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The Eclectic Pen - Fred Gets His Sideboards

By: David M.   + 3 more  
Date Submitted: 12/13/2011
Genre: Humor & Entertainment » Humor
Words: 779

  It might (slightly) help understand what follows if you knew Fred, the owner-and-almost-founder (“almost” because the enterprise was actually started by his deceased father, Ray) of a chain of stores that are physically located in Northwest Arkansas; and metaphysically on the internet. The Old Smokehouse ships worldwide from the flagship store and smokehouse plant on a highway laden with tourists and their dough.

Fred’s a bit unusual, in several ways: For one thing, he doesn't know how to be dishonest; he'd do a bad job of it if he tried. Second, he simply cannot do only one thing at a time. When a woman has “lebenty-leben” things going on at the same time it's called "multi-tasking" and is worth at least a segment (with an internet “expert”) on Oprah; while. to those who work for/with him, Fred's case is more like—to call a spade a spade—the symptoms of Adult Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Fred comes into a room going out.

Which can occasionally make it difficult for an employee to understand what it is that Fred wants done; by the time the (first of many) questions-raised has begun to sink in, Fred has already moved on to a new subject....

The third thing I think Fred doesn’t know how to do is lose his temper. (Of course, I wasn't there when the following took place,,,,)

Which was thirty-some years ago: Fred had just hired Joe (who has a last name but nobody—except Fred and someone in Payroll—knows what it is) to be in charge of the smoking operation at the new plant. That long ago, the job could have been Joe's first, and, still filled with enthusiasm his motivation might have been to impress Fred with his ability to see what needed to be done and do it, without waiting to be told.

And no better an opportunity to impress Fred would likely EVER come along than the one that his boss’ beat-up old POS pickup did every day, as it pulled into Fred’s parking spot. It was his favorite means of transportation, appropriate for a man who had one suit (good for weddings and funerals alike) and 47 blue chambray shirts with an equal number of pair of blue jeans. And Fred had mentioned more than once that he wished he had side-boards on the bed of his pickup so he could carry an even-higher load of Stuff (that seemed at the time to have high adaptive re-use potential).

So when Fred had to go to Little Rock it was the opportunity Joe had been waiting for. He had seen some rough-sawn boards stacked in the ramshackle barn, and this being Friday—and Fred gone until Monday—Joe went to work: Measuring, sketching, ripping (with a circular saw, mind you, because there wasn’t a table saw to be found on the place); surface planing and edge-jointing (at a cabinet shop close by) and drilling (for carriage bolts; THESE side boards weren't going to just be nailed together!). Joe briefly considered using some kind of inlaid veneer, but a pause for a cup of coffee was enough time for reality to sneak up behind Joe and grab him and hold him down until sanity returned.

So the project was finished with time to spare; Fred got back home late Sunday night; and first thing the next day Joe proudly showed Fred what he'd made with nothing but initiative, hard work, and some old boards.

I was never told what, if anything, Fred had said but I remember being told that there were tears in his eyes. "Gosh," Joe may have thought to himself, "I sure didn't expect him to be this moved by somebody thinking of a way to please him and then having the initiative to carry it through! I think this guy is going to be a really good man to work for!"

And Joe didn't know the half of it: The man he was working for had tears in his eyes not because he was moved by Joe's thoughtfulness, but because the wood that Joe had used was several 14'-long, (full) 2” thick by (full) 12” wide cherry boards that Fred's father Ray had stored, “stickered” to air-dry in the barn before his death over twenty years earlier, intending to use it some day to make a cradle for his first grandchild. Who was by then in high school.

It's a mark of the man that I'm still living—after asking Fred if he planned to finish off his new side-boards with a French polish or just apply a couple of coats of Watco....

The Eclectic Pen » All Stories by David M.

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