Learning, in my own way


I just came up from the basement and feel a little unclean. We
recently hired Ross Cota from Dorothy, Minnesota to cut open the basement floor and lay down
drain tile under the concrete floor. As a result of all that
construction, there is a fine layer of dust that will now forever
exist in that space, minus the load I just brought up on my clothes,
in my nose and nestled in my lungs. The basement looked so nice after
Ross finished that I decided it no longer need to be cloaked in the
eternal darkness of one tiny light bulb. I spent the morning
installing new lights and it’s actually a pleasure to view our
basement. Ross found a little butter knife underneath the concrete
when he cut open the floor. I don’t know how long ago the concrete
was poured but our house was built in 1921 so that might be some
indication. Anyway, it has no markings but I would venture a guess
that it was left there by the fellow who laid the concrete. I would
guess it had little expectation of ever seeing daylight again however
it is sitting in our dish drainer today.

When I was young, I always saw a tradesman (carpenter, electrician,
blacksmith) as a sort of shaman. They came to our farm, performed
mysterious tasks of their chosen art, then left. I remember Art
Thompson from Viking, Minnesota  putting in shelves, Ralph Rundell from Grygla on electrical tasks and Erling Hegg back in Viking doing repair and welding. Dad always told me to stay out of their way (with good reason) but I usually was
able to watch some of the fantastic feats they performed. I remember
being underfoot when Davidson’s drilled a well at our farm in the mid
seventies. Jeff Davidson drilled a well at our place a few years ago
and I joked with him that I would make sure I stayed out of the way
but that I would like to watch. Jeff said he remembered drilling the
well at my folks place and that I could watch as much as I wanted. Watching
another person drill a well isn’t as interesting when you are in your
mid forties as when you are a child. I lost interest fairly soon but
it was nice to talk to Jeff. He explained the process to me and even
showed me the drill bit, used worldwide, that was patented by Howard
Hughes Sr, father to his famous son.

I got to help Ross in our basement with the drainage and it was kind
of fun. Ross had a lot of good stories and although I stayed out of his
way, I learned quite a bit by helping him do it right. I will never
drill a well but Jeff Davidson from Newolfen helped me understand the process which
gaves me more a feeling of ownership. I dabble in the black arts of
electrical, and welding and truly enjoy building with wood. All of
these activities began with watching someone else. All have enriched
my life and kept my mind lively.

I’ve always heard that by spreading yourself too thin, you may become
a jack of all trades and a master of none. I will accept that risk.
The challenge of learning a new task, performing it poorly, then
taking it apart and doing it correctly makes me feel accomplished and
happy. I would rather feel challenged as a jack than bored as a master.
Life should be filled with challenge, not apathy. Thanks to all of those tradesmen, past
and future, who’ve helped me with their effort and educated me by
example.I will try to stay out of your way.

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