Friday, January 1, 2016

Nuts and Bolts

My brother and his wife attend a lot of estate sales.  For my UK pals I should explain that these are not sales held at Stately Houses.  No, these are more along the lines of what you would call "Jumble Sales" held after the residents of the usually modest abodes have died or gone off to a care center. Everything gets hauled out and sold off.

In any house with a male presence you can expect to see containers of nuts, bolts, nails and screws. They will be numerous. They will be in the garage or basement. They will be carefully sorted by size. There will be more of them than any reasonable person could have needed.  They have effectively zero value and my brother says he has picked up enough of these that I can have as many as I want. All that hardware was carefully selected for specific projects.  Now it is scrap metal.

So why do Old Guys sort out nuts and bolts?

I thought on that point the other day, as I was doing that very thing.

Here's a batch of quarter inch bolts...plink....plink...plink.  If you went back a generation or two it might be fair to say that most men did work with their hands.  Not all were blacksmiths or assembly line workers.  But even if you ran a store, or farmed, or worked for the local utility company, you had solid metal in your hands in your daily labors.  They may have continued to sort and organize out of simple force of habit.

Here's a strata of larger three eighths stuff....plonk...thud...plonk.  They were men of substance our fathers and grandfathers.  They would have regarded smart phones as clever toys and the information age as largely irrelevant folly.  It has been and will continue to be agonizing to see these strong men with strong hands fade and fail.  Perhaps to some extent they felt it coming.  The vision not quite sharp enough to tell fine thread from coarse.  The faint speckles of paint on those washers recalled a project from many years ago, but which one was it?  Maybe they decided to organize things in the workshop to make it easier for themselves.

What was I doing with these huge half inch nuts and bolts? This was over engineering even back in the day when I was making ambitious stuff.  They make a distinctive noise...clank...clank...clank.Usually you find Old Guy Hoards in coffee cans or mayonnaise jars.  I have most of my stuff sorted out into a series of wood and metal boxes that were once drawers in a long vanished workshop bench. It was there when we bought the house thirty years ago, and it was not new then.  When one of my sons started to show eldritch mechanical skills at a young age we needed a place for him to work. I tore out the bench and built one suited to his height.  The drawers I kept, they were still useful. Perhaps some old guys, another morning of post retirement stretching idly before them, thought about how it would be handy if their son or grandson ever needed some parts.  No sense making them fumble around looking for stuff.

And so comes another year.  The generation above me wavers and fades.  My wife and I dig in and hold our ground doggedly.  Our children are ascendant, reaching to take up the tools of the modern age and build with them.

And the generation that follows......moon faced and happy, a grinning audience for our grand parental antics.  Too small for a work bench of course.

The workshop is cleaned up and everything is sorted out nicely.  2016 will be a different year. It will be a jumbled mixture I suspect.  Work, play, family obligations.  I hope for good health and the time to sort it all out.  Plink, plonk, clank....everything into its designated container.  The next generations will find that I have put things into good order and if I am fortunate, will consider my efforts to be worth more than scrap metal prices.


Lee R. said...

Fabulously interesting blog. Stumbled upon it while looking up the Schmidmeyer brewery. Nice work!

Tacitus2 said...

Thanks. I am actually familiar with your stuff on eastern WI breweries. Hey, the annual baseball and brewery cave tour will be heading your way this summer, we should get together for a glass of, oh, I dunno...