Thursday, January 29, 2009

Secrets You Can Learn from the Tools of a Trade

Sunlight streams through the vertical blinds in my dining room, landing on the handsaw that Joann trusts me to paint. This saw belonged to her father, my dad's cousin Raymond. It must be genetically encoded in the Greer DNA-- if you are a male, you must have a love affair with building things. In the course of this affair, you will accumulate many tools. Some will be tools you use sparingly but are glad to have "just in case." Some will be bought to replace worn-out tools. Some will be those worn-out tools, and you will use them and favor them until the day you die. I think you can tell by looking at the picture into which category this particular handsaw falls.
The barn and milking parlor I am attempting to paint for Joann represent the dairy farm Raymond had. If you've ever been on a dairy farm or lived downwind of a dairy farm, you might have an inkling of the work involved. I am pretty sure my inkling is a very slight fraction of the whole picture of being a dairy farmer, though.
Joann, when I look at that saw and try to remember the dairy farm, I realize how little I know about your dad. I know I loved his smile behind the glasses. I know every Sunday after Thanksgiving, I will not fail to think of Raymond when I hear the first car coming down the driveway at my mom and dad's. I know Raymond always seemed an especially happy soul amongst all the Greers coming and going at a gathering.
On the surface, the things I don't know (or have forgotten if I did know them when I was a kid) are most probably easily answered. How did Raymond come to be a dairy farmer? He obviously liked to build things; did he sometimes work construction, too? When he moved off the dairy farm, was his workshop enough to keep him happily occupied or did he still miss the daily rhythms of the farm?
Somewhere in here, the line of thought becomes more than just points connected by a straight edge. The "line" of thought becomes more of a branched tree of many thoughts. When I hold the handle of that saw and contemplate how to make those damn dairy cows in the pasture look like cows and not some random splotches of paint with four legs and a tail, it's not just the painting on my mind. I wonder whether your dad enjoyed morning or evening milkings the most and what it was about those times of day he liked best. I wonder if he stopped to watch the sun rise every morning, listened to farm reports on the radio, and worried about the price of milk and what it meant for his way of life. I wonder what he looked at and mused about when he sat outside the screen door of the milking parlor and took a break.
And you know I have all sorts of questions about the things he made in his workshop, why he made them, and why this saw with the broken handle saw so much use. Just this last time when we were home, Pop was talking about some of the things his daddy had the boys do. Granddaddy Greer had those five boys doing all kinds of things and writing this makes me wonder what Uncle Bill taught Raymond and the rest of his kids. You know, I mostly remember Uncle Bill after his stroke, remember him calling Aunt Lula from his bed. "Luuuuuuluuuuuuuuuu, can I have some candy?" "Luuuuuuuluuuuuuu?" Your daddy moved into town next door to them around that time, right? How many memories of his dad before the stroke joined him in his workshop?
If I sat quietly with my right hand gripping the handle of this saw, would I be able to feel any of the thoughts Raymond felt when he was woodworking? The handle has been worn smooth by use. Would I be able to hold it and feel the rhythm and the sweat that wore it down to this point? What secrets about shaping wood would it teach me? You can learn a lot from the tools of someone's trade. . .

P.S. I know my little brother is standing over your shoulder while you read this. He's probably making a crack about me doing too much talking and not enough working. He might even be right. . . but I bet he also knows this isn't just any old handsaw blade that needs painting ;-)


8 comments:

rosebud101 said...

Great story, Ang! I love the painting on the saw, too!

Capt Elaine Magliacane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Capt Elaine Magliacane said...

This is definitely a tear jerker of a story... Angie what a great tribute to your uncle Bill and Raymond... I bet my Dad would have liked them.

Laurie Whitney - Mermaid Glass said...

What a wonderful story! My grandpa was a dairy farmer and wow, what a jolt I got at the words 'downwind of a dairy farm'.
Thanks for the memory. :)

Studio Marcy - Marcy Lamberson said...

Aw Ang, I always feel like I'm right there watching what's going on in any post you make. I love how you write. And if I screw up and don't remember to write, please accept a slightly early Happy Birthday from me.

Marcy

Anonymous said...

Hi Angie this is will pill , Joann said you are doing great , looks just like her daddy's barn , yes your right you need to get to painting , instead of yaking . Joann said that Indie had the dairy when they married , Raymond worked at the distillary before that head of maintince . One more thing you know what a cow looks like just don't paint the back side that may look to real .

GAFFER GIRLS said...

hi Angelina...
it's Mona from GafferGlass USA....


it was so fun to be next to you at the show a few years ago....I have such fond memories of all the great women I met that week.. the girls love what you made for them....they have them displayed proudly...

we have added you to our favorite blogs...
you are a true inspiration to any woman wanting to start a business and be a stay at home mom...

Mona
Hallynd
Lacey
Jessica
the gaffer girls
we are proud to know you....

Deb said...

Ang - you are making a fabulous job of painting the saw! What a fabulous memories it will hold for future generations too.

I love the way you tell of things - with a true depth of feeling, that transfers itself even via the web....& they say technology is undermining all of the old traditions? I think not!

(you also just reminded me of an old watering can I painted years ago - & the fact that I better go capture it digitally before my paint job wears off completely!!)

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