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Tales of a Hay Hauler: Bits and pieces of sound advice

Brad Nelson Published on 31 December 2015

“When you use a file to sharpen a knife, push it so you cut with the file moving away from the edge. When you use a sharpening stone, move either the stone or the blade so that the sharp edge of the blade moves toward the stone.”

This is something my Dad taught me when I was about 8 years old. He also told me that a file would shape the edge of the blade and leave it jagged but would never get it sharp. That’s what a whetstone was for.

  • Telling someone that something they’ve done or made is wonderful will not make them feel good when you both know that whatever the project was, the result is a last-minute scabbed-together mess. No matter the age of the person getting the false praise, they will view you as either hopelessly naïve or a blatant liar.

  • When you’re driving a vehicle or piece of machinery that has a grabby clutch, use this trick: Park the heel of your clutch foot on the floorboard so that you can rock your foot slowly off the clutch pedal and slowly, gently engage it so it doesn’t jerk.

    This works way better than trying for a smooth start by lifting your whole clutch leg as you engage the clutch.

  • When a stranger calls looking for a load of hay, make sure you find out what he intends to feed this hay to. Find out what type and quality of hay he’s been feeding. Find out where he’s been getting hay, and why that supplier can’t or won’t bring him hay. Find out when and how he intends to pay for this hay.

  • Listen to people you trust. When Elli and I were dating, she introduced me to her grandfather. He was in his 80s and still spoke with a thick Flemish accent. She told me later that he told her to “hang on to that one.” She said she told him that she intended to, and she did.

  • “Nothing” doesn’t always mean “nothing.” Like when there’s a squalling commotion coming from the other end of the house, and you shout out, “What’s going on up there?” When the answer is a too-quiet “nothing,” you’d better go check.

  • Selective hearing is real – but also misunderstood. When correcting a dangerous behavior, realize that voice volume and an appearance of anger causes the person receiving the correction to automatically switch to selective hearing. Their hearing channels what they see and hear into the fight-or-flight part of the brain.

    That kind of decision-making takes up so much space of thought, deciding if physical defense or physical escape will be necessary, that practically nothing will be retained about why the pan of bacon grease needs to be moved from the hot spot on the stove immediately after the bacon is removed from it.

  • Teasing can be hurtful. Merrill Warnick of Pleasant Grove, Utah, spoke to me in private when I was just a few months into my first year of marriage. I’m not sure I ever told him how much I appreciated the advice he gave me. He told me that what I thought was teasing was hurtful to my wife.

    It shocked me that someone in his 70s would notice and that someone I thought I barely knew would be so kind as to let me know what he observed. I hope the correction I made was adequate.

  • Learn to laugh at yourself. It’s not often that I get caught in a practical joke, but the few times I have, I end up laughing just as hard as the perpetrators. That seems to move me from the “most-favored victim” list. It’s more fun to pull a fast one on someone who will go ballistic.

  • If someone disagrees with you, listen to him. There’s an off-chance that he (or she) has seen the problem or project from somewhere you’ve never been. Listen to understand why the other person feels as he or she does. Don’t interrupt.

    There’s also an off-chance that by being allowed to explain their position uninterrupted, and without being threatened, they may hear their own words explaining how they are in error. In a worst-case scenario, you’ll have their respect because you allowed them to state their case uninterrupted.

  • An old man who is the last member of the group to speak may have the answer everyone has been looking for. Years back, a group of us were in a shop near a highway discussing how to properly sharpen a drill bit. An older fellow had pulled off the highway to ask directions. He listened to our discussion without comment.

    When we realized he was there, we stopped talking and looked toward him to see what he needed. He said, “Would you fellows like me to show you how to sharpen a drill bit?” By asking the question as he did, we realized that he knew what he was talking about, and I wisely replied, “Please do.”

In 10 minutes he showed me how to hold the bit and how to move it on the grindstone so that when finished it would cut steel like a brand-new bit. I hope I thanked him. I became the person people ask to sharpen drill bits and show them how.  FG