2015
06.21

A special Father’s Day submission to LU. Per usual rules, the author is anonymous so the subject of this piece must also, unfortunately, remain unidentified.

Dusty, slightly beaten, not particularly eye-catching – the old toolbox blended in and more or less got itself lost over the years in my shed.

The black three-drawer Craftsman had been in my possession for over twenty years, one of several items snagged from Grandad’s shop shortly after his passing. It emerged back into my consciousness during a sporadic round of cleaning that accomplished little beyond moving piles of random things from one corner of my barn to another.

Grandad's Toolbox

Across several moves and a dozen-plus years, the locked box and its key had been separated from each other. In the past I had held out hope for a key to turn up so it could be opened, but finally it was clear no key would ever surface. One random afternoon a decision was made to open the box by force.

There was no urgent reason to drill the box open, no desperately needed tool inside – motivation for forcing the lock open was solely curiosity. I couldn’t recall exactly what my grandfather had kept in the box and what, if anything, I had added to it during a quick grab of inherited items from his workspace.

After more than half an hour of drilling against chromed steel reenforced specifically to prohibit what was being done, the lock was successfully ruined. Lid and bottom were parted for the first time in years, revealing what amounted to a time-capsule of my long departed Grandad.

The box is a hodge-podge of tools for various purposes. A few misfit items I added myself for safekeeping, along with clamps, a screen door repair tool, bits, screws, screwdrivers, a level, an awl – plus a few random metric wrenches and sockets necessary for servicing the Toyotas and Mazdas the man preferred in his later years.

Grandad's Toolbox / Cobble Brothers

Some items remind of Grandad’s career in the carpet mills. A measuring tool branded with the Cobble Brothers logo; an emptied plastic container for industrial-size Singer sewing machine needles, repurposed to hold drill bits.

Grandad’s work and his life in general parallel the history of the area in which he lived. Growing up on a farm with no electricity or indoor plumbing, a simple agrarian existence was over time replaced by life within an industrial society driven by carpet production. Hand-pumped wells and mule-drawn plows lost out to electricity and gasoline, just as plowing and planting lost out to creeling and tufting.

Mechanical abilities Grandad picked up on the farm servicing tractors and trucks, combined with his work ethic, landed him a career in the carpet mills of Dalton. He spent most of his adult life working as a mill mechanic, keeping massive sewing machines running properly for Patcraft, Cabincraft, and Queen Carpet as the industry grew and then consolidated.

He lived at various times in Whitfield, Walker, and Catoosa, moving from neighborhood to neighborhood as jobs changed or subdivisions grew too busy for his liking – but he kept the same wife and attended the same church his entire life.

Grandad's Toolbox

The economic reality of his youth hadn’t allowed for a full education (much less college), so Grandad was only functionally literate. He couldn’t have written this piece today, but he had the capacity to read it – and also could have built the desk it was written at, along with the chair and the room they’re both in.

A gentle man of few words, written OR spoken, Grandad was mostly uneducated yet highly intelligent. His abilities included the mechanical ones mentioned before and a passion for woodworking, skillfully building everything from garages to kitchen cabinets, intricate toys, detailed dollhouses and even furniture.

In our time together he helped me use a tape measure, hammer a nail, and run a bandsaw; showed me the right way to dig a ditch, use limb loppers, and sharpen knives; and taught me how to ride a bicycle, use a CB radio, and operate riding mowers and weed trimmers (but NOT push mowers). All things that, as an adult, I wish I had paid more attention to.

Grandad's Toolbox / Singer CaseHe played horse with the grandkids, took me to see the dams at TVA, introduced our family to the VCR, stayed up late so I could see fireworks, and sometimes let me ride in the back of the truck at night – as long as I was sitting down.

The sight of those familiar tools combined with the escaping smells of sawdust, Red Man tobacco and decaying carpet mill glue brought all these thoughts to the surface; faded memories long buried of Grandad and of myself with (and without) him.

His life and those memories of it remind how much impact all of our lives have on others. Much of who I am comes from who he was and what he taught me – and who I am, and what I teach, can make a similar impact (good or bad) on my own children and grandchildren.

And if I teach any of them even half of what Grandad taught me, I will have led an accomplished life.

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2 comments so far

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  1. wonderful memories

  2. This is a great read….
    It is also a testament to the fact that The LaFayette Underground isn’t always simply argumentative politics & ideologies–there ARE pieces which carry a deeply personal, more emotional message.
    :)
    Thanks go out both to LU for sharing as well as to the author of the piece for submitting it to the Underground–whoever you are. (Great photos, too!)