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.


Old Andy, the handyman,
Does the best job he can
In his shop on the cobblestone street.

He repairs old wheelbarrows,
Builds traps to catch sparrows,
And half-soles shoes for numerous feet.

He solders leaky old pails,
And with glue, screws and nails
Can fix anything made out of wood.

Can fine-tune a lawnmower;
Fix a sick snow blower
So it slings slushy snow as it should.

He can oil up old leather,
Long exposed to weather,
Till it's supple and soft, just like new.

He'll fix a bicycle brake,
And, in a jiffy, make
Most machines do what they're built to do.

He seldom will question why,
But most jobs he'll just try,
Though some may seem quite trifling and small.

He can install a new latch,
And even re-attach
The arm of a small sobbing child's doll.

At times, he's re-glued old books,
Sharpened dull fishing hooks,
Once re-wove my old trout-fishing creel.

The last of a dying breed
He's filled many a need
Helped keep many lives on even keel.

As his steps now grow more slow,
Seems the townsfolk all know
Time will soon come for him to move on.

His loss we surely will feel.
We all wonder how we'll
Get on without Andy when he's gone.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


Persistence: It's natural to focus on bad breaks, but it shouldn't prevent us from giving it the old college try.
Only too often, I hear people use the expression, "But with my luck..."
"But with my luck, things won't go that way." "But with my luck, it will rain." "But with my luck, I can't help but fail." Occasionally, I find myself using that expression. And that can be a bad habit to get into.
Most of our good fortune doesn't just fall into our laps. Oh, sure, now and then someone wins the lottery or unexpectedly inherits a large wad of money, or even comes out on the long end at one of the local gambling casinos. But such occasions are rare. These are definitely the exceptions to the rule.
Usually, success and happiness begin with thoughts and daydreams, which we build into plans and schemes. As we build these "air castles," we often begin to foresee various problems that could arise should we begin building the real structure." We would be foolish not to look for such snags and begin thinking about solutions for them, should they arise. But if we are too easily discouraged and consider these problems as barriers to our progress, and as insurmountable, we will most likely let our golden dreams fall to the ground.
It's so much better to keep the dream alive. To keep the faith. And to keep our eyes open. A successful baseball batter doesn't just close his eyes and swing, but follows the pitch all the way in to the plate. If we see potential problems in our future, and consider them as challenges rather than roadblocks, we often can find solutions for them.
Thomas Edison's idea for the incandescent light bulb was a great one. Something that could benefit all of mankind for many generations. But its success depended on its inventor's persistence. He was forced to try almost every imaginable material before he found one that did not burn out immediately. But he did not consider these attempts as failures. He listed each as a success. With each burned-out bulb, he felt that he had successfully proven one more material as being unacceptable. And he continued looking for the one that was. He remained in the laboratory and created his own "luck."
One old fellow I know doesn't care too much for listening to others' sad tales and sob stories. Or hearing them tell about the negative things that are certain to happen "with their luck." His usual reply is ungrammatical, but short and to the point: " Them's the breaks."