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Tales of a Hay Hauler: Learn, share and be thankful

Published on 30 October 2018

First, wake up in the morning. That’s the first prerequisite to having a good day. If you work nights, waking up in the afternoon also works.

Realize there is something you can learn each day. An associate’s grandfather would ask all family members at the dinner table every evening, “What did you accomplish today?” The whole family was expecting the question and was usually prepared with a suitable answer.

“What did you learn today?” would be an excellent question to ask ourselves at the close of each day.

It wasn’t that long ago I noticed our friendly neighborhood barn swallows were feasting on wasps. I didn’t know they’d eat wasps. Feisty little birds. A couple of years ago, while out by my shop, I heard a squalling racket. I looked up, and one swallow was being pursued by a small hawk. Gaining fast on the hawk were about a dozen other swallows, squalling in outrage. I thought it would be disconcerting to the hawk’s catching lunch to have a dozen irate swallows plucking his tail feathers. I mentioned the chase to my wife, and she wanted me to do something about it because hawks were not allowed to eat her swallows.

Some of the people you meet are going to think you are a genius. Some are going to think you are the village idiot. To spend time and thought on either assessment of yourself will not be time well spent. They are probably both wrong. Not knowing an answer does not make you an idiot, nor does knowing an answer make you a genius. Knowing how to find correct answers is the key.

In a college biology lab, a student asked the lab assistant how the developing chick inside the egg gets its oxygen. It took the poor kid five minutes of using big words to say he didn’t really know. I shared with him after the lab that the eggshell is porous, and the big end of the shell allows atmospheric oxygen to enter and nourish the developing chick. I told him he owed me one because I could have easily embarrassed him to tears in front of the cute young lady who had posed the question – or he could have taken a few minutes and looked it up.

I once overheard a fellow complaining the local police department had it in for him; they were hassling him, giving him tickets and warnings for things that really didn’t matter. He was told there were three things that would cure this: Trade cars, move or change how he went about driving a car. I think the third suggestion was the only one the kid could afford. Oftentimes, the correct answer to a dilemma is not what we want to hear.

Another end-of-the-day question could be, “What knowledge did you share today?”

Years ago, a few of us were discussing how to sharpen a drill bit. An older fellow drove in off the road, looking for directions. Before he asked, he heard some of our discussion. His first words to us were, “Would you like me to show you how to sharpen a drill bit?”

To share a skill, or any knowledge, one must first have that skill or knowledge and be able to explain it so another can understand it. Then, the one receiving must want to gain the skill or knowledge offered. The fellow seemed to have a quiet confidence he knew what he was talking about. Having heard part of our discussion, he knew we wanted an understanding he had.

“Yes, please,” was our answer.

He spent 10 or 15 minutes with us explaining, then demonstrating and then watching as I held the bit in my hand and sharpened it on the grindstone. When he was satisfied with my work, he said, “The usual novice mistake is to leave the heel of the bevel higher than the cutting edge.” He then asked his directions and went on his way.

Delighted with my new knowledge, I sharpened my well-worn set of drill bits. The first time I needed one, it would not cut into the metal. I looked at it closely and realized it, and all the others, had the heel of the bevel higher than the cutting face. I’ve only made that novice mistake a dozen more times in the last 45 years.

I think most of us can recall some “aha” moments when someone took the time to share with us some understanding they had and we did not.

Art Norton was a little overweight, balding and had the classic “Roman nose.” His wife was a freckle-faced muted redhead who could stop traffic with her good looks. Teaching a group of 16- and 17-year-old boys, he shared this: “I once asked my wife why she married someone as homely as me when she could have had her pick of the good-looking guys. She said when she was out with them, all they thought about was themselves. She felt like she was there just to make them look good. It was different when she was with me; she said she felt like her wants and tastes were important. She felt like she was someone special when she was with me, and she said that was how she wanted to be treated the rest of her life.” 

As we surround the turkey this year, give some thought and maybe even a phone call to someone who made a difference in our lives.  end mark



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