A while back my neighbor, who is near my age, stopped me on my walk. He was outside looking over some work being done on his house and had something in his hand.
He came over and held out his hand to show me what he was holding and asked if I knew what I was supposed to do with the items. I told him I did and he was surprised.
He had five or six bent nails that had been dropped on the ground as the carpentry work was being done and old boards replaced with new ones. Some of the nails were old and some new.
I went on to say that the nails should be taken to some flat surface and straightened out so they could be reused. At least, that’s what we did in Sandy Point back in the day. He laughed and said he had worked some summers on his uncle’s farm in Indiana as a kid and his uncle did that same thing. No one thinks twice today about a nail. Bend it, drop it, or lose it, there are plenty more where that came from. A contrary belief to the old days.
We had a can of old nails in the car shelter (garage to some), a can of old staples for the barbed wire fence, and a can of assorted old screws; bent, rusted, and difficult to drive but still seemingly of some value. At least they were in the mind of my grandfather and my neighbor’s uncle.
Driving a brand new fence staple can be an eye threatening event on a good day. Many the time they go flying “a winding” when hit with a hammer, flying off in one direction or the other. Nails can bend with the slightest miss-hit or bad hammer face. But just try driving a nail or staple that has been bent and some re-straightening done to try and reuse it. Now, that can make a preacher cuss!
But we did it all the time when I was a kid. The sense of waste not, want not was more than a phrase or motto, it was a daily practice down in Sandy Point. Cash was never abundant and a straightened bent nail or staple was like found money. So it was about money and saving. Thrift.
But, there is something else about reclaiming bent nails and staples: it is an example of what can happen to good people along life’s way. One miss lick and their life is bent out of shape. People, like nails, can be straightened and serve a useful purpose but someone has to pick them up out of the dirt or tap them back straight into the board. Someone has to see the value in doing so and not see it as a futile and meaningless exercise, not worth the trouble.
Many a board had been held in place by a nail that was once bent. Many a strand of barbed wire has been held up with a bent staple or one that had to be recovered because it flew “a winding”. I hope we can take the time to help the person who we see around us that has been lost or bent and help them to be useful again. We never really know when we are the “last chance” for some soul in trouble. Or, when we might need that bit of straightening ourselves.
© 2017 HJC