Smatterings #3 – Peanuts and Jam

In this age of throwaway gadgets and modern technology, the art of good old elbow grease should not be dismissed so easily.

While growing up on our remote California farm, my father rarely, if ever, called a repairman for anything. First, we couldn’t afford one, and secondly, few existed in our small farming community. In fact, on top of everything else my father knew how to do, he became a self-taught television repairman. Back then, one didn’t just toss out the old TV and buy a new one—it just wasn’t practical. Everything from the toaster, to the television, to our washing machine was repaired until it couldn’t be, and then we usually went without for a long time. That’s where elbow grease paid off . . . we learned to fix things ourselves. And if the item was beyond repair, we found ourselves handwashing clothes, having bread for breakfast instead of toast, and reading books rather than watching television.

Although writers don’t usually need to print their manuscripts these days (most submissions are electronic), I still find myself printing pages, or editing notes, or other important things. So last week when my printer stopped dead in its tracks flashing “Paper Jam!” I didn’t panic. A paper jam is easy to fix. However, after a few hours of not finding a single scrap of paper while the printer kept insisting it had a jam, my frustration mounted. I just wanted to print my editing notes so that I could keep writing! I wrote less and less with my thoughts intensely focused on those missing notes.

A week passed with my intermittent bursts of hopeful repair work, all to no avail. So today, as I prepared to drive into town for the sole purpose of buying a new printer, I felt my father’s spiritual presence. I had to give it one more try. Now, two hours and several bits of smashed peanut later, my printer works like new–thanks Dad! With all the incredible technology today, it would have been very helpful if the printer had flashed “Peanut Jam!” instead. I’m just sayin’… Maybe the geniuses of the world are aiming too high.

I’ll admit, I will be rethinking eating peanuts at my desk from now on, or else I’ll keep the scavenging dogs out from under my desk where the printer works. Yes, I’m blaming it on the dogs for dropping that fugitive peanut into my printer.

All in all, I think it’s important to point out that elbow grease still works! Although I must admit, spending forty dollars on a new printer last week would have been much easier.


3 thoughts on “Smatterings #3 – Peanuts and Jam”

  1. For me, it would have been M&M peanuts, but I know what you mean.
    That’s terrific that your dad was so self-reliant. My wife’s father was like that — could fix anything or would kill himself trying.
    My own dad, however, was pretty helpless in that regard. He knew how to “make-do” — having been raised during the Great Depression and lived a VERY poor, hardscrabble life in rural Mississippi. But he’d never been around any type of machine, and had hardly handled tools. As a family, meaning the group I grew up in, we had one old handsaw, one hammer, a pipe wrench, a crescent wrench, pliers, wire cutters, tin snips, and a few screwdrivers. No specialty tools whatsoever… and certainly no power tools.
    Everything my dad made, or tried to make, was just knocked together with whatever scraps we could scrounge. He never bought an new lumber for anything. It is SO much easier to make something if you get the type and quantity of lumber you need for it!

    1. My parents grew up during America’s Great Depression, too, which is how I came upon the idea for my debut novel, SHADOW OF THE HAWK. It is set in my mother’s Arkansas birthplace where she lived in the 1920s and 1930s. Folks who lived during that era amaze me.

    2. Mostly it’s the irritated looks when I say I need to go somewhere that does not only serve pizza. I mean, really. Th8&2r#ee17;s more to life than pizza pie, people.

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