Monday, June 11, 2012

The swing is up again - eight years later!

The day Cathy and I were engaged, March 24, 1990, we sat on a swing in her backyard after informing her family that I had ruined her life, by her having accepted my proposal of marriage.  We both sat a little stunned by the fact, I had asked, she had answered yes, and we had only dated for six weeks.  Nearly 22 years, later, Cathy has tolerated my presence and frankly I am a very lucky guy.  That swing had a place in my heart, as I sat there on occasion and managed to sneak a kiss out of the deal.  My father-in-law, Frank Nielsen had made it out of scrap wood that he had accumulated, but the materials were not really made for the Utah weather and time took it's toll on it.  Finally it fell apart and it was clear it needed to come down and the future outcome was very much in question.  I asked if I could take it home in the pieces that remained with the hopes of rebuilding it, but my father-in-law passed away later that summer.  However the next year rolled around, and I took it upon myself to rebuild it.

I was never a great wood craftsman.  My own father died when I was young and the uncle who took me under his wings, MC Laird, was more of an electrical/mechanical kind of person.  I subsequently wired a garage and greenhouse when I was 13 and there are school trailers in the valley which I wired together at 15, since his job was installing them.  It's my skill set, if you will, but the whole wood and saw thing was something that I feared.  However I decided to venture forward on this project, since the alternative was no swing at all.  I meticulously measured my father-in-law's swing, cut my pieces nearly exactly with a few modification, but this time out of Redwood.  As I did so, and knowing how much Cathy liked it, decided to cut two of everything with the intent to build one of my own.  I used other weather durable products, cemented the uprights at my in-laws and my brother-in-law Bill helped me tweak the hanging of the new swing in 2002 and returned to its rightful place in my mother's-in-law back yard in Layton (Camelot - yea, that's the name of the street where she lives).

Carlton with daughters Sarah and Jessica

Construction of the swing was not an inexpensive endeavor, but a little while later, I assembled our swing at our first home in Rose Park.  However, I committed a number of structural mistakes, including my setting of the footings and the back supports which keep the frame from rolling or rocking when you swing.  Gradually, (there is probably a church talk in this) the footings came loose and while my nephew was swinging on it, the frame flipped forward and thankfully over his head came crashing down to the ground.  This was about the same time as my mother's death in the summer of 2004.  We decided to dismantle it, and move it to our soon to be home, next door, which is my family home that we purchased from my mother's estate.  Since we were remodeling the home and trying to make it ours, I had plans to reinstall the swing soon after Mother's Day so Cathy could feel like our new home was more ours than that of my mother's.  One thing led to another and the bench to the swing sat on its end in my garage for nearly eight years, along with some of the beams associated with the swing.  This year I was determined to not let the summer start without having the swing go back up.

Not wanting to make the same mistakes as my first one, and realizing a few wrong calculations that my father-in-law didn't make, I special ordered a new longer top beam (the bench is 6'6" and my original top beam was only 8' long), I talked with my cousin, who is a contractor to make sure I did the footings right this time and engaged my brother-in-law Bill Nielsen again to help me through some of the logistical challenges of making some of the cuts and making sure this swing stood a LONG TIME.  I spent a few late nights until 11 p.m. pouring footings, having the help of my brother Spence who was visiting and the help of my neighbor Brad Borden who came over to help me lift the top beam, but ended spending the whole night improving the design and helping me attach it.  Yesterday, Saturday evening, I put the last bolt in and hung the last chain!  And to boot, I even got a kiss out of the project and was able to sit with my sweetheart again!

I always wanted a controversial picture on my blog!


  1. Love the story Carlton! Sentimental and romantic!

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  3. Haha! Awesome! I remember that swing... was not(cough-Wesley) the culprit of its downfall? :)

  4. Well, I actually believe that I was the culprit. I pushed the swing a little too hard, and the posts (cement and all) came out of the ground. I was young and terrified of Aunt Cathy, so I ran for the hills (AKA behind Camp David) hoping to not get in trouble. Needless to say, I was found and that was the day that I learned that Aunt Cathy wasn't that scary.