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Teachable Moment

Was I really wearing a long-sleeved flannel shirt last week? Why, yes. Yes, I was.

In my defense, it was only 92 degrees. When the thermometer hit 96 degrees, I changed into a tee shirt.

You might wonder why.

Let’s talk about welding.

I used to do a lot of welding. We made most of the livestock equipment on our farm in our shop. About fifty farrowing crates, dozens of gates, all that stuff. But that was a few decades in my rear-view mirror, and a long time has passed since I spent a whole day welding.

Then one of the storms that howled through our area this spring dropped a tree on the wooden fence around my daughter’s house.

There are people, decent people, who would have just cleaned up the mess and replaced the damaged panels.

Sadly, I am not one of those people.

I looked at the check from the insurance company and estimated that if I figured my labor as $0.00, there'd be enough money for a whole new fence. And if you’re going to build a whole new fence, why not include a couple wrought iron gates.

Why not indeed.

It took a while for the design to come together. The fence needed to be dog proof, attractive, and, most importantly, within my welding skill set. Finally, on a lovely, late June day, I began to cut and weld.

The first gate took almost a whole day to construct. Did I mention I started in late June and a long time has passed since I spent a whole day welding?

When I got into the shower that night, I couldn’t help but notice the violent burns on the inside of both forearms. I looked like I’d fallen asleep on a beach in Jamaica.

Here’s thing about welding. A welding arc is a little point of light heated to about 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Imagine the sun was very, very tiny, but still hot - hot enough to melt steel. And imagine that tiny sun was only about a foot away from your forearms.

And imagine those forearms are kind of a lizard-belly white.

Some of you are saying, “I’m getting a bit tired of him writing about the ways he hurts himself doing something dumb.”

You think YOU’RE tired of it?

I’m choosing not to see this as a dumb move, but rather a teachable moment.

I haven’t regretted a tee shirt that much since the time I borrowed a concrete company’s ginormous sandblaster to scour the old paint off a semi trailer prior to a snappy new paint job. I wasn’t dumb enough to stick my arm in front of the nozzle, but the sand was coming out at 500 mph, so it was still moving fast when it bounced off the steel. If my dad hadn’t prowled around the concrete plant until he found an old jacket for me, my forearms would have been blasted to naked bones before I got done.

That was twenty years ago. I do learn from experience, but apparently, I don’t remember the lesson for more than a couple decades.

The next day, I got the second gate done in less than half the time. The forecast called for highs in the upper 90’s, but I was decked out in a long-sleeved flannel shirt.

See...teachable moment.

Copyright 2022 Brent Olson

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