Tom McFadden

P.O. Box 162 - Philo, CA 95466 - (707) 895-3606   -

Water Tower


We tore down an old water tower on the nearby Day Ranch and used a lot of it in building ours. We built a "gin pole" derrick to do it. It was made from two smaller redwoods cut in our woods. The larger one, a 35 foot post with one end on the ground, was held upright by guy wires in three directions. The "boom" was the same length but its' position on the vertical made it have the needed reach. The weight of the boom took the place of a third guy wire in holding the post upright. My brother John came to help set the derrick up - he had experience doing such things when he worked for the circus. John also knew how to braid rope ends and loops, and he did that for us.

The swivel joint between the vertical and the boom was hinged so that the boom could move in and out. The boom could also swivel and this was accomplished with one piece of metal pipe that was let into the post and another slightly larger piece of pipe attached to the bottom of the boom that slipped over it and could turn on it. There was a third piece of pipe on top of the vertical pole that capped it and this had some metal loops that the guy wires and the blocks and tackles were attached to. Rod Bayshore welded these metal parts up for us. There was one block and tackle that that controlled the in and out movement of the boom and a second block and tackle that ran up the post, out to the end of the boom and down to the ground. This was the one that things to be lifted were attached too. There was a third rope attached to the boom about half way up it which we used to swing the boom from side to side. We took this rig from our place to the Day Ranch and back on our pickup. That was an adventure in itself.

watertower         watertower

Building our tower we used the derrick to lift beams into place and to lift tall sections of scaffolding from the first to the second floor. Siding, insulation, window glass and other stuff was lifted on a carriage that we built to do that. I found a rolling scaffold someplace and I would lift the carriage in place and let it hang there will I rolled the scaffold up to it and then took stuff off of it and put it in place.


It took both of us to do this. I would attach a beam or a load of siding to the chain and hook that came down from the boom. That rope ran through a block, through another block at the top of the boom, down and back again, then over to the top of the post and through a block there and down to the bottom of the post and through a snatch block. (A block that opens so you can get the rope out of it.) I would attach the rope to the back of the pickup and Peggy would drive forward a set distance, stop the truck and set the brake. The load would be lifted as she drove. She would walk back to the derrick where I had would have gotten the rope out of the snatch block and secured it to a pipe that went through the post.

Then I would climb up onto the tower, or up onto the rolling scaffold. When I was ready Peggy would untie the rope from the pipe and carefully let the load down to where I needed it to be. She might have to tie it off for a minute while she swung the boom around. I would also have to ask her her hold it just so while I jockeyed it into position. It took six years to build this thing, but I think it was one of the most fun things I have done in my lifetime.

This period saw my career assemble itself. Meanwhile, our homesteading effort continued at a furious pace too. Besides the water tower, between 1973 and 84 we built a pole barn, fenced in both a large and a small pasture. ("large?" - maybe 5 acres.) We added onto the tool shed and converted the older part to a chicken house and we built a pigpen. We also fenced and planted a vegetable garden and got some fruit trees going. Peggy's brother Jack came to help with the barn. We cut down small redwoods in our woods, pealed them with drawknives, and then bolted them together. The barn is 30 feet long with a 12 foot alleyway and a feed and tack room with a stall on each side. There was a plan for three more stalls on the other side of the alley, but we never got to that. After some years one night the wind blew the roof completely off and halfway down into the canyon scattering pieces about. We had not tied the roof to the walls well enough. I can only imagine how scared the horses must have been. We hauled it up the hill and put it back together.



Joinery Methods

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