In End Grain

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It’s hard to hide the loot when your wife has detective skills.

I am a toolaholic. There, I’ve said it. I’ve admitted my weakness. I am in need of a 12-step program. A 12-step program or a good surgeon. For you see, my bride has the sense of humor of a cat after it has been crazy glued to the left front hubcap of a ’53 Buick that was driven 40 miles per hour over an Arkansas washboard back road. My wife is not mean. She is “focused.” At least that is what she tells me that “look” means. You know the “look.” That steely eyed glare that you feel searing your back when your significant other creeps up behind you just as the UPS truck is leaving your driveway and you are festooned with cardboard boxes.

The Warden and I have been honeymooning for 20 years now, having met at a triple homicide on the mean streets of Chicago. We were both police officers and just happened upon each other at a murder scene. Other than the blood and those dead guys, it was actually quite romantic. It was love at first sight. It wasn’t long thereafter when I asked her for her hand. Idealistic fool that she was, she told me, “Sober up and ask me again in the morning.” I apparently must not have sobered up enough, because I did ask her again.

Anyway, back to my problem. Well, actually I don’t see it as a problem. It is really a friendship thing. I am on a first-name basis with toolmakers. I like to think that they all think of me as a friend because of my great skill in worrying their hand tools around a piece of gnarly wood, but it may also be because they recognize me as a bottom-line type of guy. I add to theirs. Frequently.

Therein is the rub with SWMBO. I don’t think she likes my friends. Not because they’re bad guys; she hasn’t even met them. No, I think it is because they “write” to me so often. Actually they write me monthly. Their message is just a few numbers printed across my Visa statement.

Fortunately, I am now retired and the Warden isn’t. That translates into me getting to the FedEx truck and the UPS man most days before the Straw Boss gets home. I grab the multiple packages, slit their little openings and bask in the glory of new tools ’n stuff! I can sometimes cavort with a Veritas object on the living room floor for an hour or so before I have to squirrel it out to the yard, kick it around a bit then throw copious amounts of dirt on it.

You see I have this theory: Dirty tools are old tools, therefore I can claim honestly that I’ve had them for eons. “No, that isn’t new! Look at the scratches. Why I’ve had that Lie-Nielsen No. 49 for I don’t know how long.” My wife then takes out her CSI kit and dusts the living room for traces of mastic from packaging tape, or grabs her electron microscope looking for walnut abrasions on cutting surfaces just to disprove my defense. From there, she whips out her Sherlock Holmes spy glass and searches neighborhood garbage cans for tell-tale cardboard boxes from Mike Wenzloff, Ron Breese and Benchcrafted.

For 20 years now, SWMBO and I have done this tango. The dance of hide and seek. I hide the tools, boxes and bills, and she seeks my treasures. She also roots through my shop for the “swag,” the ill-gotten gains, the loot. That 12-step program? I think I hear her loading it right now – only I think it is a six-step program recommended by Smith & Wesson. Perhaps I should look for that surgeon …

Joe is a lifelong resident of Chicago and served on the city’s police force from 1968 until his retirement in 2004. He enjoys using primarily hand tools to make furniture, clocks and small boxes.

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