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Mr. Fixit rides again!

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By Ken Begley

You know what?  

If you do think you know “what,” then you probably don’t know anything.  You’re just lucky you have an old man like me around to straighten you out.  Old people know everything.  The first thing is, there are a lot of “whats” in life.  I like to give them out one at a time in this here column so as to not confuse you.

Today’s “what” lesson is kids tear up a lot of things.

I’m surprised that any place where large numbers of kids congregate, like schools, are even standing after one hour.  A lot of the reason for the destruction is that kids have so much more to be destroyed today than they did in my day.  You can take the poorest family today and the children have 10 times what I had as a kid.  

Yep, I can still remember being back on the farm with Grandpa Walton, John-Boy and the rest of the family during the Great Depression when a body had to make do.  It’s all the more remarkable that I remember so much about those days as I was born 20 years after the Great Depression ended.  That’s another story, and you’ll be happy to know my doctor says I’m making great progress.

But the point is, whatever you had, it had to last.  That meant frequent repairs.  

Everybody was a Mr. or Mrs. Fixit.  This is something that might come in handy as we’re now in the midst of the “Great Recession.”  So listen closely and learn from the “Wise Old Woodsman,” you “Junior Woodchucks.”

I came home from work last Saturday night and was greeted by my teenaged son with an urgent look in his eyes.  

He said nervously, “Daddy, I was dunking a basketball and pulled the goal down.  The backboard got knocked off.  We need a new one.”  

The boy tends to get nervous if he doesn’t have some kind of ball in his hands and a coach yelling at him at all times.  A day without basketball was enough to send him over the edge.

Now aren’t all kids mind-readers?  How did he know that after working all week and then doing 11 hours of overtime on Saturday that I wanted a challenge to while away the night with?

We have one of those portable goals that you fill the base up with about 50 gallons of water to hold it upright.  We’ve had it 10 years, and every now and then, a really strong wind will blow it over.  Between that and heavy use, the backboard must have committed suicide and jumped off.  I saw it laying face down in the closely mowed weeds that substitute for grass in our yard.

I coolly surveyed the scene and said, “Get me my tool box and that big bucket I keep all my spare parts in.”

“Ain’t you going to buy me a new one?”

“Boy, are you going to stand there cracking jokes all night or get me what I need to fix this?’

Grudgingly, he went to the garage while I surveyed the situation.

The fiberglass backboard is held onto the metal frame by four large nuts and bolts.  A small portion of the bottom section of the board was completely broke off.  That part was still held tightly by two bolts.  The top two bolts had tore large holes through the board and was hanging uselessly while still attached to the frame.

“Well, this doesn’t look too hard,” I thought.  “There’s nothing I can do about the bottom two bolts as the whole board is busted around it.  But who needs them anyway?  They’re just overkill.  Yep, two bolts ought to do the job.”

The boy returned with the toolbox and my bucket of loose parts.  He said skeptically,  “How can you fix this daddy?  It’s all tore up?”

“I just need to get those two bolts to work at the top.”

“But it needs four bolts to hold it up, doesn’t it?”

“Not the way I’m going to do it.”

“But the holes are too big now.  The bolts pulled through.  How’re you gonna fix that?”

“Watch and learn, Junior Woodchuck.”

This was simple.  I just needed something, like a great big washer, to slip beneath the bolts to cover up the holes the storm made.  

I was raking through my spare bucket of parts when the boy asked, “Where did you get all those spare parts anyway?”

“They’re all left over from previous fix-it and installation jobs.”

“How can you have so many extra parts?  There must be twenty pounds of them.”

“I always have extra parts.  I figure the manufacturer throws in a bunch just to make sure you have everything and won’t be bothering them.  Shoot, I’m so good at finding ways to do more with less that even when I’m putting back together something that I just took apart I’ll have extra parts.”

“Really?  You don’t suppose you could have made a mistake and left out something, do you?  That isn’t why the toilet is always leaking in the floor since you replaced it last week?”

“Nope, I blame that on inferior Chinese parts.  What do they know about toilets anyway?”

“What about the ceiling fan in my room that broke free and nearly cut my head off?”

“How many times do I got to tell you, those Taliban and Al-Qaeda are everywhere.”

We got the backboard up.

I couldn’t find any washers big enough to cover the holes, but did find two substitutes.  One was a combination paint can and beer bottle opener that slipped over one bolt.  I don’t drink beer anymore as I’m pretty broke much of the time.  The other was a brass plate from a doorframe kit.

It worked well.

For about 10 minutes.  

Then it fell on the boy’s head.

Dang Al-Qaeda.

They’re everywhere.