The Crooked Man
September 17, 2015
There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile, He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile; He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse, And they all lived together in a little crooked house.
This rhyme was composed by James Orchard Halliwell in the 1840s and gained popularity in the early twentieth century. The crooked man is reputed to be the Scottish General Sir Alexander Leslie who signed a covenant securing religious and political freedom for Scotland. The “crooked stile” in the poem was the border between England and Scotland. “They all lived together in a little crooked house” refers to the fact that the English and Scots had at last come to an agreement, despite continuing animosity between the two peoples, who nonetheless had to live with each other due to their common border.
In more recent years the Crooked Man has been viewed as a villain in fairy tale, cartoon and comic book lore. Playing the seedy antagonist he commits acts of villainy against the more goody goody nursery rhyme characters. Sometimes the term “crooked” is used to represent his evil and wicked ways. In other instances it’s taken more literally and the Crooked Man’s actual appearance is misshapen and deformed.
Well, that was a very informative and insightful look into a lesser known nursery rhyme that few remember and even fewer care about. So why even bother to reference it? The reason is in the last line, because I live in “a little crooked house.” This is not to say that I am a “crooked man.” I mean we all have our wicked ways but that doesn’t define me. Also I am not deformed…wait… checking the mirror… yeah un-deformed here. The sixpence, mile, stile, cat and mouse are all also irrelevant. The part that’s important is the little crooked house.
This is not to insinuate that the house is not wicked or evil. Sure we’ve had demon attacks and ghostly hauntings but that doesn’t mean…maybe I need to reconsider the “house is not wicked or evil” statement. Anyway spiritual ties notwithstanding the house is in fact crooked…as in literally crooked… in the deformed sense. There is not a square angle or straight line to be found in all its cubic footage. Seeing as how when the house was obtained it was a fixer upper this fact became very apparent early on during fixing upping part. Now even that the fixing upper days are over the houses lack of geometric sanity plays a heavy role in even the most minor modification or remodeling endeavor.
Case in point my little wife’s desire for a new range for her birthday. If it were simply a matter of out with the old and in with the new that wouldn’t be a problem. But within the walls of the crooked house it’s never that simple. The house still had the golden harvest stove top and wall oven that was installed when the house was built in the 60s. What can I say, I have an affinity for old appliances. But when they stop working properly and you have to scavenge through antiques stores for parts perhaps it’s time for an upgrade. These were two separate units in two separate places. This meant that combining the two into one would take some thought and effort.
Gearing up to the challenging task of removing the old stove and oven was a wasted effort. As it turned out they weren’t attached to anything and basically just fell out. This was very disconcerting and I lost a little faith in the “things were built better back then” mantra. Turning the hole left by the wall oven into a cubby wasn’t really so bad and it got replaced by the microwave. Now came the cutting of the countertop’s stove hole to make room for the range. My gawd! Seriously? Why did they need 20 billion nails to hold a single post in place? Jigsaw blade No.2. Measuring the front of the counter in contrast to the rear found an ? inch differential. So we’ll just cut it cockeyed and match the off angles accordingly, but which side? Should we trim a little off both? Nay I say! Tis the crooked house so we’ll go by one side and cut on the other. Ha Ha victory…no not quite. Well then let’s cut the bottom half and line the top with it. Nope, that’s no good the walls leaning out an extra ? inch down there. Damn it!
After a literal day of measuring and pondering I put my spouse’s worries and woes aside and told her we would handle this the way I have learned when dealing with this crooked house. Don’t look to create a perfect angle. Don’t focus on keeping the line straight. To hell with levels, squares, rulers, measuring tapes or anything that would make sense in standard construction. Eyeball it real good, cut everything and hope for the best. But what about the odd angles and uneven lines? Well sweetheart that’s what wood putty and molding are for.
UPDATE: As of completing this article the wife’s new range sits in a nice little cubby hole in the kitchen…she’s working on the wood puttying part now.
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