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Nuts And Bolts

I love nuts, bolts and hardware so much that we came real close 40 years ago to opening a hardware store in our small town. Instead we opened a stationery store and someone else opened the hardware store. We made a little money but the hardware store owner struck a gold mine and is now living on his 200 foot yacht off the coast of Greece.

I love hardware stores and by that I don’t mean Home Depot, Lowe’s, Menards or Tractor Supply, all great stores, one and all. But we live 30 minutes away from the nearest Home Depot, which means it’s a one hour trip to buy one carriage bolt or a bar of Lava Soap. (Can you believe our local grocery store doesn’t sell Lava? They must figure no one works hard enough to get their hands dirty any more. And they may be right!)

When I say hardware store I’m talking about the ones that serve small rural communities. In many respects ours is very much like the general store of yesteryear where you can buy pet food, rhododendrons, Carhartt hoodies, soda pop, 5 hour energy drinks, candy bars and deck screws all in one place. Ours even has an all new frozen food section for recently divorced men who want to buy their dinner in the same store they buy their chainsaws.

Our local hardware store is bulging at the seams so every morning they move out plants, barbecue pits, patio furniture and even dinosaurs for the garden, so the sidewalk out front looks like a Tijuana swap meet! Our local hardware store doesn’t sell beer and wine yet but they do give away free popcorn on the weekend which draws customers like donuts do cops. There’s just something about the smell of popcorn drenched in butter that makes you want to buy a $300 leaf blower.

Over the years I’ve collected my own hardware store of sorts with a giant collection of nuts, bolts, hinges, washers, refrigerator lightbulbs, bearings, padlocks, bug spray, metric sockets, O rings, and WD 40. (You can never have enough WD 40!) I’m so well stocked that on rare occasions when the hardware store doesn’t have something they send the customer to my house.

Normally, I’d rather have a root canal than go shopping so while my wife buys our necessities in the grocery and drugstores I’m getting in a little retail therapy getting blisters on my MasterCard in the hardware store doing the same thing, buying necessities like air freshener for the car and sacks of bulk nails. Even though, with the advent of nail guns, no one has hammered in a nail since 1982.

The best part of having a local hardware store is that when the rubber flap thingy in the back of the toilet breaks you can’t wait for Amazon to deliver a replacement part, or make multiple trips to Home Depot and waste an hour in trip time and another waiting for a salesperson to help you. I wouldn’t live near a town that didn’t have its own hardware store and here’s why.

Recently the faucet in my bathroom sprung a gusher and I thought it would be an easy fix, even though it was 35 years old. I thought all I needed was the rubber washer on the bottom. When I took it back the first time the sales “associate,” (that’s what it said on her badge) said I’d merely bought the wrong washer. In my second trip back the associate suggested I buy the entire stem, which, much to my chagrin, was also the wrong size. Ditto the third and fourth trips. On the fifth trip I wore a disguise and waited until the associate who’d helped me earlier was on her break. The new associate suggested a different fix but I never did get the right part. I decided to go to a store on my next trip into a bigger town to avoid further embarrassment.

A few days later when I took the wrong part back to our local hardware store for a refund thankfully the clerk didn’t recognize me. I apologized and said, “I must hold the record for having to come back to the hardware store the most times on the same day.”

She just laughed and said, “No, I just heard on my break about one idiot who had to come back five times!”

Can you imagine that? I’m afraid I can.

Wee Thanksgiving

How do you explain Thanksgiving to a 3 year old?

“A long time ago…”

“Yesterday?”

“No, more than yesterday. A bunch of people came in a big boat…”

“Pirates?”

“No, good guys and mamas and babies…”

“And boys, too?”

“Yup, and boys, too. But when they got in the woods they were hungry but they didn’t know what to eat.”

“And they had bears in the woods, and tigers.”

“Probably, but they didn’t see them. So they were hungry and walked around looking for something to eat. And then came the Indians who lived in the woods.”

“With… with bows and arrows and shooting…?”

“No, no. The Indians said they would help them find something good to eat…”

“Like fruit bars and pop tarts and chickanuggets…”

“Well, the Indians said they should have a picnic and so the Indians got some turkeys to eat and they cooked’em and made fry bread and corn on the cob…”

“But no peas, but some cottage cheese and bread and honey…”

“Right, so they made a big table…”

“On the blanket…”

“Yeah, no table, just a big blanket and they all ate and ate till their stomachs were full…”

“And the little boys, too?”

“And the little boys and little girls and little boy and girl Indians, all of ’em ate… and then took a nap.”

“But the little boys no wanna take a nap. Little boys wanna play with bows and arrows.”

“Okay, but when everyone woke up they were happy. So the Indians shook hands and they all said Thanksgiving to each other and Thanksgiving to God…”

“And to Jesus and Pastor Mike and Grandmother Phyllis and to all the little boys.”

“Yup, and they said it was so much fun, let’s do it next year.”

“And tomorra or free days.”

“So now every year we have Thanksgiving with friends and eat a lot and say thanks for the blessings we have.”

“Bessing? What looks like, a bessing?”

“A blessing? Sometimes it looks like a little boy.”

“Like me?”

“Yup, sometimes it looks just like you.”

Lessons for the church lady

Neighbors who had ties to our church — though they were not members and no longer attended — had experienced a string of “bad luck” that would have done any soap opera writer proud. It would have been funny if it was on a sitcom, but the incidents were true.

A town friend from church called me one day and she wanted to make plans to visit the family, taking me along as I knew them better and knew where they lived out in the country. Of course, we took food, as that is what church people do. The church lady thought we should take lunch and go at noon. We called the family and made the arrangements. I took a salad to round out the food she was going to bring.

The church lady, a generous hostess at her home, brought along food for three of us, the mother in the home, herself and me. The stickler was the husband, a farmer who worked at home was also present, making the portions skimpy. I was puzzled by how little the church lady supplied, yet we managed.

After we left, the church lady mentioned she wished she had known the man of the house was

going to be there to eat with us; she would have brought more food. It never dawned on me to bring up the fact that he would be there. She had been to our home several times and knew that part of my daily activities included cooking lunch for my husband and any banker, machinery or feed salesman who happened by at noon. I had to bite my tongue because I wanted to ask her where she thought the husband would eat. At McDonald’s out in the cornfield in front of their house? In reality it is 55 miles to the nearest McDonald’s and 30 miles to a local cafe.

After recalling an earlier excursion with the same church lady, we had happened upon a small cattle drive on a rural road. Two ranchers were moving their cattle from one pasture to another and they trailed them horseback. As we slowly drove through the herd, she said to me, “Is that how they always move cows or are they doing so on horses because it’s fun?”

As recollections go, these scenarios weren’t big occurrences in my life, yet the impressions seemed to be lasting and have prompted me to write about what city people should know about rural life.

Rangeviews

Do you ever wonder how circumstances come together to change the life of another person? We hear, “I was just there at the right time.” How did it come to be? Does God guide us to it, without pushing? Or do the actions just “happen?”

Our sons went on a trip to Montana with their grandparents one summer. On one of their meal stops, while they were going through the salad bar, they noticed a woman was choking. Although people recognized the problem, initially no one responded. Then our son 11-year-old son went into action. He could see the woman was still breathing, but just barely, and she was obviously in distress. The 100-pound young man wrapped his arms around the medium sized woman, picked her up off the ground, and performed the Heimlich Maneuver the best that he could; his arms just weren’t quite long enough to get a solid hold. Another bystander came up and started hitting the woman on her back. With help from the two, she coughed up the crouton that had been lodged in her throat. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. How’s that for teamwork?

The next story isn’t as dramatic nor quick, yet it is amazing to me.

During college I was one of five or six in a small Bible study group. We were just random students who happened to come together once a week. One of the men stuttered badly. We waited until he finished his sentences and continued on with the discussions. His stuttering bothered only him. We didn’t pay much attention after the first meeting as the stutter was simply part of him. We knew we all had our quirks and that his was just more obvious than some of ours. At the end of the semester he mentioned he was going to change colleges so he could pursue a major that wasn’t offered at Central. Due to his stutter he didn’t think he could achieve his goals and the major he wanted, so he had settled for his second choice.

Then, he did something that touched us all. He told us the reason he stuttered was his dad was horribly mean to him and his speech impediment got worse over time. He told us that although he was hesitant to attend a Bible study where he knew he would have to talk, he came anyway. He thanked us for our patience and reminded us that he no longer stuttered. He said that it was the acceptance he felt from the group that helped him overcome his problem. He gave credit to us for helping him, yet each of us knew that God is the one who fixed the problem; we were simply vessels. I will add him to my list of miracles I have personally witnessed.

If you think about it, each one of you have likely done or said something that changed someone else’s life. Today I challenge you to consider the ways your positive actions have influenced others. And clap for yourself.