Triangle Cross Ranch in Cross, Wyo., focuses on giving troubled young men the guidance and tools they need to heal, develop dignity, character, and personal responsibility. To help foster personal growth and have a challenging, new experience, boys on the ranch recently tackled installing a hardwood floor in their facilities’ dining area.
Led by Jerry Ruth and a handful of volunteers, the boys learned lessons about taking pride in their work, finishing what they start, and the opportunities available to them in the hardwood flooring industry.
“I’ve been working with wood for 40 years. I got my start when I was 15, working with my dad putting a floor in our summer house. My dad was taught by his dad. Years later, it turned into a hobby for me, but when I retired, I started doing it full time,” says Ruth. “I’ve been doing it for 11 years full-time. It’s something that I do to supplement my retirement, as well as for pleasure and self-satisfaction.”
The idea for Ruth to get involved with the youth at Triangle Cross Ranch stemmed from a single phone call from a friend.
“A friend I used to do work for called me up and asked me questions about how he could put in a floor at Triangle Cross Ranch. I offered to go over and
take a look at it. Once there, I had the idea of actually schooling the boys on
how hardwood flooring works.” explains Ruth. “I know how much hardwood flooring has meant for me in my life. If these boys could go hands-on, it might give them a path, and let them see opportunities they may not have otherwise considered.”
The room where Ruth and the boys would be working was Triangle Cross Ranch’s heavily used dining hall, where they have meals three times a day, as well as meetings.
Ruth’s first step was to reach out to Kim Tucker at Virginia Abrasives, who supplied all of the sandpaper that would be needed for the project. Ruth also reached out to hardwood professionals Jeff Fairbanks and Alex Gilszmer, along with Henry Machen, formerly from Baltimore Floor Supply, who he’d met prior during his time attending NWFA training classes. With their help, Ruth was able to put on a week-long event at the ranch.
“On the first day, we discussed basics like the different kinds of woods and installation methods for hardwood flooring. On the second day, we brought out the tools and began putting down the floor. This was exciting because you could see on their faces just how excited and engaged they were. That excitement kept building as we went through the week,” recalls Ruth.
Ruth says the idea that they could have a business that could be as large or as small as they wanted really resonated with the boys, and he could see eyes light up as they learned about the industry.
“We talked about the satisfaction of a job well-done, and the experience of seeing a customer happy with their work. There’s also a great feeling of being able to look back at something and say, ‘yeah, I did that,’” says Ruth. “I told them it is a profession where you get as deep into it as you want, as far as techniques and finishes. They learned that it’s their imagination and willpower that will determine how far they go. It was an important message for them to hear.”
With lessons on the basics of the industry completed, Ruth, his team, and the boys began the installation process.
“Together, we stapled 700 square feet of flooring on top of a plywood subfloor. The flooring was 3 ¼” red oak that I would consider cabin grade. It’s rough, but we dressed it up by using black wood filler in the knots and cracks. That accented the floor nicely,” explains Ruth. “Finally, we used a
German water-based finish from Clou and the boys put that down.”
Throughout the process, Ruth was inspired by the reaction of the boys, the questions they asked, and their enthusiasm.
“It was amazing to see the pride that they had when the job was complete. They spend a lot of time in there, and there is a lot of opportunity for it to get dirty. Yet every time I visit, the floor is still absolutely spotless. The boys have kept the floor as clean as the day they finished it,” explains Ruth. “It makes me want to put down my hammer, pick up a pencil, and start teaching. It was such a thrill to be able to pass our craft on to a younger generation and show them that a career in hardwood flooring can be a really good life path to take.”