A Tool Too Far 

A bad day at the workbench

A bad day at the workbench

I like tools the way Bubba Gump likes shrimp. I like hand tools, power tools, big tools, little tools, quiet tools, and noisy tools. And they like me back. If I didn’t have a knack with tools, I never would’ve gotten a decent start in life, and I’d be living in a tar-paper shack up by the dump right now.

I wouldn’t be bragging if I said I’ve done some fairly amazing things with tools. I once rebuilt a forklift transmission, using just one big-ass screwdriver. Back when my daddy, Jabo, was in the redneck mob, I soldered together car-size condensers for house-size liquor stills. (You revenuers, don’t get excited. I was 16 at the time. The statute of limitations has expired.) In my rock ’n’ roll days, I rebuilt the electronic guts of many a guitar and amplifier. More recently, I re-plastered about half the walls and ceilings in my 1914 house, and rebuilt all the fancy woodwork, right by myself.

When I got that done, I sold all my tools at a yard sale. I know you’re wondering, “Now why would Jowers do that?” Well, I’m going to tell you: It was because of William the cabinet man. When William started measuring for our kitchen cabinets, I couldn’t help but notice that the fingertips on his left hand were cut off at a nice, neat 45-degree angle. There’s only one way for that to happen. Say it with me, children: Miter-box power saw.

William’s cleanly mitered hand put me to thinking: Sooner or later, if I kept messing around at different trades, I would mess myself up. I’d cut off a hand, maul a leg, set my face on fire, or shoot a big bolt of electricity through my heart. It was just a matter of time. So today, I don’t even have a hammer. If I needed a hammer tomorrow, I’d have to go steal one from my neighbor, Ted, who owes me about one truck-full of tools.

Believe me when I tell you: It pays to quit messing around with tools and fix-up projects while you’re ahead. For instance, just last week, William Bartron of Lehighton, Pa., made the same mistake as William the cabinet man, only about a foot higher up his arm. Bartron, an honest-to-God professional construction worker, was, uh, lending a hand over at his neighbor Larry Lang’s house, when his miter-box power saw got away from him and chopped off his whole left hand.

Now I don’t want to sound unsympathetic, but I’ve often wondered about injuries like this. When I think it through, I can see how William the cabinet man might’ve sliced off the tip of his pinky. That would’ve meant making about a 3/8-inch mistake. Anybody could do that. But once the blood started streaming and the bone chips started flying, wouldn’t a man throw the whole sawing process in reverse, before he chopped off three more fingertips?

I guess not, because Bartron kept on sawing through about 3 solid inches of skin, bone, veins, arteries, ligaments, tendons, and who knows what all else. Even more impressive is what he did next. Did he pick up a phone and call 911? Nope. He picked up a nail gun and shot himself in the head, over and over again. He said he was trying to kill the pain. When Bartron was admitted to a local trauma unit, he had about a dozen inch-long nails protruding from his scalp, looking for all the world like Pinhead from Hellraiser.

Last summer, a woman in Linthicum, Md., decided to save a few bucks and install her own floor covering. The woman, identified only as “Anne” in the Annapolis Capital, stripped down to her bra and panties and got busy spreading adhesive.

First of all, I want somebody to tell me why a woman would strip down to her bra and panties to lay flooring. Was she dreaming up a pilot episode for a soft-porn version of Hometime, or what? Do you women really think this way? There’s hard, stinkin’ work to be done. Time to get nearly-naked.... Somebody, please, explain it to me.

Anyhow, back to underwear model Anne. Don’t you know, she slipped and fell face-first right into the glue. There she was, struggling like a dinosaur in a tar pit, when her Yorkshire terrier, Cleopatra, came over to investigate.

Then Cleo, too, got stuck in the goo.

Anne and Cleo would still be stuck there today, if not for the help of Anne’s 9- and 10-year-old daughters, who pried them loose from the sticky floor. Anne, exhausted, grabbed a phone, flopped onto a couch, crossed her legs, and dialed 911.

That’s how the paramedics found her—her butt and back glued to the couch, her legs glued to each other, and her phone glued to her hand. “I had to dial 911 with my nose,” she said.

A team of five paramedics and firefighters, who admitted that they “laughed until they cried,” wiped Anne down with solvent-dipped sterile gauze pads. They got her generally unstuck and cleaned up in about an hour. Anne refused to go to the hospital, and she suffered no injuries.

Visit Walter Jowers’ Web site at http://www.housesenseinc.com, or e-mail him at walter.jowers@nashville.com.

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