Monday, May 11, 2009
Old wood, used tin and bent nails
Richard E. Noble
My wife and I are “frugal.” I would say that we gained our frugality from our Hobo-ing America extravaganza. But I know that is not true. I learned thriftiness in my childhood at home. It was embedded into my being.
When Carol and I were Hobo-ing America we ate what we picked. We had tomato, cucumber, radish, green pepper, sweet onion or apple and bacon sandwiches till they were coming out of our ears.
We gathered fish bait on the fishing piers or cut up our first caught fish to use as bait. We scavenged in the trash cans or used old bait someone left on a rock or piling. We stopped at the Goodwill for frying pans, cups, glasses and old clothes. We cooked on a wood fire to save on Coleman fuel.
When we became settlers in Eastpoint it was no different. For example, after every storm the beach would be littered with boards from docks or piers. It did not seem the least bit strange to us, that we should go picking up wood along the beaches after a storm. We spent our days working on the oyster boat with our tongs picking up nickels and dimes off the bay bottom. Why should we be timid about picking up $3.00 or $5.00 pieces of wood sitting abandoned on the beach? So what if they had a few nails in them. We gathered plywood and any tin we found floating around also.
I bought a nail puller and in our spare time we pulled nails from our boards. We straightened the nails and sorted them by size and put them in coffee cans. We made additions to our trailer - decks, porches, outbuildings - with driftwood boards, bent tin with holes, and old straightened nails.
If you have ever constructed anything with used tin, old planks and bent nails, you know that there are perils involved in this type construction that a typical carpenter does not run into.
Your deck often looks like a patchwork quilt of various sized planks. When your tin has a plethora of pre-existing holes you had better have a long overhang on your roof eaves and plenty of black mammy tar.
But using the bent nails brings back some very painful memories. A pre-bent nail has the tendency to bend again when you hit it. You must be very careful. And you don’t want to use one of those cheap Chinese round-headed hammers. Oh my!
I must admit it was somewhat amusing to watch Carol hopping around like an Arapaho doing the traditional rain dance, squeezing her thumb and chanting in a foreign tongue. But when my thumb became the target, it wasn’t all that amusing.
We had developed the technique of holding the bent nail with a pair of pliers. But as will happen, confidence soared and the pliers would be set to the side and whammo.
One day I had smacked my thumb so hard, it turned instantly purple, then black with a daub of blood red here and there. I threw down the hammer and made an announcement. “Carol, I am going down to Western Auto right now and I am going to buy a box of brand new, never used before nails.” Carol’s eyes widened to the size of saucers.
“Really! That was the last pre-bent nail that I am ever going to attempt to strike. From now on it is new shiny, never used before, flat headed, straight nails.”
“Can I go with you?” Carol stuttered excitedly.
Carol couldn’t believe that I would really do it. We had cans full of old straightened nails sitting in the shed. Would I be willing to just toss all those hours of nail straightening into the trash heap of past bad decisions? She was not used to seeing me in such a reckless state of mind. She was squirming in her seat with excitement as we headed down to Western Auto.
We bought new nails - several boxes - all different sizes.
It was thrilling to return home and start back on our project with brand new nails. It was so easy. There was no challenge to it. We finished our job in nothing flat!
“Using new nails sure makes things faster and easier,” Carol said. “Do you think that we will ever get to the point where we will buy new wood and new tin?” she asked.
“Carol, let’s not let our imaginations get the better of us. We are not going to toss our hand in to the God of conspicuous consumption. Try and control yourself and let’s not lose our common sense and our personal, lifelong commitment to the sensibleness of a thrifty Eastpointer lifestyle…”
“You’re right. I shouldn’t go crazy. A few new nails is one thing but new boards and new 10 dollar a sheet tin is quite another.”
Richard Noble is a freelance writer who has lived in Franklin County for thirty years. He has published 14 books and they are all for sale on Amazon.com. If you would like to stock any of his books in your store or business contact Richard at firstname.lastname@example.org.