Swickard: In praise of dabblers

© 2017 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.   Working smart is a mainstay of our country. I sometimes find people who I call “Dabblers” able to work smart in many different endeavors. My uncle Ralph and my Grandfather McKim were both dabblers of many different abilities to fix things.

            A hallmark of a great dabbler is not being entirely into a college career. Rather, it is the ability and inclination to take on an impressive array of jobs and do each one well. These people are not usually experts but they are completely competent in many areas.
            Myself, I’m competent at most home and auto repairs. But what I really know is when to call in someone who can fix whatever I’m working on. This last week I ran into a dabbler extraordinaire who amazed me with his abilities.
            The way this came about is that my uncle that I took care of many years until his passing in 2015 built his house in 1959. He had a 1934 Plymouth Coupe that he drove occasionally. The house was done in September and he parked the Plymouth in the garage. One of his friends helped him take the engine out to rebuild it. They disassembled the car.
            Then it happened, his mechanic friend was suddenly transferred by his job to the East Coast. Said Plymouth sat all these years awaiting a new mechanic. My uncle never reassembled the car.
            The dabbler this week bought the car from my uncle’s estate. We had to get it out of the garage. My uncle was from the Great Depression and didn’t throw anything away in all those years. Even plastic spoons. We carefully cleaned out the garage and loaded the car body on a trailer along with boxes and boxes of parts.
            This dabbler mechanic knew instantly every bolt, nut and piece of the car. He was able to mentally reassemble it in his mind. The real reassemble at his place will take a long time.
            We need the next generation of kids to learn how to dabble in many areas of fixing stuff. We have enough people who can sit and pass paper back and forth. We will need the next generation to have dabblers who can look at things that break in a house or car and fix them.
            For me it was taking three years of shop when I was in public school. No longer is shop a core curriculum and our society and students are missing out. In my three years I learned woodworking, electronics repair, automotive repair, welding and using tools.
            Shop needs to return to our public schools for every student. Boys and girls. Make all of them handy and then let them sort out what needs to be fixed. For every person who looks at the stars we need someone who can look at the biffy and know how to get it working again.
            Our society has a bountiful amount of goods but someone (dabblers) must be encouraged to learn how to fix these things.