The next morning we awoke and went outside to see what a beautiful spot we were in. The meadow was green and almost level, surrounded by a forest of fir trees with a few scattered spruce and aspens.
It was an idyllic spot except for one glaring problem. The ground was scattered with small pieces of litter. Barbara gathered the grandchildren and said that she would give each of them one piece of candy for every 20 pieces of trash they picked up.
Our 3-year-old grandson was excited to get in on the candy deal, but wasn’t sure what was meant by picking up trash. His gammy took him by the hand and set out to gather trash. He quickly grasped the concept and darted here and there, adding litter to his bag. When asked how many pieces he had picked up, his standard answer was, “Fourteen!” regardless of the count.
Some of the litter in that mountain meadow was from days long past. There were aluminum pull tabs of the sort that came into use in the late 1950s and were replaced in the middle 1970s, the kind that separated from the can. We used to drop the pull tab into the can to keep from littering, until someone’s mother said that we might choke on the pull tab in the can.
One of the granddaughters came upon a large tangle of baling wire. It, too, was very old. I don’t know when hay farmers stopped tying bales of hay with wire and began to use plastic string. It seems like it has been decades.
During most of the first half of my life there was this common saying: “If you can’t fix it with balin’ wire it ain’t worth fixin’.” Baling wire was relatively soft, strong and flexible. Every farmer, handyman and shade-tree mechanic, had a stash of baling wire with which to fix things. It had been a long time since I had had any baling wire and, frankly, had missed having some in my toolbox.
When my granddaughter asked what she was going to do with the tangle of wire, I said that I would take care if it. I got a pair of wire cutters, dragged my chair into the shade and began to work on the tangle of baling wire. I sorted through the mess, nipping off the twisted wire ends and folding the wire into flat, seven- or eight-inch loops.
When I had finished, and had several nice bundles of wire, I asked if anyone wanted some baling wire for their toolbox. To my surprise, no one responded. No one wanted any of the precious baling wire I had salvaged.
It was a stunning example of how things have changed, of the differing values of the generations. Mine is a generation that grew up fixing things. If something didn’t work we disassembled it, spread the parts upon a work bench, cleaned them, and fabricated missing or broken pieces. Baling wire figured prominently in all of this. I have even seen baling wire used as welding rod.
It is more than just a generational thing. So much of today’s stuff is electronic and/or computerized that the average guy with baling wire in his toolbox hasn’t a clue how to go about fixing it.
Later, one of my daughters asked for some of the wire. I don’t know what she did with it. One of my sons-in-law asked for some baling wire to use for hanging his gas lantern. Now, that was an entirely appropriate use of baling wire.