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In the Shop

RSS By: Dan Anderson, Farm Journal

As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.

Tools--The Gifts That Keep On Giving

Nov 27, 2008
 Thanksgiving is past so I can safely broach the topic of Christmas without violating my personal ethical calendar. Time for my annual frenzied search for meaningful, appropriate gifts for my family.

My search for "meaningful" tools to give as gifts was made much easier several years ago. I had reason to switch all my tools to a different toolbox, and found myself doing a mental inventory. It surprised me that while the origins of many of the tools I had purchased for myself were often hazy, I distinctly remembered who gave me every tool that was a gift.

I still have and use the set of 1/4-inch through 1-1/4-inch combination wrenches my dad gave me when I was in high school. The 24-ounce wood-handled ball peen hammer he gave me for Christmas when I was in college has been retired from daily use, if only to keep its battered original handle intact. Now that Dad is gone, that taped and splintered handle means more to me than if I replaced it with a new handle.

There's a little $15 battery clamp puller that I use every day that I should probably retire, too. I'd be heartbroken if I broke or lost it. My son gave it to me during one of those teenage periods when I wasn't sure he listened to much of what I said. I casually mentioned at a Sunday dinner in October that someday I wanted to get a battery clamp puller, and for Christmas he bought me one. The puller works great, but the thing that makes it special is that it proved that even if he wasn't listening, he still heard some of what I said and cared enough to get me something useful and that I wanted, even though he was on a teenager's budget. 

My wife constantly asks what she can buy me that will make my job easier. I dislike her spending lots of money on me, and often don't give her much of a list of possibilities. So she stubbornly listens to what sort of repairs I'm working on, then comes up with things to make my job easier. There's nothing romantic about the padded creeper she bought for me, or the low-height rolling chair with padded seat and back, but every time I use them they remind me that she cares and worries about me.

Tools make great gifts, not because they're cool or expensive, but because they're useful symbols that somebody cares about us. Tools aren't toys that we can play with, like fishing rods or golf clubs. They aren't clothes that we outgrow or wear out. Tools have symbolic value that may not be represented by their cost. Every son has a wrench set or hammer gifted by his father that symbolized a gift from a man, to a man. Every father has a battery clamp puller, or creeper, given to them by their offspring or spouse, that is more valuable than gold. The tools are nice, but the memory of who gave that gift is even better. 

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