Tuesday, August 7, 2007


Almost everyone seems to have some special talent. The ability to handle one particular job or activity much better than average. With some, it is athletic ability, or musical or acting talent. And others are so good at parenting that they seem to have been born just to bear and raise children.
And then there are the mechanically inclined. Those who can use their talented hands, eyes, ears, and minds to seek out and solve problems that occur with automobiles, machinery, tools, appliances, and most or all other the other artifacts that make us such a large part of our daily lives.
The old-times said that it took a special talent to "time" a grain binder. When operating properly, the machine not only cut the grain plants off above the ground, but also "packaged" the crop in bundles, neatly tied with twine - bundles that workers could stand up in "shocks" to cure in the field. A binder that left a lot of untied bundles was a major aggravation that could be quickly remedied only be someone who "had the knack."
In more recent years, even today, twine-tie hay balers still uses basically the same knotter mechanism that the old binders did, often giving the same problems and requiring the same tender loving care from one of the few people qualified to make the proper adjustments to solve such problems.
I remember a few itinerants who used to travel around the territory sharpening knives and saws and scissors. Some of these carried along a blow torch and soldering irons so they could repair leaking milk pails and cans, also kitchen pots and pans. And on rare occasions, during the Prohibition fiasco, they were known to solder up leaks in the copper equipment of a few of the local moonshiners' illegal stills.
Some towns were fortunate enough to have a "fix-it shop" where people could take their small equipment for repairs. If memory serves me correctly, even TV's Mayberry had such an establishment. As electrical power became common, there soon were toasters, fans and other small electrical appliances that were in frequent need of repair,adjustment, or new cords or plugs.
And then things changed. Much of the equipment we use today is not designed to be repaired. Most of it is too computerized and complicated to be repaired by anyone who is not properly equipped and frequently re-trained. And it becomes more and more tempting to purchase a new Taiwan-made replacement. So, one-by-one, I fear we will be saying good-bye to our few remaining friendly fix-it-shop operators and shade tree mechanics.

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