3 boys, or one husband, equals no help
The great Canadian philosopher Red Green (Steve Smith) once said, “The smart handyman knows that your best projects are done alone. That way, there’s nobody there trying to tell you how stupid or impossible they are.”
I have tested this axiom and found it true, as both helper and helpee.
Remember team projects in school? You always tried to get into the group with that one kid so concerned about his grades and the work getting done right that he would do the whole thing himself.
I hated being that kid.
And I wasn’t at home on the farm. My dad chased us kids all over our 30-acre farm with shovels, pitchforks, cattle ropes, tractors, hay wagons, milk buckets, hammers and grease guns, intent on teaching us how to use each and every tool to do yet another never-ending job.
This obsession of his to force us to do chores was aggravating — especially for him. I heard him moan to one of my uncles, “One boy equals half a man, two boys equals half a boy and three boys equals no help at all.”
I thought Dad was just rotten at math. It wasn’t until I became a father myself that I finally figured out the calculations: The simple thing is to do the job yourself so that it gets done; the hard thing is to teach the boy how to become a man.
Dad still harbors hope that someday he’ll be successful with me. But if that means using the grease gun to lubricate machinery instead of squirting my brothers, I’m in no hurry to grow up.
Instead, I drive my wife nuts. Terry and I make a great team — as long as one of us is sitting on the bench.
If we work individually, a job might take an hour to complete.
If we work together on the project, it takes three hours, possibly five, depending on how much time we invest, uh, enthusiastically discussing the finer details: “WHAT are you doing? No, no, no! Stop. It doesn’t fit there! Give that to me! Just go watch cartoons and let me finish this.”
I have found that on any given job, there are two ways to accomplish a task — just get it done (my way), or the right way (her method), which usually ends up in me getting to watch cartoons.
Her way is prettier. My way is faster.
Her way lasts longer. My way means that about the time you get bored with something and want to change it, it’s no big deal because it just fell apart anyway.
Her philosophy is any job worth doing is worth researching. Endlessly. With every YouTube how-to video and Wikipedia article one can find. I’m busy watching my other projects fall apart before she’s finally ready to start the next one.
My philosophy is, “Slap it together and if it doesn’t work, we’ll always think it should have.” It adds a certain sense of excitement, even an element of danger, to the operation. Sometimes you even get to see firetrucks.
This is yet another reason why the smart handyman knows that your best enterprises are done alone — unless you can get two other boys and some grease guns to help. Then you’ll be too busy for them to tell you how impossible or stupid your project is.
And maybe this time, the firefighters will let you take the firetruck for a spin after they’ve extinguished your latest project.
• Help Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org, the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook or @BurtonWCole on Twitter.