As a society, it seems that we now throw everything away.

When our televisions or other electronics go on the blink, we tend to toss them and go purchase a new, bigger model instead of repairing the old. I don’t even know where I would go to find a TV repairman anymore. If the old push-type lawn mower quits running, it’s probably cheaper to buy a new one at the big box store than it is to find someone capable of refurbishing the one you’ve had for 20 years. That was not the way things were done during the generation of my parents.

The lunch box I took to school every day for my first five years at the one-room schoolhouse was an old, re-purposed lard bucket. The snap on lid made the device both water-proof and airtight, and the wire handle made it easy to carry and extremely durable – as evidenced by it lasting all five years. When I was helping my parents sort through their belongings, just prior to my father’s passing, there was my old lunch pail, full of assorted nuts, bolts and washers. I know it was the same lard bucket because my name was printed inside the famous, Armour star logo, along with the words, ‘first grade – 1958.” It had lasted 40 years…with a purpose.

As we sorted through a lifetime of belongings, I found lots of interesting items that today’s generation would have sent to the landfill: A two-foot long, wooden rod that my mother had used for eons to feed the washed clothes from the tub to the wringer, so as to keep her fingers from getting caught in the device. Hordes of plastic containers that had originally held butter, lard, ice cream and other foods from the grocery that had been used over and over again to store leftovers and send many meals home with a son, daughters and grandchildren (she always requested them returned). And dozens more items that evoked both laughter and heartache at their sight.

During that whole, week-long event of sorting and discovery, my favorite thing to find was my old tape measure that I had purchased, with my own money, when I enrolled in General Shop 1 as a freshman in high school. It, too, had my name etched on the outside and Dad had used it as his own after I graduated. In fact, he had used it to the point that the little hook end had broken off and, instead of throwing it away, he had carefully re-riveted the end, beginning at the 2-inch line.

Seeing that, I remember asking him, “Doesn’t this kind of mess up your measurements, Dad?”

“Nope,” he answered rather matter-of-factly. “If you use the same tape measure to measure the length you need and then use it again on the board you’re going to cut, you don’t need to make any correction at all.”

“What if someone tells you they need a board cut to a 10 foot length?” I asked.

Dad grinned and said, “Well, then, I’ve got to remember to measure out 10 feet and 2 inches on a tape measure that didn’t cost me a dime.”

Jerry Crownover is a farmer and former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University. He is a native of Baxter County, Arkansas, and an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry, go to and click on ‘Contact Us.’


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