Friday, January 20, 2006

Waste Not

KeyboardTrayI have a "new" desk keyboard tray. It tells a story.

My father was born and raised on a farm. Like most farms in those days, cash money was scarce. Folks made do. If something broke, they fixed it. If it could not be fixed it was set aside to become part of something else. Dad worked his way through engineering school during the Depression. While his career took him away from the farm, the farm never left him.

On our 2 acre farmette I grew up watching my father recreate features of the life he knew so well. We had a large garden and a small orchard. We raised chickens and, for a time, hogs. We had two garages, a workshop and tool sheds. If something broke, he fixed it. If it could not be fixed dad set it aside to wait for a new purpose to present itself. I watched as dad built - among many other things - a 19-foot boat, single channel TV antennas, solid walnut furniture, and a large addition to our house. A trifling child, usually I best helped by staying out of his way. When it was my time to leave for college I am sure both of us had no idea how much I had been absorbing.

After my father died my mother married another electrical engineer with some youthful farm years of his own. He figured out dad's one-of-a-kind projects around the house in short order and kept them going for over twenty years. His attitude towards things broken was about the same as my father's. When my step-father passed away last year I decided it was time to clean over fifty years of accumulated bit and pieces - what most people would call junk - out one of the tool sheds. It was there I saw a wood veneer top from a long discarded dishwasher. One or the other of them had decided to keep it for some future use. It was then I remembered my father's office desk.

My father helped start a small rural telephone cooperative in the 1950's. He served as manager for over two decades. It was a shoestring operation in those days. Dad, determined to make ends meet, bought a black US Government surplus desk and refinished it. It served two decades as his desk and two decades more after he died. Destined for the landfill several years ago it was rescued by the man who replaced dad as manager. He was kind enough to give it to me.

Dad's old desk is still solid. Made from oak and put together to last several lifetimes, it is heavy, very heavy. It was several years before I even tried to move it into my house. But move it finally I did. However, as useful an office desk it is, it was not designed for computers. With the keyboard placed on the desktop, it is an ergonomic mess. At least it was until I saw that dishwasher top. It was just the right size to replace the center drawer.

I refinished the top, bought some rollers at Lowe's that - after a bit of custom work with a hacksaw and drill - provided support, and slid in my new keyboard tray. It works great, is just the right height, and almost looks like it has been there all along.

I would like to think somewhere two old engineers are smiling. One would be amazed.

See dad, I really was paying attention.

1 comment:

Malindi said...

that was wonderful, dad. it makes me proud to know you and happy to be next in line to learn what was taught to you by Pop-pop & Harper.