Staff column: the ties that bind change over time
It was bound to happen to an old farm kid like me.
"I had a guy check the oil in the car today and those heater hoses you hung up on the firewall with baling wire have fallen down again," my wife said as she walked in the house. "The rattle is driving me nuts."
I went out, pryed the hood of the old mobile open and there it was; hoses dangling with rusted out baling wire as old as the hills still hanging from them.
I went to the garage and started looking for "new" baling wire to make the repair. I knew I some had hanging around somewhere in that conglomeration of auto parts, tires, construction materials and fencing. I finally found it; a little piece remained of a large collection I had been using for the last 10 years since we moved into the place.
Over that time I had used that excess wire collected by a previous owner of the property to repair almost everything around, in and about the entire place. In evidence of my activities are attested to by water pipes hung from basement rafters, metal panels that keep the goats in corrals near the barn, a headgate that had separated in the middle and was shown back together with the metallic strand, a motorcycle seat on which the latch had broken, various plant hangers that had deteriorated and seen better days, etc., etc., etc.
However, on this I knew that one fine thread of still reasonably new baling wire wound around a nail in the garage would never stretch around the grouping of hoses I needed to secure. So I began looking for alternatives.
In actuality, the loss of my baling wire collection was a shock to my system. Ever since I was a kid growing up on a dairy farm in the Salt Lake Valley, I had been taught to use first baling twine and then later when we purchased a new wire baler for alfalfa, baling wire to secure anything that was broken. My dad and two uncles used it for everything on the farm and even around the house. It was the general fix all for anything that ails a machine, building part, fence or other inanimate object. Baling wire is part of my heritage.
Now I would have to resort to something else; an unknown connector on which I could not necessarily count. I did have some baling twine hanging on a pipe because I had recently been feeding the animals some hay I had purchased. However, this was not the baling twine of my childhood. It was made of plastic; you know that indestructible stuff that is found everywhere from the middle of the San Rafael Swell to the toilet bowl they call the Pacific Ocean. Besides I had graduated when I was 10 from using baling twine over baling wire to secure anything. Moreover, this plastic twine never seemed as good as the jute twine of my childhood anyway. I mean there has to be something wrong with a twine that holds 75 lb. bales together that doesn't give you a rope burn if you don't wear gloves to haul it around.
So I looked some more. I even went in the house to find something that might work. Deep in a drawer in the kitchen was a collection of twist ties. Now here was something I could use; thin wire covered by paper, but wire just the same. I pulled out the drawer which then dumped onto the kitchen floor.
"Are you in my tool drawer again?' I heard a voice ask from the living room. "If you are be sure you put my pink handled tools back in there. I better not find them in your tool box in the garage."
It was the ultimate sin to remove the pink tools from the house; I had been punished severely for that indescretion before.
"No, I am not looking for your tools," I said. "I am looking for some of those long twist ties we took off the cord of that Super 800 vacuum you got a couple of weeks ago. Any idea where they are?"
"I think you used them to tie an extension cord to the wall of the patio," said the mistress of the palace. "I think you used them all." And then she added, "Remember no pink tools leave the house."
All the twist ties that were spread out over the floor were too short to do the job. Then suddenly it dawned on me that I had another solution right at hand; bungee cords. I had a dozen of them in a new package under the seat of my truck.
However upon examination, they were all very long and there was really no place to hang them. Besides, I wasn't sure the plastic ends with cloth covers would hold up very long under a hood that gets heat in the summer, cold in the winter and water/mud on them all year long.
Just then my son pulled up in his truck. He saw the hood of the car open.
"What you doin' dad?" he asked.
I pointed out the problem and he smiled. He went to his truck and pulled out a large plastic bottle filled with colorful straps that were as thin as a dogs dew claw.
He took one of them out and twisted it around, pulled one end and the small plastic strap tightened against itself. Then he took another and bound the heater hoses to a hole in the firewall in the same manner.
"You were going to use baling wire weren't you?" he asked. Obviously my son knew me too well.
"Dad you have to come into the 21st century," he said shaking his head. "Go down to the store and get you some zip ties like this. They're easy to use and if you notice, any vehicle built after 1980 has them to attach things together. It's only five bucks for a bottle and they come in all sizes and colors."
I started to object that baling wire was free, that it came in any size you wanted if you had a pair of dikes and that it didn't need to be color coded. He just looked at me, in a pitiful sort of way. But in my situation, unless I stole it off neighbor's fences where they had used the stuff for repairs, I would now have to actually buy baling wire. The thought appalled me.
He handed me a zip tie and made me pull it and work with it. I could see their use. But they were just so neat and clean; there is just something wrong with not repairing things with wire that not only has the potential to poke and cut you, but also gets your hands all rusty as you do it.
However I acquiesced and today I have a large variety of zip ties in my garage, neatly tucked away in the bottle that was meant for them. So another part of my childhood had been replaced by a high tech version of past solutions.
It was an end of an era for me, but on the wall above my work bench, that last vestige of steel wire still hangs, reminding me of my roots and the ties that bind.