Dreaming of Stuff that Works

broken boat

Every time there’s a huge Lottery or Powerball jackpot, people talk about what they would do with all that money if they won. Mostly it’s the same old stuff – mansions, vacation homes, yachts, expensive cars and the like.

Not me, though. My dreams are much simpler. I have enough stuff. I just want stuff that works like it’s supposed to.

I could list two dozen things I own that function just well enough to keep me from taking them to the dump, but not well enough to count on at any given time. Why? I suspect it’s a genetic condition or a curse handed down through the generations. One thing I’m sure of is that I got it from my father.

Most kids learn from their dads how to maintain things like cars, boats, lawn mowers, etc. If you grew up with Gene McClellan, however, the most frequent lessons focused on jury-rigging whatever you were using just long enough to get the job done.  And if you were using his stuff, that knowledge was incredibly handy.

For example, Bill and I were driving his old ’72 Bronco to the camp one day when we heard something dragging the ground. We thought it might be the muffler, but when we looked under the truck we discovered that, nope, it was the gas tank. The metal straps had rusted apart and the tank was scraping along the road.

We found some rope, tied the tank back up to the body and went on our merry way. Bill told Daddy what happened and he said, “Yep, I need to have that fixed.”

But two years later, when he traded the Bronco on a new model, I saw the old one at the Chevrolet place downtown. Just for grins, I looked underneath. Sure enough, the same two pieces of rope were still there.

Looking under the hood is fine, but you should probably check the gas tank as well.

Looking under the hood is fine, but you should probably check the gas tank as well.

Throughout my childhood, I thought stuff like that was normal. It wasn’t until later that I realized that other folks actually bought quality stuff, took care of it and counted on it to work when they needed it.

The very next thing I realized is that quality stuff costs money, which is why Daddy often bought things that were past their prime. Preventive maintenance would be throwing good money after bad.

I’d like to say I learned from that experience, but a quick inventory around my house suggests otherwise.

I have an ’84 Evinrude that Bill gave me last year. It’s so old that I have to buy parts on the Internet. Ronnie Bridges has all but pronounced it dead, but I keep using it anyway. (Hey, it was free.)

My ’98 Ford truck leaks when it rains, uses a quart of oil every thousand miles or so and the third door won’t open. The lights on my trailer work about as well and as often as Congress. And most of my fishing rods are cut six inches shorter because the original tips have been broken off.

But I’ll keep patching them up to get as much use out of them as possible. That’s because there was another lesson that Daddy taught me, though maybe not on purpose, that’s just as significant.

It’s that things aren’t nearly as important as experiences.

Daddy owned a lot of junk, but there are a lot of wealthy people in this world who didn’t have nearly as much fun with a lot nicer boats, trucks and guns.

It’s true that money doesn’t buy happiness, so I’m not waiting on wealth to start enjoying life.

If I ever do strike it rich, however, you can bet I’ll have stuff that works.

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