On the Campaign Trail

March 26, 2011

Campaign Day 1:  Whipped by a sign

A campaign sign consists of a three-sided 3/16” wire frame like a croquet hoop and a printed plastic bag which fits snugly over it.  Two of the sides drive into the ground.  The middle of the hoop holds the posts in position and supports the bag.  Nothing to popping a few dozen of them into the ground, you say?  Think again.

Saturday morning when the writ dropped it was cold.  Fourteen of us set out across Leeds-Grenville to install signs.   The ground was frozen solid.  Emails began to fly.  Ian Johntson wrote:  “O.K., people.  I have a question.  How are we getting the signs in the ground?  I used a large bar and it went in about two inches.  What can I put on the end of my drill to make a hole to start?”

Marjory wrote back:  “Ian, I was able to get a sign into our lawn by a series of taps, first on one corner, then the other, with a hammer.”

So away we went, frost or no frost.

Ever tried to pound a heavy wire frame into frozen ground with a hammer?  The thing whips about mercilessly, and whenever the vibration touches bone it stings like a teacher’s strap.  The only painless way to drive one with a hammer was to grip the frame loosely with a heavy leather mitt while leaning against the wire with fleshy body parts like calves and thighs to keep the thing from bending into a pretzel.

I had measured a frame at home and brought along a 3/16” masonry bit in my cordless drill.  Of course a 3/16” bit isn’t very long, and the resulting hole wasn’t much help in supporting a two-foot sign.  Besides that, most of the holes I drilled  in the rough grass along the roadway I couldn’t find, so the masonry drill was a bust.

If I got lucky and found some softer ground and drove the frame in, it usually ended up too wide for the bag, splitting the frigid plastic, or so narrow I feared the sign would blow away.  Turns out it’s best to measure the gap, add 2” for tension on the plastic cover, and then drive the frame in.

Adjustments are impossible after the plastic cover is in place.

With great effort I managed to place a dozen signs between Forfar and Rideau Ferry in the morning.

Promptly at noon fellow volunteer Moe Lavigne joined me and we headed south, but with some improvements.  I replaced my drill bit with a 10” piece of 9 gauge brace wire.  It worked pretty well at finding its way through frosty turf and mixed gravel and stones to the correct depth.  Moe could find the hole by feel in the long grass to start the frame as I pulled the drill away, and he measured each gap between the posts so that we had a more consistent fit on the signs.  The job is definitely easier with two, especially if the other member of the crew is a veteran of previous campaigns and doesn’t mind working on his knees on the cold ground.

A honk and friendly wave from a driver in Morton was very encouraging, especially because at that point we were tired, cold, and struggling to find another hole drilled in the grass.

After the loop to Lyndhurst and back to Forfar, I was worn out.  Moe headed off with one of my improvised drill bits to plant more signs on his way back to Crosby Lake.

I’ll never look at one of those signs in the same way again.  A campaign is hard work, but this is how we Canadians, in our polite, honourable way, bring about change when we are determined.

Make it worthwhile.  Please vote!

Campaign Day 2:  Sign teams overlap

Moe and I were approaching the Gananoque turnoff when we saw the flash of a red sign in the hand of a man getting out of a Jeep.  We pulled over to say hello.  Roger Haley had spent the morning working from Mallorytown to Gananoque along the river and then nipped up to plant a few of Marjory’s signs around the Hwy. 15 intersection.  He said his drill’s second battery was well worn down.

We had shared the cordless drill idea with the rest of the crew by email. Everyone now used it except one holdout, Ross Howard in Grenville,  who reported:  “47 Signs up in rural North Grenville!  Found that a 16 oz rubber mallet and a 12″ x 3/16″ common screw driver the best set of non-powered tools.  The rubber mallet does not even leave a mark on the plastic!”  Ross and his wife achieved this in seven hours of work over Saturday and Sunday.

Judging by the condition of the only two blue signs we saw, the local Conservatives have not yet twigged to drilling down to provide firm support for the posts.

Ian Johntson reported a driveway bristling with four blue signs in the Toledo area.  That’s it so far for other colours.

On the other hand one guy in a house in Seeley’s Bay had three Marjory signs and two enthusastic daschunds digging up his front lawn.  He wouldn’t tell us from where he got the signs, but offered them to us if we were short. It was quite an entertaining conversation.

Moe recognized Joan Delaney hiking down the Chaffey’s Locks Road so we stopped to chat.  She talked us into a lawn sign for their property on Indian Lake. So we went there and planted it in their flower bed.  Then we spent some time talking to Joan’s husband Bob about this year’s sugar-making.  Like everyone else, Bob and Joan had to deal with a couple of dozen overflowing buckets – frozen solid.  So they took them into the house to warm them up.  Whenever this freeze ends, half the country will have white clouds of fog over syrup arches while they boil frantically to make up for lost time.

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