Who was your Mentor And what was he like?


Mine was an old finish carpenter named Walter Gaskell. One of the real old-style, old-timers. He did finish-work in some of the finest buildings in Sarasota, Florida in the 20s-40s, I think he said. He also lived elsewhere in the state doing many other carpenter- affiliated jobs into the 1980s. I believe he passed away in 1992….. Before I could come to realize what he had done for me, taking me under his wing and teaching me practically everything I know. Before I was aware enough to thank him for it (and for everything else he did for me). He came from Jacksonville Florida and was a nice old guy…. At least, once he took a shine to you! He raised quite a bit of hell with me until I finally learned who was the boss! ‘Pappy’ we used to call him.... I ran a radial arm saw in a saw shop and he was the Supervisor. He was already into his 70s then and he was quite a character. He taught you more than just how to use a framing square or how to change a saw blade. He taught you that carpentry and wood were made for each other. Even with the rough framing material we were cutting, he taught us to be proud of our work. He would tell us often to take our lumber crayons and write our names and the date and what we did on sporadic boards after we cut them, so that at some future time, people might stand transfixed with our work of glory! It wasn't funny. It was serrious! At least it was to him and he instilled that down into us. And frankly, that kind of thinking has followed me into every other aspect of my life, down until this day. Walter insisted that we take pride in our machines and keep them AND the work place clean, as well. One of his pet peeves was tidiness! We would shut down every day, 15 minutes before the whistle blew, just to sweep and straighten up the shop. And when Pappy gave an order, he expected you to follow it! That or risk his wrath! I can still see the poor ‘new guys’ who we sent over to the shop, blissfully wandering in and asking him for “the board stretcher”!!! Aaaaggh!! We’d send them there knowing how badly the ‘old man’ hated stupidity. But he was a real card. And a good and decent soul to boot. He took a real shine to me and got me off the clean-up crew and onto the saw line. That was hard for him to pull off because I'd only worked there a year and had had already cut the side of my thumb off with a utility knife, slit the palm of my hand open with banding material and got busted in the mouth with a steel hook dangling from a 1/2" chain (all requiring professional medical attention).So needless to say, the Yard Forman wasn't too keen on the issue. But Pappy finally pulled 'er off. I got to run his precious little 10” DeWalt saw! That was my first ‘real’ job, since sawyers got paid 25 cents per hour more. He usually wouldn’t let another soul touch it. It was a weak saw (compared to the others), but he'd never hear of that. He’d stand over me and give me the proverbial grease!... “That’s it.. pull her slow and easy. That's it. Follow that line. Nope.. you’re drifting. No... your…..... WHY THE HELL CAN’T YOU YOUNG KIDS LISTEN! God^%&@…………”. Well, you get the picture! But he did end up teaching me a lot about carpentry in the end. He would tell me little carpenter’s ‘secrets’ all the time. Like how to fix a pecker track so the painter would have an easier time, and things like that. How and where and WHY to "make your mark". I'll bet I heard that a thousand times. And that's why nobody has to remind me of it today. Pappy also liked to eat! About three times per week we’d head over to the diner across the street to eat lunch. He loved to sit next to me at the counter and spiel off what I needed to try and if I had ever had it. A word of warning: Never tell Walter that you didn’t like something if you never had tried it. He would soon come to know this (his very next question). And then he’d be REALLY pissed! LOL…!!! Like with the buttermilk issue. He used to order a glass every day. So finally he asked me if I like it. I said ‘No’. He asked me if I had ever tried it (how he knew to ask these questions, I still cannot be sure). I was truthful and again answered 'No'. He then proceeded to flip his lid! After a minute or two and he had calmed down, he told me: “Look… Order a glass. Try it. If you don’t like it I will drink the rest and pay you for it”. I tried it. I LOVED it. I have been drinking buttermilk ever since. There are a million other stories of his wisdom that I could tell. But I will leave you with this last one: After I married my 1st wife, he would often tell me… “Hey… you know the glass cases inside convenient stores that hold all of those nice little trinkets ? Stop by on your way home and pick out something for your wife. It doesn’t have to be very expensive. Just something to let her know you’re thinking of her." And then he'd give me a smile and a sly wink and say... "Women love little things”! He told me that on many occasions. Sorrowfully, I must confess that I never listened. And later…. Well, what befell me later just went to further proved the old man’s wisdom!
I love that old man.
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Aaron Eel (Ehrin) wrote:

My mentor was a customer in my store. He'd often stop to chat and during these conversations he taught me the concept of "Quality Control Thinking."
His mantra was: "I don't care what you believe, in fact I don't even want to hear it! I'm only interested in what you can prove. By 'prove' I mean present evidence sufficient in itself to compel a rational mind to accept the truth of your assertions."
He went on to give the example of UFOs: "I'm agnostic on the subject of visitors from the stars. They might be or might not. I am NOT, however, convinced by your personal anecdote about how many times you've had your rectum probed by aliens. If you want to persuade me that UFOs exist, put a piece of one in my hand."
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On 8/23/2010 7:43 AM, HeyBub wrote:

A UFO exists until it becomes an IFO.
TDD
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You know, this is a very thoughtful question. I've had several mentors, over the years. One stands out in my mind, and so I'll write about him.
When I was about 13, my family moved house. In the "new house", next door was and still is a man named Marvin. He grew up in a more rural area, some where in Pennsylvania. Came to New York State, for employment. Raised two kids here, and is now retired.
Marvin would spend a lot of time in the garage, repairing vehicles. He'd buy older cars, and they would need repairs. Sometimes he'd be doing complicated repairs such as rebuilding engines. When I got a car to drive, it would need repairs, now and again. I'd go next door, and push the door bell. Marvin would answer the door, and come out to see me. He'd tell me how to go about the repair, but would seldom help. Actually, he'd usually go back in and go back to watching TV.
After a while, I got to where I could do most of the simple repairs. Which is a very valuable skill, most folks can't fix much on cars now days.
One day, the area had an ice storm (1991, I think?). My parents neighborhood had power, fortunately. Marvin looked out, and saw all the branches down, off the trees. He went to the cellar and got his chain saw, and put on his old clothes. Also his bandanna, and ear muffs. Marvin went out to chat with the neighbors. Two doors away, were a couple of professionals with good jobs, and no repair skills. A branch had blocked their driveway. She had to be to work (nurse) and he did also (pharmacist). They were wondering out loud, how they could get to work. Marvin said "no problem". Pulled the start rope on his chainsaw, and cut up the branch. That's the kind of gentle, helpful, and courteous person I've tried to be.
I've succeeded in some small ways. To be more like Marvin. In 1991, I didn't own a chainsaw. I now have two. And, I've used them for a "branch down, blocking the door" moment. I've also been able to use some of my car repair skills, to help others repair vehicles. Mike, down the street, comes to mind. Teenager with his first car. Needed a bunch of work, and I was able to help him fix some things. I've more recently did some repairs for my friend Scott's family hauler station wagon. That was a good save. His car wasnnt safe to drive, and is now safe. It would not have passed the state safety inspection. Now, he can get another year out of it. Scott is unemployed, and money is a concern.
--
Christopher A. Young
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