I made a couple of big purchases here on the ranch last week. My wife found us a new welding helmet at the local hardware store, and, while standing high on the tire of a tractor to massage a weak cell phone signal, I negotiated a trade-in of our double 9-foot sickle bar mower.
The two seem a little contradictory. Why buy a helmet to make arc welding easier when you just traded for a piece of new equipment that should require fewer welded fixes? Well, we have plenty of other equipment on the place in need of welding and patching. It’ll get used. And my old helmet was pretty well shot. My eyeballs needed the protection, and welding with my eyes closed wasn’t improving the quality of my work any.
The helmet was a step up. It’s our first one with the auto lens darkening technology so you don’t have to do the ol’ left hand lens flip maneuver after you start welding. Pretty fancy, but not as fancy as the designs on the side of this helmet.
I’m really proud of our little hometown hardware store. I always said you can’t stump them. They have everything you need, lots of some things, and at least one of anything else you might imagine.
So when my old helmet went completely kaput, I asked my wife, “check at the hardware store, you never know.” Sure enough, they had one. One. I was ready to go auto darkening and it had that. It also had orange and yellow flames on the side with a flaming human skull that had a chain clenched in its burning bony teeth.
She brought it home. “Wow,” I said, “that’s quite a helmet.” She told me it was the only one they had, but they could order one with a different design if I wanted. My last helmet was dark red, Dad’s before that one was gray. “Let’s keep it,” I said, “maybe it’s time we spice things up a little in the Taylor shop.”
I began to get curious about my new look. So I typed “flaming skull” into Google to see what kind of fraternity I was joining as I began laying down a bead of weld on our latest breakdown.
Turns out those flaming skulls are pretty popular in the tattoo world. As one site recommended for aspiring tattoo wearers who wanted to look tough, “no way easier to do that than with a flaming skull tattoo.” Right on, brother. Tough. That’s me.
There is some wiggle room in the interpretation of flames and skulls, though. Flames represent destruction and evil, but can also mean rebirth, transformation, light and warmth. OK, we can work with that.
Skulls represent death, but can also mean ... death. I kept looking. Skulls can also show fearlessness and intimidation. Skulls are unafraid of anything.
So, I think I’ve got my new look justified. I fear no breakdown as I don my new helmet, face destruction and bring about the rebirth and transformation of cracked steel. I intimidate my children a little, should they walk in while I’m welding. It’s probably good to scare them off because they shouldn’t be there while I’m welding anyway. It might be better to keep them out with the helmet than always saying, “Don’t look, kids. It’ll burn blisters on your eyeballs.” That’s scary too.
Oh, and the new double 9-foot sickle bar mower? It’s red. And it cuts hay. That’s about it.
I hope it’ll be many years before that mower has to be backed up to the shop to face me and the flaming skulls. ❖