‘One of my greatest pleasures in writing has come from the thought that perhaps my work might annoy someone of comfortably pretentious position. Then comes the saddening realization that such people rarely read.” John Kenneth Galbraith, economist (1908-2006)
An encore presentation …
Decades ago, in the maintenance garage coffee room at the Watson Lake airport, I sat alone, idly glancing around the uninspiring room. Setting the unfinished cup, of uninspiring coffee, on some coffee-stained papers, a word caught my eye.
I moved the cup and read more. The essay began: “A man may hide himself from you, or misrepresent himself to you in every other way, but he cannot do so in his work.
“His imagination, his perseverance, his impatience, his clumsiness, his cleverness — everything is there to be seen in a man’s work.
“For example, if stonework is well put together, it means a thoughtful man planned it, a careful man cut it, and an honest man cemented it.”
Jim had just left. He was a grader operator. As the essay promised you could see Jim’s honesty in his work.
He could take his big yellow machine onto a deeply rutted road, and turn it into a surface smooth enough to roll eggs without breaking them.
Though we never challenged him, I’m convinced he could take the icing off a cake if challenged.
Jim was a craftsman! He was “old school,” with a decade or two on most of us. Ever since I read that coffee-stained essay on craftsmanship, it and Jim come together like bread and butter, whenever I meet another true craftsman — man or woman.
(A fascinating sidelight into our society came forth here. I wondered if there was a special term for craftsmen of the female persuasion.
A quick search revealed my two dictionaries, and the one on the computer recognizes only the single word craftsman.
Although not a definitive study I may be safe assuming it’s not a gender specific description? Craftsperson perhaps?)
Anyway, the essay continues: “There is no job in this world so dull, that it would not present fascinating angles to someone. The writing of Carl Sandburg lends us an example when he reminds us of a fish crier in a fish market whose face, ‘is that of a man terribly glad to be selling fish, terribly glad God made fish, and customers, to whom he may sell his fish.’
“Similarly no material with which we work, be it cabbage or gold, asks us to be content with it as we find it. It asks us to take it in hand and change it by putting value into it — values of ourselves, our skill, our heart, our craftsmanship.”
The above is “an encore presentation” an echo of CBC, which is spin-doctor talk meaning: “It’s a repeat.”
Some of the above segment is from the first column I wrote for this newspaper on August 20, 1986.
The coffee-stained paper was my introduction to the then Royal Bank Newsletter, a monthly essay, sent to subscribers, and it was always thought provoking.
It’s gone now.
Craftspeople are not!
Coffee talk suggests they’re harder to find, though we went to the Fireweed Community Market recently.
Well, if you’ve had enough fast food to last you awhile give it a go any Thursday for awhile yet, and taste real “old fashioned” food from real stoves in real Yukon kitchens. Craftsmanship!
Oh there’s a difference alright, and it has to be savoured to be appreciated.
It’s neat to wander among old friends munching mouth-watering food, admiring, and desiring Yukon-made products worthy of a place in your home.
There are craftspeople roaming this Yukon of ours in abundance, in all fields of work with new dimensions and directions coming along regularly.
A tip of the hat to Yukon craftpeople, craftswomen, craftsmen — you choose — they are there, and I associate with a bunch of them regularly.
A special tip of the hat to a special group: the Yukon News team craftspeople one and all, who’ve put up with me for two decades now.
Rain, rain go away …
Well now, the Farmers Almanac tells me today to: Expect Rain if . . .
“Cats wash behind their ears or sneeze.
“Dogs roll on the ground, act drowsy or dull, eat grass or straighten their tail.
“Bats cry out and fly into the house.
“Lambs frolic and leap about.”
To that we add: If you’re spending your summer in the Yukon in 2006.
Keep dry, and well!