you have ever wondered why so many old houses are still standing, it’s probably
because the sides are coated with a concrete process called stucco. Most surfaces
can be covered with a layer of heavy tarred paper, then with a layer of chicken
wire attached with bent-over shingle nails and third with at least two thin layers
of stucco “mud,” smoothed and let dry. Sometimes called “the poor man’s siding”
this coating will last almost forever without repair.
Our home was started
in 1918, added to in 1920, added to again several times down through the years
and is still in perfect condition today thanks to generous coatings of stucco
on each of the additions. I learned to apply stucco at one time and respect it
to this day.
Now for a stucco story.
my senior year in high school in 1950, I was in good shape physically and considered
myself a pretty good man. My father and I went to see Mr. Smith, who was known
locally as the man to apply stucco. Dad warned me, “whatever you do, don’t shake
hands.” This advice went in one ear and out the other, like most of Dad’s advice
at the time.
We found Mr. Smith and Dad introduced us. When Mr. Smith,
a somewhat slender older man, held out his hand to shake I grasped it firmly.
His grip took me to my knees. It was like a metal vise screwed down tightly. I
thought my hands and fingers were broken. Dad laughed as Mr. Smith said, “nice
to meet you” and pulled me to my feet.
You see, it seems holding a cement
trowel all day loaded with stucco mud and applying it to walls requires tremendous
grip. The muscles used in this work are seldom used by other types of workers
and few men have such strength except stucco workers.
Later, when Mr.
Smith arrived at the ranch to apply stucco to our long-suffering chicken house
and brooder house I was appointed to mix the mud for Mr. Smith. We owned a cement
mixer, bought Portland cement and hauled creek sand in for the stucco mud. When
all was in place and ready for stucco I was taught to make “standup mud.”
almost laughed at the term but watched closely as Mr. Smith demonstrated the differences
in poorly mixed stucco mud. But when he mixed the ingredients exactly right and
let the mixer turn for a few minutes, the result was stucco mud that would stand
up in a column in your hand without falling or collapsing. I was amazed.
Whether applying stucco or plaster, laying brick, blocks, rocks or chinking between
logs or around openings, the job cannot be done properly without stand up mud.
Many stone masons will admit the mixing of the mud is as important as laying the
materials. Probably every vocation has its secret ways of doing things. I know
from experience, stuccoing needs stand up mud.
Trew - August
7, 2012 column
"It's All Trew"
Trew is a freelance writer and retired rancher. He can be reached at 806-779-3164,
by mail at Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002, or by email at trewblue@centramedia .net.
For books see delberttrew .com.
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