At the Master’s Feet

Husband grew up with a father who had virtually no mechanical skills. Husband never could watch anyone fix anything when he was a child, and has a hard time, even now, knowing how make repairs without considerable anxiety and error. His father’s lack of mechanical skill was a trait shared by his father’s older brother, who was an engineer at a nuclear power plant in Chillicothe, OH. He needed help installing a blade in an Atra razor, yet he was in charge of a power plant. I marvel at that still.

I consider myself lucky to have had a dad who loved it when I watched him fix things. He did all his own plumbing, electrical, and automotive work, and I watched him as often as I could, fascinated in how tools worked, how he planned and strategized, and how he problem solved when things didn’t work out as planned.

Our recent adventure in plumbing gave Husband a chance to observe a master at work. Husband spent all day as our plumber’s helper, handing him tools, watching him assemble and solder things, and helping him install pipe. He had a lot of fun and learned a lot. When, the next day, our garbage disposal stopped working, he was calm, tried resetting the breaker in the basement, tried using the tool provided with the disposal to unstick the blades in the case of them being stuck, and then decided that our 15 year old disposal needed to be replaced. I agreed with him, but thought about it a minute, and then searched under the disposal for a button I wasn’t sure was there, found it, pushed it, and heard the disposal whirr back in to business. The reset button had tripped. Husband had the grace to laugh and think kindly of my button pushing skills, as that is what a lot of repair is-randomly pushing buttons to see what will happen, It always seems to work for me.

What master craftspeople would you like to watch? Who pushes your buttons?

49 thoughts on “At the Master’s Feet”

  1. I think I need a low-level tech wizard. I can fix many things, plumbing, electric, automotive and easy carpentry, but I can’t program a smart TV. We retired 3 years ago and moved to America from Taiwan. We didn’t bring any tech beyond laptops. Now we’re knee deep in smart phones, blue tooth this & that, and the Smart TV. All these things were present in Taiwan as well, but we hardly used them because the old stuff we’d been subsisting on since 1982 still worked.
    When the internet guy hooked us up in 2018, he told us to look at the screen while he worked the remote without even looking at it. Everything went by so fast that we learned nothing. We haven’t gotten much better since then. I need that low level tech person (whom I don’t thing exists) to come and teach this old fossil how to navigate the world of wires.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. I completely understand. While I’m very good at getting software to do what I need to do (because I’m good at trial and error), the hardware functionalities drive me crazy. I don’t know what the error messages mean and I don’t really want to. Of course having a young adult in the house doesn’t always help. She would rather just take charge and do it rather than try to show me how, so I end up learning nothing.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. The thing about error messages is that they don’t always reflect what is really wrong—there are a limited number of messages and an infinite number of things that could go wrong. They let you know something is wrong and may offer a clue as to where but it’s best to work it out logically. Often, when I have been working on some functional problem for a long time, I discover that the problem was something simple that I have repeatedly overlooked.

        Liked by 4 people

  2. The Twilight Zone production team. Even after multiple viewings, I’m still impressed.
    Mostly, in one sense, I push my own buttons.
    In the other sense, 45 and his Big Lie supporters.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. My father in law once neglected to get the oil changed in his car. For years. He didn’t even bother to have someone else do it. He was genuinely surprised when the car broke down when they were on a road trip and he had to buy a new car.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. When I was much much younger I used to change the oil in my cars myself. I even had ramps so that I could get under the car easily. But now that I’m older and cars have gotten so much more complicated, including the fact that my current car takes synthetic oil, I am happy to pay someone else to do it these days.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I used to change oil and do a lot of other repair work on our cars out of necessity but cars were simpler then and I never really enjoyed it. Now if I crawled under the car someone would have to pull me back out. I fix a lot of things around the house but I’m happy to hire out car repair.

        Liked by 6 people

        1. There was a day when you could and needed to get into the engine compartment to fix things. The engine was this little thing way down at the bottom
          Clyde

          Liked by 3 people

  4. I kind of like to let masters do what they do but I will admit that I occasionally like to watch cake decorating videos on YouTube every now and then. This is despite the fact that I would be considered a master and have even won a medal in a competition in Milwaukee many years ago.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. I like to watch The Repair Shop on TV- mostly for the drama but also for the variety of fine skills the repairpersons exhibit and the items they are given to repair.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Another fascinating show (for us), though there was only one season, was A Stitch in Time, where fashion historian Amber Butchart looks at a garment represented usually in a painting, talks about it, and then some master seamstresses recreate it using only period-authentic techniques.

      Liked by 4 people

        1. My mind is officially blown! What a truly bizarre item to save. Are you planning on donating it to a museum?

          Seriously, I have no idea what maternity underwear of the era might have had as special features other than perhaps a soft and flexible insert in front. Truth be told, I’ve never seen maternity underwear of any era. Why was a trip to the outhouse labor intensive? This is the weirdest damn rabbit hole, and I’m contemplating whether to go there. Thanks, Jacque, I think.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Underwear is something that doesn’t usually get saved. You can’t repurpose it and nobody wants your old underwear. Maybe the Goldstein Gallery at the U of M, St. Paul, would be interested.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Hey PJ, I guess that pushed your buttons.

          I found this thing in my mother’s belongings when I cleaned out her home in 2008-2009. I did not know what they were. She seemed to have hoarded a few of grandma’s things, and that was one of them. I have not known what to do with them, so there they sit. I will take Bill’s suggestion and contact the Goldstein Gallery. That is a great idea.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. Nah, didn’t push my buttons at all, but certainly roused my curiosity. Like Bill said, it’s the sort of thing that most people don’t save, so it just might be something people would be interested in. I was thinking that perhaps Minnesota Historical Society might also have an interest. Surely it’s worth exploring at this juncture rather than just tossing. Keep us posted. I’d be interested if you find a taker.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. I used to watch my mom sew, and am still fascinated by how the 2-dimensional fabric is transformed into a 3-dimensional garment. At first reading patterns is like reading a foreign language, but with practice you learn.

    I’ve watched Husband do bike repairs, and being the helper. A bike is simple enough that you can see how things fit together, and why this thingy might be where it is, etc.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    It is weird how mastery is so spotty, i.e. Renee’s relative who succeeds in the stock market, but did not change oil. My maternal grandfather also would not change the oil in his cars. He simply poured more in and hoped for the best. His car, known as The Ramblin’ Wreck, always ran rough. But then he would not drive over 45 MPH for any reason.

    However, he, Grandma, and my mother were masterful gardeners who I got to “help” and watch every day of gardening/farming weather. They could coax fragile shoots out of the ground into vigor and productivity. Cow manure was the essential ingredient. With Grandpa, all was well until he had to deal with finances. Then he would buy Agricultural futures and lose it all. Grandma was absolutely a wizard with finances, but of course Grandpa could not trust a woman with his money so he threw away much of his.

    I don’t think Grandpa ever understood how the human or economic world worked. He seemed to only understand farming.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Not exactly craftsmen, but the guys (usually) who operate backhoes, front-end loaders, graders, and any other big machine. They move the machine’s business end like they were using their own hands to scoop, shovel, level, spread, or whatever. Fascinating to watch.

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I ran a big earthmover in the Army (1969-72) and thought myself clever (we all do at that age). Then a friend who ran a grader invited me up to try it out. I was not then, nor ever have been, that skilled an artist.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. That reminds me–there’s a place near Mankato that lets adults operate big machines in a safe environment for a fee. Kind of an amusement park with mega rides for adults only. I’ll probably never do it because of inertia, but it’s a great idea and I bet the owners do pretty good business.

        Chris

        Liked by 1 person

  9. My friend Paul is a terrific scenic painter; he can do marble or fake hardwood flooring and he makes it look quick and easy. We also hire him to do the decor for the Holiday concerts. I may have mentioned how he makes “CHRISTMAS” with a big sweeping arm motion. If I try that it’s a pile of tinsel in the corner.

    You’re right about heavy equipment operators; but it is years of practice makes it look easy. Like playing guitar – it looks like it should be easy. But it’s not. I love watching musicians.
    I suppose even operating some farm machinery looks easy; we do it all the time and it becomes second nature. But trying to teach someone else… there’s a lot going on and they’ll get it, it just takes a while.

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  10. OT update: I thought I was going to have a medical procedure done in Chaska yesterday because my GI MD here said so. I went up there to have a 5 minute conversation with a dr about it, asking me several times if I REALLY wanted it. Daughter tok a personal day to drive me up.
    Also, clerical worker thought I should drive up to Chaska to get required COVID test. She didn’t think I could get one in Mankato. Every so often you meet Cities residents who think there is nothing outside of the metrpolitan area.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The most amazing Master I ever watched was a RN at the medical hospital I worked in back in the 80s and 90s. It was a medical hospital for severely disabled adults. The people I was caring for were completely dependent on nursing staff for their daily needs. Most of them were tube fed and used wheelchairs for transportation. They tended to be small and quite fragile people who needed a lot of skilled care. I recall those days as the best and most satisfying in my 45 year career.

    The Master RN I’m remembering was a tall, thin man with long, careful fingers and a very kind heart. He was amazingly skilled and I admired him. I used to love to assist him in starting IVs. People who are so medically fragile are often compromised in a lot of ways. Many of them have really small, thready veins and it can be challenging to find the vein to get an IV inserted. This RN was able to do it for the most difficult people. He did it in an amazingly beautiful way. He was patient, calm and kind. I loved to watch him work and to assist in any way that I could. I can’t describe it well, but I will never forget that experience.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. I was absolutely fascinated one weekend years ago, when we went up to see the drag races at BIR. Watching the pit crews completely take apart and rebuild the engines between runs, was mesmerizing! They are so fast, efficient, and skilled. I decided then that watching people who really know what they’re doing do the thing they do, is pure poetry in motion.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. When I did my internship at the VA, we were required to take all the vocational aptitude tests the veterans had to so we knew what they had to go through. My results said I had the aptitude to be am electrician

    Liked by 4 people

  14. My mother used to make small patchwork quilts for an organization called Project Linus. They provide blankets and quilts to children in need, a symbol of security. My mother had a simple method of sewing horizontal strips of fabric, then cutting the strips into vertical strips, and then moving the blocks sequentially. So the first vertical strip would be used as is, the second would have the bottom block moved to the top, the next strip would have the bottom two blocks moved to the top, then the bottom three blocks, and so on. Once the strips had been revised, she would sew them together and the blocks formed a diagonal pattern. She could knock out a patchwork quilt in about three or four hours.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The technique is called strip piecing. This works really well with remnants you can get at fabric stores. Many times they will have a remnant that is 54 inches long ,and about 12 or 15 inches wide. Sometimes even less, six or seven inches. The only thing you can really use that for is patchwork.

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  15. My husband grew up without his father around and similar to yours he never learned any mechanical skills. Fixing things and planning things out makes him incredibly anxious. He never ceases to be blown away by all the things I learned from my dad growing up. One of my favorite things to see is my dad teaching my husband how things work and how to fix them. We recently had a burst water pipe under our house and he was just in awe, because my dad never even had to go under the house to look. It makes me happy to see them getting along so well and my father is a lot more patient than he used to be, so it’s nice to see their dynamic at work.

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