The Help a Hoot

We all know about hammers, speed squares, tape measures, and tool bags. Many shed builders use nail guns. Our table, miter, and circular saws see a great amount of use daily. Some of us use the flat bar and nail punch regularly. Tools are reasonably standard across the shed industry. Some tools, however, are a little more unique.

            Early in my experience as a shed builder I became accustomed to using a board twister. Now, that’s probably not all that unique as I’m sure many of you use one as well. It was the board twister’s name that made it such an original. Written boldly with a black marker down the length of the twister were the words “Help-a-Hoot”. What follows is the story of that one of a kind name.

            Better Barns was founded in 2002 as a joint venture between Dallen and Vance Wright. Vance is Dallen’s oldest son. Vance’s youngest brother, Dakota, was only a very small boy at the time. When he wasn’t in school Dakota loved to come to the shop to watch us build sheds. He was a very curious lad.

            Like most boys his age, he really wanted to help. He couldn’t do much due to his size and lack of knowledge. Of course, he never wanted to do anything he could actually do like sweep the floor or pick up trash. No, he wanted to run the nail gun! That was much more his speed!

            During the summer months he was constantly in the shop. I was the only employee and often was the only person in the shop as Vance ran deliveries. Dakota and I “worked” together many days. Dakota loved to pester – still does – and constantly made life more, well, interesting to say the least.

            Dakota’s dad didn’t – still doesn’t – put up with much playing around during work time. So, after getting my can full of Dakota’s antics, I reported to Dallen and Vance that I could not continue to be productive with the young man always in my way. Dallen dealt sternly with Dakota and things were much better for a while.

            Then, one day Dakota was doing something he knew he shouldn’t be and one of us told him so. His wise-guy answer was, “I don’t give a hoot!” Unfortunately for him his father was within earshot. Dallen’s answer was “Well, I’ll help your hoot!” Vance and I found this pretty funny. Dakota did not.

            We began “Helping your hoot” all the time. If a joist wouldn’t set down firmly in the skid, we’d “Help your hoot!” with brute force. When a piece of our tongue and groove flooring wouldn’t groove right, we’d “Help your hoot!” with a sledge hammer. But, the most common thing we had to help was our twisted lumber.

            Right around the time all this happened, we had gotten a very good deal on a few trailer loads of cull lumber. We had piles of twisted boards! Hundreds of floors were built out of those loads of culls. We built with a nail gun in one hand and our trusty board twister in the other. As we constantly were helping a board’s hoot with our twister, it just evolved from a board twister to a “Help-a-hoot”.

            When new guys start in the shop, they are always very confused by the name of our board twister. It has just become part of the tool list here and we don’t think about it until the new guy says, “Help a hoot?” with a puzzled look. We just laugh and start the story again.