Drive ’til refusal

Welcome to BLUE OAK

My name is Rick. I used to write The Riven Word. It was a blog about our carpenter exploits at Plimoth Plantation. There was riving and thatching and period-appropriate hijinks–we had a lot of fun with it. My editors (me, my wife & the dog) want me to say, if you liked The Riven Word, you’ll love BLUE OAK!! But that sounds a wee hyperbolic to me (I had to look up the spelling of hyperbolic). BLUE OAK and I have no particular affiliation, which means we can go in any number of directions. That’s a good thing. Still, this venture is still something of a spin-off, like The JeffersonsThe Bionic Woman, or Baywatch Nights. My pledge to you is that we shall strive to rise to the sublime quality of Baywatch Nights. Thanks for straying over.

Our raison d’etre–now with raisins!

People are doing some amazing things out there.


They are carrying on time-honored work methods at a time when so many things seem at risk to be forgotten. They go about their work all around us everyday and we hardly notice. Their stories need to be told. (Incidentally, the theme of this WordPress endeavor is called “Superhero“. It’s one of their free templates. My secret superhero power is covering up exposed food products with Saran Wrap, paper towels and occasionally coffee filters; I have yet to walk past a naked casserole or a dish of potato salad on a summer’s day without covering it up. I don’t even like potato salad. I don’t pretend to understand the psychology of this, but you should know this about your author, in case you’d like to turn back now). We’ll be telling some of their stories through their projects, their tools and materials, as well as their own superhero powers.

Drive ’til refusal


Paul tends bar a couple times/week. Rumor has it he is even saltier among bar patrons.

That’s what Keith and Paul called it. During a fair stretch of weather last month, we were building a bridge out to a dock along the winding North River in Scituate, Mass. Many of the posts were driven more than 12 feet into the ground, driven, as they say, until refusal. Eager to use my hatchet, I asked if we should point the posts’ bottoms like we would if we were beating studs into the ground. No, said Paul. If they hit a rock, they’ll glance off and continue at an angle. Paul followed that with a dirty joke. He did that a lot. So, flat and square and against all my pilgrim-honed instincts, we drove those posts deep and plumb. One of us would say dead balls kid when things were right. We used a tripod with a block hanging from its apex, and a rope running through the block down to the “hammer”. The hammer is a hollow metal prophylactic which is set onto the post head while everything is still lying down on the spongy marsh. (I also looked up the spelling of “prophylactic”). Then post and hammer are erected into place into a shallow set-hole. They drove quickly and easily into the dampness. Drive ’til refusal. (And you wonder why we tell dirty jokes in the marsh…).


Another tradition is wearing bread bags over socks to keep feet dry. Kickin it old school.

The first few dozen pulls were done by hand, to slowly set and keep the long post plumb. Pull up, let drop. Repeat. The dull ring of hammer striking post made a sound like a church had hired an indifferent bell-ringer with a questionable sense of rhythm. Sometimes the post would move 5 inches with each hit. Sometimes hardly a quarter inch. Once set, the rope was wound about a “gypsy head”–a turning shaft attached to a small motor–to help with the hammer’s lifting. We set about 20 pilings into the marsh over a few days before turning the dock’s framing over to another group.


All that pile-driving made us ravenous. We would all eat lunch at places like The Bridgeway Inn, or Satuit Tavern. One doesn’t go to provincial establishments like these for the salad. Here you get broiled scrod, lots of fried things, with sides of Kevin White and Louise Day Hicks. I really expected there to be liver-shaped ash trays on our table, it was so much like walking into the 1970s. It was a fitting ending to a romp in the marsh. Schlitz anyone?


The work, if not our lunch, was strenuous and unexpectedly satisfying. Thanks to Keith, Paul, and Harbor Mooring for the opportunity. I came home muddy and smelling like low tide. Growing up in the appropriately-named town of Marshfield, the smells, the tide, the cacophony of gulls were all very familiar. And it was great to be working, even if it meant I couldn’t YouTube Baywatch Nights as much as I would like.



7 thoughts on “Drive ’til refusal

  1. Carolyn says:

    Glad you’re blogging again!

  2. Timothy Turner says:

    Rick so glade you have not stoped bloging. Go take a look at mine on my website! This looks great buddy keep up the good work!

  3. Shelley-Jo says:

    Just when I was missing “the riven word!” My super power is patience. I like raisins w my raison d’etra w raisins and I look forward to future installments!

  4. Hey Rick,

    Glad I heard of your new sight from Peter F. Love to build a tree house with you someday, I see if I can’t find a contract up my way. Maybe a little Cedar timber frame, of Asian design.

    Best Regards,


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