May 22, 2022

By Arthur H. Gunther III



     We live in an age of power tools, big-box home improvement centers and a throwaway culture, so when a leaning fence gate needs fixing, the modus operandi may well be to (1) buy a super-duper, lithium-powered hammer drill from the big box store to drive in high-tech fasteners, or (2) kick the gate down with non-battery powered feet and throw it away in favor of a new one, also purchased from the giant, warehouse-like outfit.

     In either case, the relatively simple repair becomes involved, expensive and even frustrating as the trip to the home  improvement center always means traffic and then long lines as you check yourself out (and so you pay the store for your own labor).

    What would my grandfather have done? Well, if he really needed a new, hand-powered screwdriver, which is doubtful since he was still using his Prussian grandfather’s tools, he would have taken a walk to downtown Spring Valley, N.Y., where he would have bought one from the hardware stores owned by K&A, Beckerle, DeBaun,  Scharf and others, all in one village.

     Then, whether he needed a replacement tool or not, he would have looked carefully at the leaning fence gate, sized it up from every angle and without fanfare decided that he would brace it with rocks from his property, hammered in with a small sledge.

     Iced lemonade would await his finish, made by my grandmother and enjoyed on a porch with some slight breeze.

     That day, he would never get in a car, instead perhaps take a good walk that was also exercise, probably greet his neighbors along the way, say hello to others in the hardware store. No traffic, no checking himself out of the store.

    Ah, progress, isn’t it grand?

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. This essay is adapted from an earlier one.