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Thursday, Dec. 09, 2004
Iím reminded daily about just how much change Iíve seen in what passes for the requirements an adult male should live up to or need to know.

This isnít one of those overly political rants either, so donít expect any gay-bashing or sermonizing on fatherhood. I think itís pretty clear about how I stand on those and other worms in the apple, isnít it?

Iím talking about being able to cut a gol-durned 2 x 4 into acceptable lengths and shoring up your front porch. Taking a can of oil and shoving a spigot into it and pouring same into a nearly perfectly good V-8 engine. Coiling a long extension cord into a nice, limp hanging circle of orange line and knowing how to do so without using an elbow and a shoulder (this is an abomination the likes of which would get you shot, if you tried it in front of me. Just ask my wife or son. Gnarly extension cords are the bane of my existence).

Growing up in the 60ís, especially the early 60ís, I canít remember a single dad or other adult male who couldnít do any of those things without a second thought. Who didnít have a garage or basement full of tools and cans of screws and who didnít want more. Who spent their Saturdays tinkering and fussing and making things whole, who had an axe and a sickle and a lawn mower that probably did not have a 4 cycle engine aboard.

And the funny thing was that these guys thought they werenít doing half of what their own fathers did, and they quite possibly were right. I know that modern life has lulled me. I donít do a quarter of the hands on housesmithing work my own dad did. My Grandad could not only cut the aforementioned 2 x 4, he could sharpen the handsaw that cut it (well, I can too, but Iím an ancient carpenter and donít like other people messing with my stuff). Grandad never held a power saw in his hands so far as I know, probably would have scoffed at them as an expensive foolishness. I sure wish I had just one of those ancients Diston saws that he used, and Iím not talking about the antique value, either.

Guess what Iím musing about is outsourcing. Why, you can hire somebody to do just about anything you name nowadays. Cut your 2 x 4? Hell, the creepy guy at Home Despot who sells you the lumber will do it right in the store for a little extra. Thereís an oil changing store every mile on the big boulevards of any major town. Coiling an extension cord? If you even have one, youíve already bought that silly plastic reel that hauls it in for you (and makes a twisted mess out of it in the process).

Check your drawers and toolboxes. Got a soldering iron? Hydraulic jack? A heavy iron vise? How about a hand maul or a scythe?

Hell, Iím in construction and I donít have them. Should, I reckon. All useful things.

But.

Iíve got a long open carpenters box full of hand tools. I can sling that heavy bastard over my shoulder and walk onto any homesite in the country and build you a house from the ground up and never have to ask you for power, or water, or gasoline. Thatís a skill, and a box of tools, that you will not find anymore, and itís a damn shame. Thatís a way of doing things that was over before I ever took up this trade for a living, but I was either stupid enough or old fashioned enough to want to know how. And I learned it. I donít mind sounding a little full of myself over it because itís just simply not done that way anymore, itís not taught, itís not encouraged. Yep, no question it would take me longer to do it in the old way. Iíll not argue that for a second. Wouldnít want to either, because itís pointless. Who gives a turkey about speed, really? Weíve made all these improvements in tools and techniques and weíve got less leisure time than our parents would ever have stood still for. And I work the power tools too, of course. But I don't necessarily have to.

Thatís a little off topic.

Dad used to have a shelf full of how-to books in the basement, and would consult them regularly. Itís funny, because the man knew how to do an incredible array of things, but he was always questing to know more. Funnier still, all his neighbors and cronies had the books too. They werenít into outsourcing either. They didnít often ask for help, but if they did, it was rare that they had anyone help them who didnít already know most of what they did, couldnít pull his own weight so to speak.

I imagine a lot of it had to do with self-reliance. Or maybe self pride. Or maybe hanging onto their money a little tighter than we tend to do now.

Wasting valuable bandwidth complaining about how people canít saw their own wood isnít going to change anything. It just never ceases to amaze me how many not only canít, but just donít want to or worse, wouldnít want to be caught dead doing so. Weíve morphed into a wireless morass of shiny sheep, suckling at the syrup of lifestyles and talents far above our heads. Lives fit for the airwaves, the big screen, the tanned and plasticized. We buy things we canít afford and in all reality donít need, we crave a life where all trivialities will be swept away by hired cleaning crews and all annoyances repaired by the fellow in the shiny maintenance van. Life in a kit, where assembly is explained in four languages and many pictures.

And I canít imagine how all that would ever help someone who lost all their money and possessions and had to go out on the road and work for food. Happens every day. Or a natural disaster, a hurricane or a fire. The life changing events.

Donít think it will happen to me. But if it does I hope the saws are sharp, and that I havenít misplaced the tri-file to sharpen them. The will to do it?

Thatís something every adult ought to have in the first place.

Thereís a follow-up to this, something like a master plan in my ceaseless floundering for any plan whatsoever. Next time, yes?


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Thanks for reading.

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