Photo credit: Christie Kitchens

July 8, 2020–We have a quarter-mile drive I’ve tried to repair for 25 years.

When dry, it’s dusty and bumpy; when wet, it’s a muddy obstacle course. I’m convinced it has ruined the suspension on all my vehicles.

Over the years we’ve patched it, bringing in loads of rock, pushing dirt around with a borrowed tractor. We’ve cleaned out the cattle guard twice–by hand–only to have it fill in after the next rain.

I finally hired a local guy to do it right. The day he arrived, I knew I had been playing tiddlywinks even thinking I had the skills and equipment to fix a road. He brought a grader, a skid steer, two rollers, a water truck, and a backhoe. Plus five truck loads of base and a lifetime of experience. Within a few days he built a dream path with smooth surface and three culverts to divert water. Now it feels like the scene in Cars after Lightning McQueen repairs the road through Radiator Springs.

We’re having the same experience with our fencing. I was running out of panels, pallets, and old barbecue grill grates to patch the holes in our perimeter fence. So I finally called in a crew.

We had dithered with fixing the fence ourselves. After all, I grew up on a farm and understood the concept, having helped my dad string barbed wire and build board fence. But we never seemed to have the time and desire to actually do it.

The very first day, in the very first hour, those guys tore out and hauled off 650 foot of old fencing. By noon the brush had been cleared and the posts had been welded and set in concrete. A job I couldn’t start in a quarter century, they finished in half a day.

Some people just have the gift. I don’t know where it comes from. I know it’s not hereditary, or at least it skips a generation. I call my son the engine whisperer. He can fix anything with a motor, from a leaf blower to a diesel truck.

One afternoon I was mowing when I struck a metal hinge hidden in the grass. The lawnmower clunked and stopped running. He looked up from his work and said, let me look at it. Within one minute (I timed it) he had completely disassembled the housing. He figured out the issue and put it all back together, pulled the rope, and it was running. But he wasn’t satisfied. He bent over and stuck a finger under the housing. Instantly the idling smoothed out.

He responded to my quizzical look by saying there is a spring controlling the carburetor that sometimes gets kinked. He had simply unkinked it.

It took him a total of five minutes.

The neighbor’s cows meet the new gate.

You all know similar examples. The plumber who rebuilds the collapsed sewer line; the roofer who takes the time to bend over the ends of the tin roof ridges; the HVAC guy who has the leaks soldered and the switch rewired before you have time to fetch the wasp spray. The vet who sucks a blockage out of a horse’s throat with her mouth.

All I do is rearrange words on a page. And the page doesn’t even really exist. I’m manipulating pixels. These guys and gals move dirt, turn wrenches, stretch wires, and build things.

All I can do is write about them.