La Bataille du Pont de la Mirbeau

The enemy approached us from the nor’east–cold, ruthless and unforgiving. Très redoutable.


Though sand found its way into our girded loins, we stood ready for battle on the open plain at Mirbeau.

But we were weary after our long journey from La Rivière Jones, and armed only with chisels, mallets, long underwear and extension corduroys.

Winter marched against us with icy resolve.

Our Capitaine surveyed the approaching storm.


Early in the campaign, we discussed our strategy amidst the staging. Our soldiers were trembling with anticipation…and cold.


The field of battle was prepared– revetments dug, barriers erected.


We would make our stand in the shadow of La Tour de Mirbeau.


 Heavy were the burdens of our hommes d’armes.


But they prepared willingly, knowing their cause was just.


Regardez! Our watch spied the enemy at a distance.


Aux armes! To arms!


One piece of bois at a time, we raised our timbers against their battalions, a bastion of last resort…


Lifting the heavy oak into place even as le guerre raged relentlessly around us.


The acrid breath of their great dragons made the earth to tremble…


We fought on in spite of it.


Our front lines marched together in formation to the sound of drum and trumpet.


Joints were hacked at. Trenails flew like arrows about our ears.

We knew not if we should see another sunrise.


The strain of battle was obvious. Heavy was its toll.


 And casualties lay all about us.


Our rendezvous was breached by the enemy.


Then, amidst la tourmente, when it seemed our mortises would no longer suffer their tenons, there appeared a light in the distance.


Our forlorn hope glimpsed the promise of a verdant spring.


We rallied.

Pour le roi et le pays!

Pour le fromage et le vin!

Bon Jovi!

Together we pulled against our foe.


And the enemy, sensing our resolve and seeing our joint-strength, began to weaken.



We crossed ourselves, and gave thanks to notre bon seigneur for deliverance.


Humbly, we paid respect to those (chips and shavings) who were lost.

à Dieu, mes amis.


Se souvenir the fallen–and the raised–on the champaign ground du Pont de la Mirbeau.



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15 thoughts on “La Bataille du Pont de la Mirbeau

  1. Marie Pelletier says:

    fun as always

  2. sally says:

    I like Keith and John’s matching jackets the best.

  3. S-Jo says:

    Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.

  4. Richard Law says:

    What! No topping out verre de vin? Mon dieu (as we never say in Yorkshire – bloody Normans, give us a marauding Viking any day)

  5. That’s a cool scarf joint you used on the plates. Is it stronger or easier to cut than the trait de Jupiter?

    • Rick says:

      So many scarfs, so little time Brian! I had to look up the “trait de Jupiter. It looks like a challenging joint to cut. As for its strength in comparison, let me run that by Michael and Pret–those raconteurs will surely have opinions.

      • Oh, you know, I am mostly an armchair timber framer. I live in France now and bought some books in French and have been looking at the old structures around here because I needed to do some work on my 17th century barn and will build a new garage this summer. They use the trait de Jupiter here almost exclusively, and looking through a Roy Underhill book, he mentioned it too as coming from England, and so I thought it was also widely used in the States. But in any case, this is a really wonderful blog and a pleasure to read. Thanks

    • Rick says:

      I haven’t seen Pret in a few days, Brian. I want to get his take on that scarf. Thanks for the kind words and you said…17th CENTURY BARN?!? Wow! Let us know how it goes.

      Here’s a link to Brian’s blog:

      Armchair timber-framer–I like that!

      More to follow…

    • Rick says:

      Hey Brian, bonjour. Here’s a reply from Pret regarding scarf joints, names, and book suggestions. I’m not quoting Pret here so much as cutting and pasting:

      Tapered scarf with squinted abutments, maybe? (The type of scarf we cut in bridge–ed.).

      I just like saying squinted abutments. The place to look for that stuff is in Cecil Hewitt’s book that covers the dating of buildings based on scarf choices. Not sure which one of his books it is in, Michael has one or more of Hewitt’s books.

      As I remember scarf choices vary according to date and location, at least in England, Not so sure about France.

      Anyways don’t quote me on any of (still trying to remove the cloven hoof marks from my back after using the “nib” on my saw). (disclaimer noted–ed.) There seems to be a fair amount of related stuff on line, but I can’t look as it’s a nice day and I spent last weekend in the studio, so I go outside.

      There is another version that bridge guys use where the tables, as they are called, are offset allowing for the use of wedges to tighten the scarf. Types of scarf used is also affected by location in the frame. Location in the frame, i.e. the plates or sills, will significantly change the forces applied to the scarf thus altering what one can get away with. No need doing complicated if not necessary.

      Anyway I’m going outside. I’ll answer that e-mail from ’95 when I get a sure sighting of the Tom. (Tom is a great friend we don’t see nearly enough of these days–ed.).


      • Rick says:

        PS: (from Pret)

        O.K., before I went outside I looked and it turns out that I have a copy of the book in question, English Historic Carpentry by Cecil A. Hewett.

        The Trait de Jupiter scarf joint as best I’ve found online corresponds to what Hewett calls, a splayed scarf with square, under-squinted abutments.

        The one Hewett shows dates from the third quarter of the 14th century and was located in the collar purlin of the Old Sun inn at Saffron Walden. Don’t know off hand where that is but he also states that other examples are located in Essex.

        Isn’t Essex near Ipswich? (mmm clams, fried or steamed to perfection.)

        Still don’t know where Tom is.


      • Great answer! The line about the cloven hoof marks is genius. I love the blog and admire the work. Hat’s off, really.

        “In the past, the carpenter’s guild enjoyed great prestige. To be a carpenter was to know how to lay out and join, with precision, the often huge systems of trusses needed to support the enormous weight of a roof in stone or tile. At the time it was very learned work, and lent to those who practiced the art an uncontested predominance.”

        — René Fontaine, architect

      • I was thinking about the project you all did at the spa the other day and it reminded me of one time I was working a weekend at the paper in my home town and had to write a story about a banquet for a retiring banker, a decent guy, who had done a lot for the town… But as it happened an old roommate of mine, a musician, had gotten the gig to play jazz at the event. It was a great gig, money wise, and he had brought in a bunch of our friends from out of town to play and share. The music was as incredible as the event was lame. I remember watching Darrel blow an incandescent solo on trumpet, happy to be playing with his friends again, and looking around the room, nobody noticed.

      • Rick says:

        I’m glad Darrel at least got paid, Brian! Great story. Ultimately, none of us do this work to be noticed, I reckon. And the great many will go through life never recognizing a burning solo or noticing details on a timber framed bridge, let along acknowledging the hard work other people do. I take heart knowing there are folks like you who do notice and appreciate. Good to hear from you.

  6. John Wolf says:

    Nice bridge Dartagnon!

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