As a kid growing up I would spend time in the shop learning to weld, turn a wrench, and change oil. When I was younger our tools consisted of a rock and a railroad spike and one was usually missing. The thousands of shots made, tough games played against a friend who was in college while I was in high school, and passing on my knowledge to my brother and boys.
My shop saw celebrations like the end of harvest, 4th of July dinners and conversations with friends, and the satisfaction of building something out of pieces of metal or wood. The aroma of a celebratory cigar and ice cold beer still lingers after my hard work paid off appealing the Natural Resources Conservation Services’ (NRCS) decision regarding the Conservation Security Program (CSP.)
The simple things like sitting down with my dad while taking break and talking about anything under the sun. Starting the fire in the wood stove first thing in the morning before feeding cows and having coffee with my folks was not routine, it was fun. And preparing a warm place for a calf born on the coldest day of the year and watching it thrive from your hard work and dedication.
The shop would be bigger if the tears that were shed in there made it grow. Clearing my mind with busy work after my dad passed away and talking with my Uncle and listening to his stories about my dad. Stories that I didn’t really believe but he confirmed. The scraped knuckles, smashed fingers, and accidental burnings produced swearing that would make a sailor blush with shame.
Easter egg hunts would take place in the shop if the weather was too cold or wet. My shop saw three boys (my brother and sons) learn how to ride a bicycle, shoot free throws, and run a plasma torch. My wife learned how to change oil in her vehicle and check her brakes as well.
My shop is a microcosm of me. It has some throw back flavor of my dad, but the rest is mine. It definitely is not politically correct, but will be made appropriate when different visitors come a calling. The visitors it has hosted have been cub scouts, college students, Congressmen, Legislators, agency folk from D.C., Congressional staff, reporters, organizations, business leaders, and neighbors. All have been friends.
My shop is famous in the ag circles of Idaho. The fridge is always stocked with pop, beer and water, but the reason for its notoriety is the posters. Posters of swimsuit models, jokes, and calendars, most of which would be deemed politically incorrect adorn the walls and are “insulation” according to my dad. Antlers of elk and deer provide a dual purpose of decoration and hanging place.
The shop has hosted many different meetings, meetings of the mundane and normal farming nature to high powered meetings with people from around the country and world. Some meetings were held to help area farmers be more successful and to answer their questions regarding farm issues. My shop also hosts a precision ag field day where the food is good and farmers can obtain recertification credits for applicators licenses.
4-H meetings were held in my shop until we found an alternative place. And Halloween time provided special moments in the shop. We like to raise pumpkins in our garden, and usually have more than we can use, so we invite friends over so their kids can carve them. Hole saws, electric jig saws, drill bits, and other shop tools make quick work out of carving pumpkins.
Dreams were born in my shop and some of those dreams have been reached while others are being worked towards. Planning for the farm has taken place there from day to day operations to 15 years down the road. I do some of my best thinking in my shop (outside of a tractor of course.)
Like I stated, it is a microcosm of me. From the fun loving, juvenile side of my personality (did I mention posters?) to the serious, business side of me with the right tools for the job. There is history there in the form of manuals, calendars, and tools from my grandfather’s time and a basketball hoop to shoot around on. Also, the gun safe holds treasures that are near and dear to me.
Why talk about my shop, because it is my place of work, my office, my space, my security blanket. Problems have been solved there because it is comfortable and non-biased. Guys love shops and the toys and tools that go in them. Talk can flow freely in a shop because to most people it is where leisure time is spent.
While pondering my Eisenhower Fellowship (EF) and the meeting coming up in April, I wonder if I am like a fish out of water? As I look around my yard I see equipment, fuel tanks, a fort, cows and tractors. That is also how I think of myself, a person of the earth who loves big toys, animals, kids, and my family’s heritage. I am not a champagne or wine person; give me an ice cold beer any day, especially after a hard day’s work.
I am comfortable in my shop with jeans on, an old T-shirt, and boots, not a suit and tie. However, that is the world I am heading into, a world of politics and position. It would be nice to have the 30 International and U.S. Fellows come to my shop to do seminars. I believe it would be more relaxing and everyone would be on an equal footing. Come as you are and dress appropriately so you don’t get mud or manure stains on expensive clothes.
The EF slogan is: “Leaders bettering the world around them.” I believe if Fellows would come to my shop they would become better people by getting out of their comfort zone. I think if everybody had a shop there would be fewer problems in the world. As a matter of fact, maybe Congress should meet in my shop to get back to basics and get a clearer perspective of how things should be, not ideal or frivolous but down to earth.