Why the Pump Won’t Work

In Subterranean Homesick Blues, Bob Dylan used a phrase about a pump that didn’t work because “the vandals took the handles.”  I thought of handles the other day when I broke yet another.

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When we departed Taiwan in 2018 I left behind the tools I’d accumulated over previous decades. These included at least two cast iron hammer heads.  There were two because either they were different styles, or because when I broke the wooden handles with which they came equipped, I couldn’t remember the precise size for replacing it the next time I visited a hardware store.

Hand tools in Taiwan are relatively inexpensive. That includes things like spades (for digging holes in the backyard). Repurchase of an entire item, rather than just a replacement handle, was usually the preferred remedy. The process of attaching an iron spade, or a cast iron hammer head, to a new handle can be done poorly, anyway. One result of easy replacement is the accumulation of iron parts without the handles required to make them functional.

A couple days ago here in Michigan I set about transplanting a peony bush from a corner where it is largely unseen to a location where it will be visible while standing at the kitchen sink. The weather had been rainy, and the soil was easily dug. At the place where the bush was to go, I “described” a square hole with my spading fork before leaning on it to lift things. My efforts were greeted with the handle snapping off. I’m thankful that no injury followed. But I wanted to complete the task, so used an unsuited tool to do so.  Well enough alone?  I really like that fork, so now I’m in the market for a 30 inch D-handle. The question before me is whether to act as if I were still home in Taiwan, and buy a whole new thing, or search out and order up a just the part I’m needing. On this hangs whether the eventual next owner of this property gets an entire spading fork, or, like those who got the tools left behind in Taiwan, some metal for recycling.

David Alexander now digs holes, or not, in Holland MI after 39 years in Taiwan.

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