Kelso: Where have all the great handymen gone?


I’ve had bad luck with handymen. And I need one badly. I couldn’t fix a baseball game.

That’s sort of a Pete Rose Joke, OK? The guys who are talented with home repairs tell me they got their education from watching their dads fix things around the house. My dad was a forester, and smart, but he wasn’t the least bit interested in home fix-its.

When I was a kid he put up paneling in the basement. But apparently he didn’t do a very good job. Because when he went to work one day, my granddad, who was a master carpenter and used to build spars for clipper ships, took all the paneling down and redid it right.

So I had no role model to learn from.

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I can run the washing machine and a vacuum cleaner. But I’m so weak at home repairs that when the kitchen sink got clogged a few years ago, my teenaged daughter got down on her hands and knees and fixed it. She knew how to get the job done. I hadn’t a clue.

Which is why I’m constantly on the lookout for a good handyman. I was starting to think it would be easier to find a bag of crack. If crack actually comes in bags. I wouldn’t know.

There was the handyman I hired a few years back whose painter dribbled dabs of paint on the walls and on my wife’s car. That was bad enough, but when we asked for him to cover the drips, he charged me for the extra work. If I remember right, it cost me an extra $500. I should have told him to put his paint brush where the sun don’t shine.

Then there was the old man who was trying to fit a loose piece of plastic onto my refrigerator. His granddaughter explained he liked being a handyman because it gave him something to do in his old age.

Well, he just couldn’t get the job done. It doesn’t fit, he said of the refrigerator part, looking at me as if I’d know how to help. Hey bozo, if I knew how to repair the refrigerator, I wouldn’t have hired you now, would I?

The same old man worked on the weather stripping on one of the doors. The result? It looks like a rat chewed on it.

Recently I thought I’d found a good one, a friend of one of my neighbors down here in Manchaca. This particular handyman had quite the background, to hear him tell it. But how much of this is true beats the heck out of me.

He said he had three degrees from the University of Texas, including one in chemical engineering; had a roofing company and a cabinet shop; served for a few years as a state trooper; worked at Sematech as a microcontamination specialist/ engineer; and was an accomplished trumpet player who performed in the UT marching band and played gigs at Al Hirt’s club in New Orleans.

Interesting, but I just wanted to know if he could turn a screwdriver.

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So I asked the guy, now in his 50s, if he could patch up a hole in the living room wall behind my banjo clock, fix some lose molding in the kitchen and repair our roof, which has some funky shingles.

“Yes sir, with both eyes tied behind my back,” he said. Inventive. Most guys would have said hands.

This guy defines busy. At UT, he even worked out with the football team but didn’t make it onto the squad. Says he couldn’t hold onto the ball.

“I was an overachiever that needed outlets to keep from throwing water balloons at city buses or tying fishing string to empty purses sitting in the street waiting for a passing car to come along, stop to get the purse only to have it dance away from them,” he said of his younger days. “A real OCD poster child that Ritalin would have fueled instead of medicated.”

So he came over to my house a few times, fixed some molding in the kitchen and rehung a door so it wouldn’t stick. But mostly, he sat around near the kitchen while my wife, Kay, fed him lunch.

Oh, well, I give up. Maybe someday I can get him to play something on his trumpet.



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