Commentary by Bill Buchanan
If starting a car involved anything more than inserting the key in the ignition and putting it in gear, I would just have walk. To say that I have no mechanical aptitude is like saying that Ernest Hemingway drank a little. In that respect, I am a dismal failure as Southern male of my generation.
I grew up around guys who rebuilt cars, repaired sinks, mended fences, and drove heavy equipment. My Uncle John could fix anything, and given enough duct tape, bailing wire and twine, could probably have rebuilt the Libbey Bowl by himself.
Many of the guys I grew up with worked on cars. These shade tree mechanics would talk for hours about carburetors, manifolds and alternators while I sat there as silent as a lost ball in the tall weeds.
It’s not that I can’t learn to operate equipment. I had little trouble learning to drive (although if my mother were alive she might beg to differ). I worked at a steel mill one summer and learned to run a variety of machines. I would even say I became proficient on a few; although the fact that I almost cut my finger off on one of those machines might weaken that argument somewhat. It was at the steel mill that I became an ace forklift operator. I could pick up a load of steel and set it down on a dime. Later on, I flew an airplane a couple of times and loved it. I might have earned my license if it were not for all the tedious studying and mechanical knowledge that was necessary. I hated the book work, and dropped the lessons.
But if something breaks, I have no clue. It stays broken until someone else fixes it. I am not one of those people who can take something apart, look down in it, and say, “Ah, there’s the problem. Hand me those needle-nose pliers and we’ll get this fixed in a jiffy.” Instead, I’m the guy that says, “If cursing at this thing for 10 minutes doesn’t fix it, we need to call somebody.”
Fortunately, the person I usually call is my wife, Ava. She is incredibly adept at home repair. One of the best gifts I ever gave my wife was a complete set of Craftsman drill bits. Her eyes lit up like I had handed her the Hope Diamond. Ava does a lot of community theater and after her final performance she will always be found, with drill in hand, striking the set. Her newest toy is a pole trimmer with an extension that allows her to trim limbs and vines 18 feet high. She is like a kid at Christmas with that thing.
At various times, Ava has re-plumbed toilets; unclogged sinks and garbage disposals; fixed flats; painted almost every place we have ever lived; refinished furniture; reupholstered chairs; rewired lamps; installed electrical fixtures; caulked windows and bathtubs; and mended fences. She became skilled at repairing screen doors as the result of a German shepherd we used to own. Baby was terrified of storms, and would tear through the screen door every time it thundered. The list goes on, but it’s accurate to say that Ava has saved us thousands of dollars over the years that would have been spent hiring repairmen.
Ava even fixed a hole in a sheet-rock wall several years ago. She went to the lumberyard, and spoke at length with a salesman about how to repair the hole, and what materials she would need for the job. When the guy asked Ava, “Now, how big is this hole?” Ava replied, “About the size of a man’s fist.”
But that is a story for another time.