Archive for ‘Humor’


By , 13 November, 2010, 1 Comment

Sometimes, greed overpowers your brain, and you make decisions that later seem less wise.  Yesterday, Judy and I traveled to St. Joseph, Missouri to pick up more wood at Simpson and Sons sawmill just south of town.  My new friend Al Navas introduced me to owner Steve and sales manager, Dustin who sold me some 4/4 walnut.  Al bought some beautiful 8/4 soft curly maple that has been keeping me up at nights wondering if it all got away.

After seeing how beautiful Al’s piece turned out, I knew I needed some.  I checked local prices for curly maple, and found it to be 3 times what Simpson charges (although their’s is surfaced) and not nearly as interesting.  So, after verifying with Dustin that the remainder of the wood still lay there, Judy and I took a day, and traveled in the rain down to St. Joesph,

I find Dustin a very enjoyable, and helpful individual.  We flipped some pretty big pieces of 8/4 wood around until I got to the best pieces on the bottom.   He also brought several nice pieces of 4/4 to my attention, and I agreed that they were well worth buying.

Some future projects waiting for me a few months down the road involve more quartersawn oak, and we dug around until I found several nice 4/4 pieces.  When Al showed me around his shop about two weeks ago, he showed me some sycamore that he acquired from Simpsons, and the quartersawn pieces had nice figure in them too.  So Dustin pulled down several pallets of lumber and we started digging out some really nice pieces of sycamore.

Well, before you know it, the truck is weighed down with a significant amount of lumber.  We drove back in the rain and in high winds, and the combination of rain, wind and weight gave me some concern but we experienced no problems.

Due to the lateness of the hour, I did not want to back down to my basement doors and unload the wood there in the rain soaked (did I mention it rained all day?) yard.  So, I set out two of my trusty sawhorses and moved the wood from the truck to the sawhorses with gaps to let the wet ends dry.  I wondered at the time if the weight would be too much for the sawhorses, so I left one of the biggest pieces of curly maple on the garage floor just for piece of mind.

Collapsed sawhorse

Collapsed Sawhorse

My wife claims that she heard a loud sound during the night, but I did not.  However, when I went to the garage mid-morning to check out the dampness, I was stunned to see that one of the sawhorses failed, and the other looks close to collapsing.  Too bad too, I like the portability of those sawhorses and the ease of storing them.

Near Breaking

Near Breaking

I guess my greed in taking as much wood as I thought I could transport home proved too much for the sawhorses.  In fact, after I got it out of the truck, I started wondering if it will fit in my basement storage area.  I knew I would not make a trip back down there until after the weather warmed up next spring, so I took as much as I could. I just had to have those large beautiful chunks of curly maple.

In retrospect, maybe just one less piece would have been okay …

#2 Yellow Wood Pencil

By , 17 March, 2010, 1 Comment

Identifying the most fundamental, basic and essential tool in the shop would be difficult.  But, I think that the yellow #2 wood pencil might get my vote.  From my earliest years, the yellow pencil symbolized achievement and creation.  The moment that you learn how to grasp with authority that slim instrument, and to master the ability to draw recognizable shapes and letters, you know as a child that you have crossed a bold line from little kid to adult skills.

Even today, my best thinking flows through the end of a yellow #2 wood pencil.  Although my days are filled with email and software development related tasks, no process better focuses the mind than moving away from the computer and jotting down notes on paper using the yellow pencil.  Psychological perhaps, but few things about the pencil distract you from your focus.  The computer waits upon your every command or whim with a myriad things to distract the point of your attention, and to erase fluid thought.

My oldest daughter, Jenny, collected pencils for a season.  Prized pencils come in bright colors with bold writing along the sides that remind you of someone’s value to the community.  Pencils covered with fluid shapes and colors grab the covetous nature within, but reject your intentions of use.  Purposing to sharpen such a creation produces inaudible screams of ruination within the mind, and so those works of art lay in boxes alongside other trophies of shopping expeditions, existing only to be shifted aside as the finger and eye probe for something useful, like a plain, solid color pencil.

Once acquired, a pencil belongs to one person.  An unspoken rule existed as a child that everyone knew in the core of his or her person.  You don’t take or use another person’s pencil.  Heck, the bite mark ornamentation of another’s pencil deterred any thought of touching it.  But, when you get right down to the core, maybe taking another’s pencil is sin.

Before marriage to Judy, I had a short-term painting job on a remodel.  Not possessing a vehicle, I got to the house by running the two miles each way.  I left my timesheet and my pencil on a closet shelf since I did not want to carry it back and forth every day.  One day a guy showed up to fix some other things at the house.  Amazingly, he found and stole my pencil!  Outraged, I pawed through his open toolbox in secret until I found one of his crappy pencils and with a dark cloud following me, I squirreled it away where he would not find it.  But, all night it bothered me that I had violated a cardinal rule.  You don’t take another’s pencil.

The next morning on my run to work, I stopped dead in my tracks when I spied two brand new sharpened yellow pencils lying on the sidewalk before me.  Surely, God has a sense of humor and gentle in His reproof.  I violated an innate rule for a measly two cent, half used pencil.  But He provided me with two new ones.  The message was clear — one for me, and one for the other thief.

Well, I ran around the office the other day looking for a plain old #2 yellow pencil, and only an abandoned one turned up.  Later, I went to the grocery store and purchased a 10-pack of brand new yellow Dixon pencils.  They were on sale, and I felt relieved to know that stores still sell them.  Two stayed in the office and the rest came home to the shop with me.

Of course there is a website about pencils.  Watch out though, they sell those fancy kind, including some that smell good.  But consider carefully before buying those crazy round pencils.  They will sit behind your ear as well as the hexagonal pencil, but round pencils require constant attention when you lay them down.  People with real jobs don’t have time to chase round pencils all day long as they yearn to fall off your table.  Get one that stays put, waiting and ready for you to pick it up again and get to work.

What about you?  Do you think best with a pencil?  Do you care if pencils exist or not?  I am at peace today, because I have 10 new #2 yellow wood pencils, and I know that I will be able to think and create for 10 pencils longer.

Wabbits and Wrenches

By , 25 February, 2010, 1 Comment

During the fall and winter of ’72, I worked as a roustabout in the oil fields of Gillette, Wyoming.  I found myself without work in the southwest corner of the state, and a friend persuaded me to consider working in the northeast part of the state as a roustabout.  Hourly rates paled in comparison to the previous job, but the number of overtime hours allowed me to leave Gillette with a large roll of bills in my pocket.

Due to decent pay and the fact that college degrees are not required, a lot of fellas found their way in and out of the various crews in the area.  My crew seemed better than some, and I found myself amongst mostly decent, caring people.  A roustabout fixes things, and performs maintenance tasks that do not require a great deal of skills, but you use some unusual tools.

We serviced oil pumps, rigs, storage tanks and the connections between them all.  Big pieces of metal and three or four inch pipe requires big tools like adjustable wrenches, pipe wrenches and pipe cutters.  We once spent a whole week assembling a pipe line to bury underground.  That three inch pipe required two 36 inch pipe wrenches to screw together the pieces with couplings.  Our crew had two wrenches of that size, one aluminum wrench and one made of solid steel.  Skirmishes were fought to be first guy to the aluminum wrench, because wrestling the steel wrench all day proved exhausting.

During the slow periods, my favorite time in the oil fields, we drove around from one oil rig to the next to check and service the units.  As the weather changed from fall to winter, the pump areas were soon covered with about six inches of snow.  In all that snow, cottontail rabbits stick out like sore thumbs and their normal agility is greatly impaired.  As we discussed catching rabbits one day, I took the 15 inch adjustable wrench I was holding and flung it at the rabbit sitting about 20 feet away.  My aim was short, but the inertia behind the wrench carried it all the way to the rabbit.  We were stunned and elated at my success and prowess when wrench collided with the rabbit.

A lot of hungry critters roam the open hills of that part of Wyoming and we left it there for the first one on the scene.  I eagerly wanted to test my wrench flinging skills, and the hunt was on.  We quickly learned that a 15 inch wrench is lethal and very difficult for a rabbit to avoid in that much snow.

We  easily bagged several rabbits and one of the guys taught me how to field dress rabbits in seconds without a knife and without getting messy.  Our best intentions were to leave the freezing field dressed rabbits on the truck, and then take them home to eat at the end of the day.  That did not happen.  We then shifted our focus to the older, alcoholic on our crew who spent every evening in the bar, and most of his money on drinks for him and his girlfriend.  We knew that he did not eat well, and we determined to hunt down food, lots of food for our poor, suffering friend.

After securing a large cardboard box, we took our wrenches and hunted with renewed passion.  It truly took only a few days to fill that box half full of rabbits, and the weather was cold enough to keep them frozen on the back of the truck.

Our needy friend Bill spurned our gift.  We immediately returned to our senses and the joy of the hunt evaporated.  And thus ended a winter of wounding wabbits with wrenches.

We all misuse our tools from time to time, no matter how appropriate it seems at the moment.  If you think that a hammer solves everything, or that screwdrivers work the same as chisels and pry bars, you will miss the point.  I love having tools, and especially to possess the right one for the need.  Sometimes that takes forethought and sometimes it takes patience until you can acquire the right tool.  It is pure fun to use the right tool.  Take a moment right now, think about what you need, get online and buy it.

Just kidding of course, ask your spouse first.