March 16, 2008

The nut doesn't fall far from the tree

I had to work for a few hours today to prepare for next week. When I got home my wife and sons were hard at work in the yard going at an old stump from an apple tree. There was something seriously wrong with that tree. It made apples but they always rotted on the stem before ripening. Nonetheless the tree left one hell of a stump. My wife's chutzpa amazes me because stumping is the mother of all extreme sports. The gang of three put up a good fight and I was honored to be asked to step in. Took the axe out of the shed and found it was much duller than the shovels, which provided an opportunity to rev up the grinding wheel and let the sparks fly. Axe sharpened I went to work, chopping, digging in the mud, feet slipping. It started raining, and then hailing, no joke, and I kept at it, digging, chopping, shoes caked, periodically staggering away from the hole gasping for air. After a while I could rock the stump from side to side which helped to locate the remaining roots. In the end I lifted the stump free of the hole, victorious.

I got to work when I was a kid and I loved it. Sometimes Dad couldn't wait to get out and cut wood on a Saturday morning. We would return home with a trailer full of oak, or ash, or even cottonwood. After a week of tending to the flock there was no holding back the urge to swing an axe, and bite into a tree trunk with the McCulloch chainsaw. I always thought he was proud to go to work covered in scars and band-aids. It worries me that I may not be passing this work lust on to the next generation.

Winters, it was my job to fill the woodbox and shovel the driveway. Summers I mowed the lawn. One time I saw that the lawnmower was beating the heck out of the grass, leaving battered blades frothy with greenish pulp. I asked Dad if I could sharpen the blade, I was about 11, and it was OK, so I turned on the homemade grinding wheel in our basement which was connected to an electrical motor from the 30s by a sagging fan belt. Sharpened blade, remounted it and gave the lawn a clean buzz cut with a razor sharp edge.



At March 17, 2008 10:48 PM , Blogger Papa Twister said...

Is chutzpa a Swedish word? Just a constructive criticism, you say, "It worries me that I may not be passing this work lust on to the next generation," so when they asked for your help, shouldn't you have pulled out a lounge chair and given them advice about how to do it rather than doing it for them? But of course the thought of Isaac holding a sharp ax scares me, but I do let him clean trout with a very sharp fillet knife.

At March 18, 2008 1:26 PM , Blogger Matt_J said...

Chutzpa is Yiddish. Your point is well taken and the problem is that sometimes there is nothing I'd rather do than remove a stump with an axe. I will have to work on sitting. I use this technique in teaching and will actively resist explaining so the students have to take responsibility themselves. I'm happy if I can get them to explain the lecture to me. It is much more important that the students do the thinking than that I show that I know the right answer.

At March 18, 2008 9:59 PM , Blogger Papa Twister said...

Matt... I know chutzpa is Yiddish. I was making a joke about you being a shaygets and using chutzpa to descride a shiksa.

Sorry about the parenting advice. It usually drives me crazy when people give me parenting advice. It is funny, but the hardest part about teaching is withholding information. If you give them information they will not learn it as well as if they have to discover it for themselves.

At March 19, 2008 1:02 PM , Blogger Matt_J said...

There is a joke in here somewhere about how if the teacher is an idiot the students learn more, and there is no way to tell the difference between a true idiot and an idiot for the sake of pedagogy.

I chose the Yiddish word for an old friend. Have you clicked on the link 'Kurt Vonnegut' on Primate Brow? Good story but not the full length version.


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