A little ‘sweat equity’ goes a long way

“What you need here, son, is a way to power the trolling motor from the rear battery,” Dad quipped as he rubbed his chin, then we drove down to the hardware store and found a blue electrical box (the kind you see installed in houses for wall plugs) and a couple of brass screws. He attached the box in the front of the boat and ran wires down the side to the back to connect to the battery. All I had to do was connect the motor to the brass screws and voila, the propeller spun.

“Now that’s a ‘Rube Goldberg’ for you!” He laughed. I thought that was some kind of name my dad made up to describe his innovations, and it was years before I learned Mr. Goldberg was an off-the-wall inventor of contraptions resembling the game, Mousetrap.

Weeks before, at our cabin at Reelfoot Lake, Tennessee, Dad made a deal with me concerning the old “Reelfoot Lake boat” we inherited from the previous owner.

“If you scrape the rust and barnacles off and clean her up, I’ll get it fiber-glassed and running.”

Agreeing, I was completely ignorant of the work before me. For years the boat slumbered in the boathouse, mud dauber nests dotted the inside and spider webs draped over the top; the hull pimpling with rust and barnacles. After dragging it out of the water to rest on blocks, I scraped the bottom for hours everyday for a week in the hot summer.  It was nasty, hot, and hard work—a seeming Sisyphean task.

Nowadays, we marvel at DIY’ers, record their shows, like their Facebook pages. Yet, when I was a kid, DIY was the way you lived. My grandparents grew most of our vegetables and canned what couldn’t keep. Dad built nearly anything and at least two weekends a month, I assisted on things like constructing decks, tiling patios, installing interior lights in our big boat, or crafting a fold down camping bed in our van. If he couldn’t find a part he needed, he fabricated it himself.

Ironically, today, as we watch our favorite DIY’er, landscape companies cut our yards. Mike Rowe, famous for his show Dirty Jobs, says as a generation “we are at war with work.” Physical labor has become something we avoid and hire out. Because of this, our kids lose the appreciation that grows from “sweat equity” and the practical know-how they could use as adults.

I want to make a deal with you, the next time something breaks at home, look it up on You Tube and try the repair yourself, and have the kids join you. If you do, I guarantee the pride and confidence of being able to fix, build, or craft something you need will definitely follow. As I puttered around the lake in my boat, I was the greatest captain around. Nobody owned a boat like that—one earned by the sweat of my brow, and because of that dirty job, I have confidence for more.

By Scott Gill of Rockwall, teacher, coach and author of Goliath Catfish. Follow Scott’s blog at puptentpapa.blogspot.com and read his “Front Porch Ramblings” at BlueRibbonNews.com.

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