Monday, June 06, 2011

Raining Hammers - Austin


In a time-worn, if not time honoured tradition, most construction projects have included blood-letting. I've always thought it a tradition best buried and forgotten, but in spit of that, virtually every project bigger than a bird-house that I have worked on has extracted its measure of blood from me. As well as trying to discard out-worn traditions, I've tried to quit using the excuse of brain-damage. But with each new knock on the head, it seems to be the best one-size-fits-all explanation.

This time it was an old Eastwing, wonderfully balanced and intimately known to the calloused hand that had put it down just moments before. One houndred thousand nails and more it had driven, swung by that hand over the years. Many other hammers had been used at times, but always the old Eastwing was sought out, preferred above all others. No, there had been no vow of, "I'll keep you you only as long as we both shall live." There was no betrayal, no subtle or blatant shame heaped upon it. And the hammer itself had never expressed dissatisfaction with its lot. Nor had it every before used its claws to tear living flesh. That is not to say it had made any promise to abstain from flesh and blood. The right hand that gripped and swung so confidently, took guidance from eyes that sometimes gave less than perfect service. The thumb and fingers of the left hand often throbbed and sometimes bled. They shared the pain, taking seriously the biblical mandate that when one part suffers, the whole body suffers with it. Strange that a hammer striking the thumb can drive an ache all the way to the toenails. Strange too, and perhaps fortunate, that words that might escape at such moments are usually cut off by a quick sucking of breath through the teeth.


Moving a ladder is a routine part of many carpentry tasks. To the best of my knowledge, moving a ladder is not a part of any rain dance and should not call hammers to fall from above.
Did you know that claw-hammers actually have claws? And did you know that owning three hard-hats does not prevent blood-loss when all three sit on shelves and hammers fall from the sky?

My wife didn't know whether to call the ambulance or the undertaker. I could use more blood-flow to the inner workings of my brain. But there seems to be more than enough on my scalp.

In my younger years I donated blood frequently and always felt strong and healthy after the process. But usually a rather attractive nurse would banter with me while she inserted an exceptionally sharp needle into a part of my arm with large veins and little feeling. The "gift of life," when extracted by a claw-hammer rather than a pretty nurse, somehow misses out on that 'good-deed' satisfaction. And were you aware that spouses who happen to know you own three hard-hats, sometimes ask insensitive questions at insensitive moments?

"Is that blood?"

"No. I'm trying a new makeup trick for the Easter drama I do. Do you think I'm overdoing it?"

Later she asked why I hadn't been wearing my hard-hat. I mean, really. . . should a man have to answer such questions while the top of his head still feels (and looks) like somebody has tried to bury an axe in it? After all, a hard-hat would not have stopped an axe.

Like many men of a certain age, I take some ribbing for the reflection from the top of my head. There is good news and bad knews when scalping attempts are made on balding men. The good news is two-fold. (1) A scalp with little hair makes a poor battle trophy, so the cutting and tearing is usually abandoned before the scalp is fully removed. (2) Little hair gives more exposure to the air and quickens the clotting, so if the scalping itself doesn't kill you, the bleeding just might stop on its own before you are drained dry.

Unfortunately the bad news is also two-fold. (1) The scalp that is not worthy to hang on a warrior's belt is rarely made more handsome by bloody scabs and purple bruising. (2) Spouses, once convinced you will live to do something as intelligent again (they would never use the word 'stupid') do not give praise for manly scars. They expect you to stop the bleeding outside, and for goodness sake, "don't use the white towel." They'd even prefer not to sit across from a blood-streaked face at meal times, wanting all possible evidence of your manly encounter erased. Spouses are wonderful and recommended for many reasons, but rarely for inflating male egos.

Eastwing hammers are a respected name among carpenters of every skill level. Old or new, their balance is near perfect. But even old hammers, with countless little acts of revenge to their credit (just ask my left thumb and fingers) may still harbour a grudge. I've used this hammer for more than 30 years. Who knows? Maybe by its calculations, 100,000 nails means a half million blows. Does one knock on the head balance the accounts?

It still fits my hand well. The balance is still near perfect. It remains my hammer of choice for nearly every task that calls for such a tool. But I rarely set it down these days on any surface higher than my knees. My head, hard as it is, apparently houses a brain. I sometimes doubt that, but a number of tests have confirmed there is something in there, even if it doesn't always perform as it should. But. . . I've taken First Aid and a hammer, even an Eastwing hammer, is not a sterile instrument. So using it to either draw blood or to preform brain surgery fails to meet proper medical standards. Besides, I'm not convinced that dropping hammers from the sky is taught in any accredited school, so I think I'll ask for a second opinion if some surgeon feels the need for a closer look at any grey matter I might have. Besides, I want to be asleep before the surgery starts, and I want to know a sharp scalpel rather than 30 year old claws are going to be used -- no offense to the hammer.

I've made it a habit to unplug my computer during exceptionally stormy weather. But I think next time it threatens to rain hammers, I just might grab my hard-hat and park myself at the computer, regardless of what the weather-man says.

2 comments:

Peter Black said...

O dear!
Brian, you make it pretty difficult for your readers (at least speaking for myself) to feel strong sympathy for your raining hammer-induced suffering (although the suffering was real), for this is so funny!
Practical wisdom and a realistic view of spousal interaction. Thanks!

Marcia said...

Just had to make my husband read this one. The last time we had raining hammers around here he ended up with a long red streak down his nose. Yes, the ladder factored into the story too. ;)

thanks for the laughs, Brian.

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