Posts Tagged ‘lessons learned’


Leaner times can mean cinching up your belt and adding new holes.


 Leaner times can mean cinching up your belt and adding new holes.


There was a tool in our garage when I was growing up that my father never used. We didn’t have many toys and things to play with growing up; partly because there just wasn’t that much around to buy, partly because my folks just didn’t buy things like that and most importantly my mom ran the church rummage sale at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church and we got all the toys that didn’t sell.  


Usually when the whining got to be to much for my mom she wrestled the wooden spoon drawer open, jangling its contents together, to get my attention and I was sent out to the garage to make something. There were always blocks of wood, bolts, screws and odd ball hand tools from my Grandfather’s farm. All the tools made sense to me except for one tool.


It was brown with rust and chunks of it flaked off when I squeezed its plier like hand grips.  It was larger than a crescent wrench and yet smaller than a monkey wrench.  It had no on and off button and therefore no cord to be plugged in.  It sat always in the same spot, dangling from a nail on the beam next to the green gopher traps.  It was really the shape of a pair of scissors but rather than blades to cut with it had a type of wheel with metal rods protruding outwards, about an inch long, each one a different diameter.  It was really a curious tool but I never got to use it as there was no need.


Well, I think we used it once on my first day of school when the belt I had for my new shorts was to big and then it came down from beside the gopher traps, the spool of braided brass wire and the old lamp cord, to make some extra holes; it was a leather awl.  A tool to make holes in belts and straps. Extremely useful on a farm especially in the time my father lived on one during the great depression.


Not everything my father did had a tinge of depression reasoning behind it but a lot of it did.  Painting the house ourselves instead of hiring it out, growing our own vegetables and always having dessert at home.  Dad frequently took apart whatever house hold appliance before its final trip to the curb to scavenge nuts, bolts, screws and a cord…just in case.  Its wasn’t strewn about in an un-navigable mess in the garage but stored carefully in little boxes and stored in the drawers of an old dresser.  Clean and tightly put-away, any little part could be found and utilized and it didn’t leave the house until he was sure it had done its full duty.


I would tease my dad as I sat on the driveway, carving out the weeds in the cracks with an old table knife.


“…depression labor, dad…lets buy a machine to do this…” I would say.  


Most of the time he would just smile and then sometimes he would give me that look that he was trying to teach me something.  Sometimes he looked like it hurt him with what I said, like maybe that same feeling he had when the more cashed up folks in town looked at him in his not so new clothes.


It doesn’t take too much reading of history to know about the great depression and what it must have been like.  Experiences like that don’t just leave and I remember thinking it wasn’t just my dad that looked at things through harsher colors, but a whole generation.  Loving history as I do, I knew that I should really hope that I didn’t have an opportunity to live through one.


Now its late 2008 and history seems to be on a bend to repeat itself.  I have thought back a lot lately to those funny things that dad used to say and do and they aren’t so out of hand now.  In fact I am glad of them and in his own way I see he prepared me for a time in our country he did not live to see.


Every indication is that it’s going to be worse before it gets better.  A little thinner America somehow doesn’t seem to be something so un-needed.  A time to be learning some lessons and cinching up your belt when their isn’t as much on the plate as there used to be.  What I am really getting at is hopefully with what we are about to experience, we will pay close attention and take advantage as much as we can; its only that some of us had moms and dads that have already lived it.  


It would be nice to point out the sage advice of our parents on investing, getting along at work or moving up the corporate ladder but it may be that a simple rusty awl and what it can do is the best lesson we could have ever gotten.

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