The fishing fly was startling to strangers.
It had spent years hooked into the front screen door in a strategic spot, looking like a fuzzy insect a bit the worse for wear which had happened to land there just in time to look you in the eye as you stepped up to the door. It served as a conversation starter for numerous political campaigners, missionaries, door-to-door solicitors, and first-time visitors.
The screen door was so old it was made entirely out of wood. It was so old it could be slammed instead of shutting with the dignified whoosh of modern doors equipped with hydraulic closers.
It was also old enough so that replacing the torn screen would have been a project. Old enough so that wrapping the screen with plastic wasn't enough to keep out winter drafts.
Old enough, finally, to need replaced. We went and bought a shiny new combination screen and storm door with insulation, thermal window panes, and the latest and greatest thing—a "disappearing screen" that rolls up into the top.
A door that, supposedly, would be easy to hang. Just line it up, drill a few holes, put in a few screws, install the latch and closer, and adjust the handy little extender at the bottom to make it fit well. The step-by-step directions, complete with drawings, were in real English and quite clear.
Even the part in the beginning that read, "The door opening must be perfectly square."
This house was built in the 1950's. It was moved to this site after Rapid City's disastrous flood in 1970. It was well-built to begin with, but at this stage in its life, nothing about it is perfectly square. The door was surprisingly close, actually, with only about a quarter of an inch difference from the top to the bottom. Then there was the small matter of the top of the door frame being out of plumb, as if it were leaning back slightly toward the inside of the house. Probably to keep warm, since the screen door wasn't doing much to keep out the drafts.
Still, all those little imprecisions didn't seem to be that big a problem. We forged ahead in blissful ignorance.
Even with a scientist partner who is the kind of person who measures twice and cuts once, hanging the door turned into more of a project than either the salesman or the instructions had implied. Directions were read and reread. Holes were drilled. Shims were used. Adjustments were made.
We started early in the afternoon. By the time darkness fell, the door was hung, all right. Think "horse thief" rather than "construction" and you'd get the general idea.
It wasn't straight from top to bottom. It didn't line up from side to side. It didn't align against the frame. These minor details were discouraging. The $100 the store would have charged for installation was starting to seem like a bargain.
On the positive side, however, no swearing or throwing of tools had taken place. And I had discovered my true talent when it comes to carpentry—holding the flashlight.
The next step was not printed in the directions, but it was clear nevertheless. Obviously, the only thing to do was temporarily abandon the project and go have dinner.
The next day, we consulted a friend who has tools, skills, and genuine carpentry experience. He looked at our handiwork. He very courteously made no disparaging comments. He analyzed. He made suggestions. He adjusted here. He shimmed there.
And now we have a fully installed new storm door. It has a latch. It has a closer. It lines up quite nicely. It keeps out the drafts.
The only thing missing is the fly. You just can't leave a fuzzy object an inch long hooked to a disappearing screen.
The missionaries and solicitors are going to be so disappointed.