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Caliper diem—the end of an age…

Good morning, Netizens...

There was a time, in the springtime of life, when the sunlight crept across the paisley curtains beside their bed and watched them frolic in the throes of lust early one morning. Perhaps that stray beam of sunlight was bemused at the fact they presumed they were uniquely fools, because they presumed they were the first and only of many millions who had been practicing the ancient art of eros since before mankind first walked upright.

That was the age of Great American Builders, for we were the craftsmen, men and women armed with complex tools and measuring devices, who saw to it that things were built or repaired to specification.

I once had a massive tool chest, taller than most men, nearly as a long as an automobile filled with vanadium and chromium steel tools of every imaginable purpose: Swiss calipers to maintain exacting standards, sockets, drivers and wrenches of all known measuring standards, but in the top corner of that vast collection of tools encased in a hand-polished red steel cabinetry, hidden inside a blue cloth, lay a Swiss caliper given to me by my grandfather upon graduating from high school.

Over the years I had always been one to amass tools, for driving a diesel tractor trailer truck required that the owner/operator in those days knew how to fix their trucks before it failed, to be able to take apart a huge diesel engine or a complex transmission with thousands of tiny gears and bearings into its component pieces and put it back together again, each time without error. Truck drivers, at least most of them, did not rely upon fleet mechanics, diesel technicians or other faceless entities working in vast shops somewhere to keep their equipment running.

Jeanie's excellent story of having a cart walking around an improvisational yard sale of car parts, toting a crank shaft and a squashed bag of cookies reminded me of those days when, awakening just before dawn and gazing into the face of a summer's dawn somewhere in the Flatlands of Oklahoma. I realized gazing out the crinkled curtains in some long-forgotten room in some place that no longer has a name, that all I had to live for was that fertile field that lay largely unexplored inside my imagination but not while my two good hands were still fit to use. So long as had them both, a part of me would always be about building and rebuilding things using the fine tools that I had possessed nearly all my adult life.

There came the day, which often comes to me in my dreams, when I finally sold my trucks and all the associated parts, materials, and that massive red toolbox that had stood for decades in the corner of a massive old building in Texas. I remember only that I knew I had to make that decision, and to find my fortunes elsewhere in life, for my hands were tired and my eyes no longer what they once were. I remember standing next to a harvested corn field in a chill autumn rain, tears streaming from my eyes, because I had found a world of perfection, of excellence, and had learned to love and cherish it more than life itself. Yet I knew I had to go while I still could.

Lo these many decades later, there is something about the sound of a finely-tuned diesel tractor trailer eager for the great unknown of the highway that leaves me momentarily pulled aside from my path. I get misty-eyed, my pulse pounds and once more I am eager to feel that wheel beneath my hands, to see the highway unfolding before me. Late at night, I dream once more of clasping a truly fine set of tools in my hands and hunting down parts to make things right again. I also remember old friends and acquaintances who could not make that decision and in most cases died behind the wheel in some godforsaken place.

Caliper Diem...


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Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.