Monday, April 30, 2012

rusty tools, dogs, and memories

Yesterday, I found that my tool box had been under a drip for some time and the top tray was full of oily, rusty water. Some of the tools were ruined, but a surprising number were doing OK.

As I was going through and throwing out ruined items, I noticed that many of the things I was throwing out were the ones that I had bought in my teens or even earlier. I guess it makes sense, because I would have bought cheaper tools back in those days.

I had a small pack of small screwdrivers for fine work like working on watches. I was probably in high school when I bought them for some project --probably to take apart a watch. Most of the little screwdrivers were gone by now, and with the rust, I decided to toss the rest. I'm not particularly sentimental, but it's sad to see a happy childhood fade a little further into the past.

I salvaged my first tape measure, which had been mostly out of the water. I think I bought that in college for some project with my roommates. Can't remember what.

There was a pair of sheers with one plastic handle partly chewed off. It was the very first tool I ever bought. I had recently gotten a paper route and I was flush with money for the first time in my life. I bought cool stuff like a fishing rod and a huge pocket knife with like 30 different blades, tools, and gadgets, including a fork and spoon. Still have both of those.

The sheers caught my eye because they were on a display in Target or a similar store. The big advertisement said that they would cut through anything. Well. That's pretty impressive, isn't it? That's one manly pair of scissors there. A small pair of hand sheers that will cut through anything? Obviously I had to have them.

Of course that's when I was a dumb kid. Now I have a new pair of hand sheers guaranteed to cut through anything that I bought a couple of months ago. I'm sure the cut-through-anything technology has improved by leaps and bounds since I was twelve, and I've always got stuff to cut through. Besides my new sheers have one side serrated, which is even more macho than the ones I bought as a kid. So I've matured a lot.

The old sheers were pretty badly rusted. They would never cut again. But then they hadn't been much good for decades --ever since King, our family's Norwegian Elkhound had chewed half of one handle off. So I tossed them in the garbage.

You know the first thing I ever used those sheers for? Well, King was a teenager in dog years, and he was going through that rebellious chewing phase. He was chewing the bark off of a couple of young fruit trees that Dad had planted. Dad tried wrapping some rags around the trunks and tying with a string. I'm sure that obstacle gave King about five minutes of amusement before he was through it and back to the bark. So I took some of those tin pots that nurseries sell plants in and cut them up with my BRAND NEW CUT-ANYTHING SHEERS to make metal armor for the trees.

Sure, Dad had some sheers hanging on the wall that would have worked better and easier because they were designed to cut thin metal and had longer handled for mechanical advantage, but I had sheers that would cut ANYTHING. So I used mine.

And it worked, too. King never got through that tin barrier --probably because he didn't like the taste of tin. But he got even because I left my sheers on the ground and he chewed half the handle off. Let me tell you: teenage dogs are just as rotten as teenage humans.

King was a lot of trouble. I spent a lot of unpleasant hours picking up brown piles in the back yard. And you know those neighbors with the dog who barks all night and they just will not shut him up? That was us. Because you just could not shut that dog up. If it makes you feel any better, the barking dog is keeping up the neighbors who own him just like he's keeping you up. And don't get me started on the shedding.

But King was my dog and I loved him. I trained him to chase cats on command (remember that I was a teenager too...). I used the word "kill", as in "King, kill." Of course King didn't know what that meant. He just thought it meant that he had permission to go investigate. Ticked off another dog owner one time when King was staring at his dog and I said, "kill" and King ran over to sniff noses and butts and other things dogs do to get acquainted.

The owner yelled at me and I had to explain that it really just means, "OK" to King. If I just told him to stay, it means he can go. If he's looking at a cat, it means he can chase it. If he's looking at a dog it means he can go over and sniff butts. If he's looking at a horse it means he can go over and try to hamstring it like his ancestors use to do with wild elk. Almost found that out through a tragedy, but I saw that he was going for the horse's rear in time to call him back. I think he was a little relieved because that horse was pretty big and he didn't have any pack mates trying to distract it for him.

I can still see King in my mind running towards me with his tongue hanging out one side of his mouth in a doggy laugh, and his back legs a bit to the left of his front. That awkward off-center gait that would have prevented him from being a show dog like his sire, but besides the gait he was magnificent --deep chested with a high head, alert ears and a direct gaze, long straight fur, sweeping back and down.

I don't have any pictures of King. Or any other mementos like a collar or dog bowl, just those hopelessly rusted sheers with the chewed-off handle. So I fished them out of the garbage and threw them back in the toolbox. What the heck, it's not like they take up a lot of room in there.


nk said...

Found my boy scout knife on the bottom of a bait box. Good quality, Solingen, but after 45 years .... Soaked it in oil, used steel wool. Blades are still good, the springs are a little stiff.

Foxfier said...

WD-40 worked well enough to save a swiss army knife that I seriously thought would just fall apart-- it was a solid lump of rust. (no idea how old it was, I just found it and got curious; if it worked, I'd have a spare knife, if it didn't, I'd have a story.)

Wouldn't cut food with it, or get a sliver out, but it's good for emergency cutting rope or opening a package. (or for things I don't want to touch with my girl knife OR my good pocket knife)

Totally off topic that will probably only make sense to you-- thank you, especially for the name part. I thought he was being petty, but wasn't sure if that was just me.

Doc Rampage said...

What's a girl knife?

Foxfier said...

The ones that are about the size of your pinky, that can be slipped into those ridiculous little things they laughingly call "pockets" in women's dress clothing, or put in a lipstick slot of a purse, or in a bra without being obvious.