Friday – Like a Different Thursday


Apropos of nothing (other than prurient interest), I sent a rant around about a Maclean’s article yesterday.

Apropos of Canada’s own Mark Steyn with his views on the same subject plus the wonderful comments, I have more to say. Here’s Mark’s opinion:

What is very cool to me is the comments. Made me grin. “We” are out there. In large numbers. Here’s one from “llamas” that really caught my eye. He makes three excellent observations, which I have highlighted in green, red, and blue:
“I fear I may have hijacked this thread somewhat.

So let’s try and get back on point.

It’s probably true that Johnny doesn’t know which end of the hammer to hold.

But I reject out-of-hand the idea, expressed elsewhere in the thread, that this is because things are simply not repairable or serviceable like they used to be, and the reason that Johhny can’t fix things is that things can’t be fixed anymore, or that repair parts aren’t available like they used to be.

As an inveterate fixer and repairer myself, I know this is untrue, and the reasons are two-fold – the staggering ease with which you can now locate repair data and spare parts, and the availability of tools and equipment that the average fix-it maven could only dream of just a few years ago.

I repaired a 10-year-old Echo weedwhacker last weekend. Needed a carb rebuild. In 10 minutes flat, I had the complete parts diagram for that exact carb up on my screen, by serial number, the parts ordered, and the brown Santa brought them two days later. Twenty years ago, it would have been a nightmare of parts books and bored countermen at the dealership and we’ll have to order it and three weeks waiting. It wouldn’t have been worth my time to do it. Not anymore! Modern technology and modern business methods have made this a snap. Sure, there’s some things you can’t disassemble or reassemble anymore – but there’s very few things that you can’t repair or rebuild these days, as long as you apply some reasonable economic sense.

I’ll keep on repairing and servicing my 1946 Ford farm tractor for as long as new parts are available. And they are freely available – anything you might need, including a lot of unique parts, for a machine that’s 66 years old. So the idea that repair parts aren’t available like they used to be is likewise bunk.

I think there are three reasons that Johnny doesn’t know which end of the hammer to hold, and they are

– a general disdain among educators for any sort of manual work. The goal that kids are taught to aspire to is a college education, which of course produces lots more jobs for educators.
– an increasing feminization of all levels of the education process, which demeans and marginalizes what have traditionally been seen as ‘male’ activities.
– an increasing lack of fathers. Johnny doesn’t help his dad rotate the tires on the Olds because he only sees his dad one day and one evening a week. Johnny’s life skills are charted by his mother, not his dad.



In the past several years I have worked with a number of young men who fit the third description – no father / single mother. Even when they had enthusiasm for the task, the evident skill set revealed an alienation from what was once a male commonality. Several of these young men didn’t know the basics, like “righty tighty, lefty loosey”, or standard vs Phillips vs Robertson. My basic learning was from other males outside the family unit, but the groundwork or will power came from dad. He couldn’t or wouldn’t do the mechanical stuff but he did do the construction / building stuff. I also like llamas comment about fixing a 60+ year old Ford tractor. I think the vision statement of the Ford tractor division in those days was much different than a tractor company might have today.That ’46 Ford was designed when there was no eBay, no Internet, no “common library”. no FedEx. It is undoubtedly a 2N, 8N, or 9N machine. Here’s an ad from the day-


These old machines were designed to be hearty and simple to maintain and/or repair. Does anyone honestly believe that 60+ years from now someone will be repairing a 2009 Honda Civic because it was “da bomb”, or that computer components will be available to repair / maintain the latest 2011 John Deere air conditioned, stereo optioned, automatic transmission equipped, 300 horse power tractor? It ain’t gonna happen that way….. But, those old tractors (a physical proof of Occam’s Razor) will still have enthusiasts, parts, and support in another 100 years. Mark my words, and try to stay alive long enough to prove me wrong (I’ll be 162 years old!)

My bedroom ceiling was an air battle when I was a boy. Spitfire, Messerschmitt BF109, Focke-Wulf 190, Hurricane, a lone Lancaster bomber, even a P-51 Mustang hanging from strings in a mock air battle. It was not historically accurate (various vintages in the air together), but it was a passionate play in my imagination. There was usually only one of any type. All the models were purchased with money I earned via a paper route or doing chores for allowance, and although I spent every penny on models, there weren’t enough pennies to build my own air force. Drovair….. has a nice ring to it, da?

Then there were the countless hours of building model cars. Ronny D’s brother’s had REAL cars, and lots of models, too. And the magazines…… My ’65 Cobra 289 model was a sight to see……

I still read enthusiast magazines. Any kind. Boating (power or sail). Automotive. Casting – as in foundry / molten metal. Electronics. Computers. I don’t know the intricate details of every piece of technology I read about, but I feed off the passion the enthusiast has for the subject. I love to learn!

It’s the same reason I attend and support the local “Sun Valley Cruise In” and various other automotive / aviation events in town. I haven’t the money, the patience, the required passion or “stick-to-it ivness”, or the money (did I mention $$$?), or the time to do it myself. When I see a pristine example of someone with all of the above who has done the work themselves, I’m overwhelmed at the level of skills and the magnitude of passion on display for all to see. Totally mind boggling. I reckon I have a passion for other’s passions!

There are three types of reading – vicarious (pleasure), learning (cognitive), technical (information). As a younger man (up to retirement time 9 years ago) I read all three. As a decrepit old drooler (no Depends! yet) my reading is almost entirely learning and technical. I’d love to read the latest Stephen Hunter novel but I’m down to 5.5 hours of sleep per night as it is…..

So, where will the “hands-on” people come from in Canada’s future? If all the Canadian young men and women are busy educating more educators or arguing the number of phD’s that can dance on the head of a pin while applying for a Canada Council grant, whom does the yoke of skilled labor fit?

If your answer is immigrants we are on opposing teams.

The pendulums are pendulous.

Joe (Update) Mekanic

p.s. My Lancaster model was the biggest, most expensive model aircraft I ever bought (my aircraft carrier was bigger and more expensive, but it was an Xmas gift). It was an Airfix, but not this box, which must be a recent offering. Hard to find a unbuilt in the box Airfix Lancaster from 1960….. I’m sure my dear mother worried that I was fixated on war. She may have been right!

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