all worked out

#436 in a series of true experiences in real estate
August 2003, Hills Newspapers

Our good friend Shaun O’Quinn who is a contractor has a most inventive mind. He’s clever. He can put pieces together to make them work, figure out ways that wouldn’t occur to most people.
Take the problem of getting bulky appliances, a clothes washer and a dryer, down narrow basement stairs. We had friends years back who wanted a laundry in their tiny basement but there was no way to get the appliances into position. Or was there?

Shaun looked over the situation, thought about it, and came up with a solution. He’d cut them in half and put them back together again. What an idea! How did he do it?

He first encircled each appliance with a perforated metal strap, drilling holes along its length. Then he removed the strap, sawed all the way around the cases to halve them. Now that the machines were in smaller pieces, there was plenty of space to move the motors and drums, then the casings down the stairs.

Next Shaun reassembled the cases and bolted them back together using the pre-drilled straps. It worked like a miracle. In fact, when our friends moved and wanted to take their washer and dryer with them, Shaun did the entire act again in reverse.

When this severe-and-attach operation was described to me, I was astonished, full of admiration for Shaun because, I am sure, just about every other person in the world would simply have said that a laundry in that particular basement wasn’t in the cards.

After that, Anet and I started hiring Shaun for all sorts of jobs. For instance, when I was faced with many sets of deteriorating French doors opening to my patio, I asked Shaun what I could do short of replacing them. The joints at the bottoms of most doors were coming apart. Would I have to discard them?

Shaun didn’t think so. Instead he made door Band-Aids. He cut rectangular sheets of brass large enough to cover the lower portions of my doors. Then he pulled the wooden joints together snugly and attached the metal to the doors with brass screws. The metal, now tarnished but still pretty, continues to do its job a dozen years later.

Not long ago, Shaun, his wife Ann, and eleven-year-old daughter Karina bought land in the boonies. That’s where they are currently camping (out of a trailer home) while working on a more permanent residence, a tree house.

Large trees will support the floor platforms for the house by way of cables. Because the trees are live and growing, Shaun has worked out a way to periodically adjust the floor attachments so that they’ll stay level and stable.

Already Shaun has set up a system of transformers and battery-powered generators for electricity at the site. Water comes from a natural spring he discovered on the land, and he’s working on a way to transport it automatically to the home site.

Anet and I listen raptly as Shaun tells us about the building he’s doing. We are fascinated by every detail. For instance, he recently purchased an old wringer washing machine which he plans to hook up to a bicycle.

The power to run the washer, the means by which dirty clothes will be swished around in the drum and made clean, will be bicycle pedaling. Daughter Karina will be doing the legwork. But just in case she runs out of steam, Shaun can use generator power for the wash.

During a recent visit Shaun told us the latest best Shaun story and invention. This one involves the family dog Hobo. It seems Hobo always ran after the car or truck when the family left the land. They’d go off to get groceries or something and there would be Hobo running along behind. Worried that he’d be hurt, they resorted to locking him in his dog carrier until they returned.

But Shaun didn’t like leaving Hobo locked up for long hours. He needed to think of a way for Hobo to get out of his carrier after the car was gone out of Hobo’s sight, a timed method for the dog to release himself from his cage.

Here is what Shaun did. He drilled a hole through the hard plastic dog crate and inserted a metal rod which rose above the crate roof. Then he attached two empty coffee cans to the pole, one above the other. In the bottom of the upper can, Shaun punched a hole.

Now he poured water in the top can. The water trickled through the hole into the can below. When the lower can contained enough water – when it was heavy enough – it sank. And it is this sinking that released the dog crate door.

Through a series of pulleys, a bungee cord and stout twine attached to a gate latch, the door opened and Hobo was freed.

Anet and I couldn’t contain our excitement. We were thrilled by this latest proof of Shaun’s ingenuity, and we had plenty of questions.

Yes, it works. Hobo has come to understand that all he has to do is wait and he can get out of his crate. He willingly gets inside when he’s told to.

It took Shaun a morning of experimentation to make the system work. At first he punched a small hole in the upper can, then timed how long it took for enough water to run through. When that proved to take too long, he enlarged the hole and timed it again. In the final design, 15 minutes elapse before the crate latch is released.

Now isn’t that one of the smartest ideas you’ve ever heard?

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