What Happened to Using Our Own Hands?

I was thinking about my dad as I contemplated the wonderful campers that we recently looked at and their enormous price tags. If my dad were alive, he could take some metal sheeting, plywood, a spool of thread and some wiring and create it for me.

No joke.

My dad made the camper we had when I was a child. He made his own tractor. He even made our bicycles.

Again, I’m not kidding about this. He thought the modern tractors of his time had a much too narrow wheel base and packed the dirt. So he invented his own which reminded me a little of a piece of equipment road crews use – I think they refer to it as a Pan. It was very long, with tiny tires on the front. He picked out the engine, the seat, the steering wheel, everything. And then one day from the shed, beneath his Darth Vader style welding helmet, he assembled the parts. (He is so upset with my word usage, even from Heaven, as I’m sure he must think his daughter should know the correct terminology for these things. Sorry dad, I didn’t get that part of your DNA!)

We had to choose the wheels we liked for our bicycles, the handlebars, the seat, the tassels, the color. Then, he made the bicycle from our specifications.
So, I’m quite sure another camper would be no problem.

But my family knew how to create things. The house I grew up in was built by my mother’s father and his construction partner. The cabinets and shelving inside were all built by my dad’s dad who owned his own cabinet shop. My dad’s youngest brother taught at A-B Tech in Asheville, NC then went on to produce by hand some of the furniture you see in the Heritage Houses. His wife created the coverings and quilts. He was attentive to details and tried to create authentic pieces in the manner by which they might have been created in that era. I am astounded even now.

I suppose I take after my grandmothers. I can cook, garden, and write. I am the polar opposite of an engineer, although I can assemble items that require it because I can read instructions. There is no internal compass that speaks to me about how things should fit together. But I can follow instructions and often hook up the electronics when that is necessary.

That’s the extent of my talent.

I rarely recall plumbers being called to the house or electricians. My father fixed everything with an innate understanding of how it all worked. I’m still in awe.

Once he fell from the roof of a building he was working on all the way to the concrete below, crushing bone in one leg, his back and probably other places that healed while he lay in the hospital. He came home with braces and crutches after months of hospitalization. While he was recuperating, he made a ship inside of a bottle. He couldn’t not create.

Today, we don’t know how to repair anything. When something stops working we chuck it in the garbage and buy another. My dad would be furious about that.

What happens when the next generation learns even less than this one? What has happened to creating objects with our own hands?

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  1. You are so lucky to have a dad who could create with his hands. Building things and fixing things are not my father’s strong suit. He is an incredible musician and can tell a joke better than anyone I know, but fix something? No. I remember once I called to tell him that the toilet was flowing all over the floor and asked if he could come quick and help. He said, “Annie, that’s why they created the yellow pages!”

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