May 1, 2022

By Arthur H. Gunther III



     Years ago, decades actually, this once young man watched as an older fellow carefully straightened bent nails taken from discarded wood. “Why,” I asked?

    The man said he would reuse them, but I wondered why he bothered, since an ample-sized  box of 10-penny nails (three-inch pieces) then cost about 89 cents and could meet home use for a very long time.

     I missed the point, literally. It was “Waste Not, Want Not,” and it was the attitude that counted. And what came with the exercise.

    Now, older myself but not always wiser, for I still don’t straighten bent nails though the cost for a box of 10ds is now about $8, I did find myself in the attitude lesson recently. Of necessity.

     I was into a home improvement project, the sort that seems to come in retirement like bills long overdue, when I needed a caulking gun. Did not want to run to Beckerle Lumber yet another time (my average home repair/renovation seems to be two trips a day, at least), so I grabbed the caulking gun I had in the garage.

     It was caked with old caulk though only about a year old, and the advancing mechanism was frozen. I had once again failed to clean the gun immediately after use, something my grandfather, or the fellow who straightened bent nails way back, would not have avoided.

    After the last use, I figured I would just buy another gun, for about $4. But here it was eight hours into a project, and I was too bone-tired to go to the store. So, I played old-fashioned. Sitting down, half for rest, half for concentration, I carefully and slowly peeled the old caulk off the gun and then cleaned the metal with a solvent and oiled the advancing mechanism.

     Not only did the gun work, but it performed better than when I bought it. There was real satisfaction, too, in not only saving a few dollars and avoiding another stress-filled trip on ever-busier roads, but in silently meeting the approval of the oldsters who “wasted not, wanted not.”

     I may never buy another caulking gun. I like this one too much now.

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