Allen Norwood

Tools draw out strong emotions

A woman on our street came walking by with her husband. My wife and I were working in the front yard, grubbing big rocks out of the clay to prepare a spot for flowers.

The woman looked at the tool in my hand. “I know what that is,” she said. “It’s a mattock. I’d never seen one until I moved down here. Never needed one. Now I know about mattocks....

“And I’m not doing any job that requires a mattock.”

We all laughed.

Since then, I’ve reflected on our relationships with our tools.

How can you hate a mattock? It’s an inanimate object. It’s not sleek or graceful, but it’s efficient in its simplicity. In much of North Carolina, if you want to plant a Better Boy for summer sandwiches, you reach for a mattock. And who doesn’t like tomato sandwiches?

It’s not like a mattock is a drop cord. Now, there’s something that’s easy to hate.

Every time I drop my long work cord onto the ground, it writhes and loops around itself like snakes in a wash tub.

I coil my cords carefully – honest! – and hang them on the wall. I take them down to use the hedge trimmer, and have to spend 15 minutes untangling the mess before attacking the hollies. Then, of course, the cord gets snagged on the crepe myrtle and crushes the daylilies as I try to stretch it from the electric receptacle on the front porch to the other side of the yard.

It’s a good day if I don’t slice the cord in two with the hedge trimmer in a burst of sparks. When that happens, of course, I have to remove the plug from the severed end, toss away the hunk I sliced off, and reattach the plug to the main cord. My 50-foot orange cord is now 37 feet long. I paced it off.

Yes, a drop cord is definitely easy to hate.

A pox on them, and their first cousins, the garden hoses. (“Guaranteed not to kink!” Yeah, right.)

I realized I have strong emotional connections with some tools.

I like the 24-ounce framing hammer a lot. Perhaps it’s because you get to swing away with a hammer that heavy, pounding out your frustrations on 2-by-4s. Perhaps it’s because that hammer has helped frame Habitat for Humanity houses. There are few things more rewarding than a day among volunteers on a Habitat job site.

Post hole diggers are easy to despise.

I’ve loaned my post hole digger to others over the years. It always finds its way home. Not even your friends and relatives will do you the favor of hanging onto that. No, they bring it right back.

The more I reflected, the more I realized that you can hate an inanimate tool. I definitely don’t like post hole diggers – and I’m changing my mind about mattocks.