Time and motion…

    Guest Posts on County 10 are provided by contributors and the opinions, thoughts, and comments within are their own and may not necessarily reflect those of County 10.

    Time and motion, motion, and time, they seem like such small things in our existence but at the heart of it all, they make all the difference. My late friend Harold Bailey had a saying, (to be accurate, Harold had a lot of sayings) that reflected this concept well.

    “Take care of the little things. The big things will take care of themselves,” Harold often said to his students and athletes.


    Whether it was outlining individual player nuances in a play on the football field, or in class, teaching about his favorite subject, finances, the great man from Shoshoni had a message, a message that rings true in almost every situation.

    I’ve spent most of my life in Wyoming. It has given me the unique outlook those of us living out here on the edge of civilization have to develop just to thrive.

    Growing up as a teenager on the farm I learned the hard lessons of how a single nut, not tightened properly on a bolt, or assembled without a lock washer can cause a tremendous amount of damage. The same held true for misaligned belts, clogged filters, and poorly framed walls. It was a message I took to the classroom teaching young adults.

    Most teenagers don’t like detail and are in a constant hurry. It’s as if subconsciously they realize these fleeting moments of adolescent freedom will soon evaporate in the harsh light of adult reality. They take shortcuts, ignore the rules, and used to suffer the consequences. Now that we have safety nets, sky-high self-esteem, and a snowplow mom waiting to pounce on the first adult to hold their little darling responsible for their actions the lesson isn’t being taught.


    We have a wave of incompetence washing across society because there were no repercussions for stupid behavior. As a nation, we’re already paying the price.

    On the wall above my blackboard (yes, I started teaching in the Dark Ages) and then my “dry erase” board I had a few dozen quotes.

    “There is never enough time to do it right, but there is always enough time to do it again,” is the one that fits this narrative. If you’re constantly in a hurry, you never get as much accomplished as a slow, steady, thoughtful approach will get you.


    America’s first, and arguably greatest philosopher, Benjamin Franklin, wrote on the subject a long time ago in an edition of Poor Richard’s Almanac published in Philadelphia in 1758.

    “For the want of a nail the shoe was lost. For the want of a shoe the horse was lost. For the want of a horse the rider was lost. For the want of a rider the battle was lost. For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”

    Old Ben was onto something. He didn’t know of horseless carriages, but records indicate he imagined them in a future world. His knowledge of “horseless carriages” is equivalent to that of most of America today. In other words, we’re a nation devoid of even the slightest idea of what happens when we turn the key and shift the automatic transmission into gear. What’s under the hood, stays under the hood.


    A few generations ago and extended to those of us growing up in the 60s and 70s that wasn’t the case.

    Generations of American boys and a few girls learned the difference between a half-inch, and a nine-sixteenths wrench the hard way. With your dad twisted over the engine of the family car or his pickup you worked like a surgical nurse handing a doctor instruments. There wasn’t time to ask what the difference was between a flathead or Phillips screwdriver, or to guess what he meant when he wanted a three-quarter-inch wrench. You delivered, or he delivered something you didn’t want.

    How many of you spent a lazy Saturday afternoon with a couple of friends working on an old car? If you’re like my group of miscreants, the joy of watching an old Ford or Chevy come to life was one of life’s greatest thrills.

    You don’t see that today. Part of it is the malaise in the current generation and an abhorrence of getting their hands dirty. You can blame the kids a bit, but schools preach college, cut vocational classes and counselors look down on blue-collar careers. Why? Don’t you want an intelligent, skilled plumber, electrician, or welder working on your repairs?

    A second part comes in the high-tech thrown into modern vehicles. You need computerized diagnostic equipment just to find the problem and then specialized tools to replace the part.

    That diagnostic equipment was once a large screwdriver in the hands of a master technician.

    Teaching at the James H. Moore Career Center I spent a lot of time in the back of the building. I taught computer networking, HTML coding, and Microsoft applications up front, but my heart was in the back in Tad McMillan’s ag shop, Mike Sapp’s auto shop, and Cory Clemetson’s wood shop.

    One day after school Mike had the hood up on a car one of the kids had brought in. It was running rough. Mike always opened with a little zinger, “Hey, computer guy, what do you think is causing this?” he said, or something similar that afternoon.

    I listened for a minute. It wasn’t out of time, and it wasn’t making the rackety sound I was used to with a bad valve, so I made my best guess. “Burned valve?” I said.

    Mike just grinned. He put the business end of the big screwdriver on the valve cover and put the handle against his ear. Systematically he moved the screwdriver from the front to the back of the valve cover.

    “It’s number five,” he said.

    He pulled the valve cover, checked the fifth set of tappets, and tightened one of them. He started the engine, and it sounded much better. With the cover still off he played with the tappets a bit and the engine smoothed out.

    Repair done, and the only diagnostic tool was a screwdriver.

    “For the want of a nail…” came to my mind that afternoon.

    If the kid ignored the noise, the car still ran, at least for a while. But in just a few minutes, a master mechanic had solved the problem.

    It was time and motion studies all boiled into an afternoon session between a group of friends before we all headed home to other challenges.

    This is a lesson to be learned, or more accurately, a wide variety of lessons. Skills come in all varieties, but mastering them takes time, effort, and a lot of motion, sometimes repetitive motion. Until we return to those ideals we are a society in trouble.

    You might say, we’re just waiting to be nailed for our collective indifference.


    Related Posts

    Have a news tip or an awesome photo to share?