The View From Planet Kerth: The Craftsman ’hammerhawk’ lesson that will outlive Sears
When I learned that the Naples Sears store would close in November, my nostalgia gland ached just a bit, because once long ago I learned a valuable life lesson in a Chicago Sears hardware department.
When I was a kid, my philosophy of life was: “Let Someone Else Break It.” It worked like this: If I fooled around in the living room and broke a lamp, I would painstakingly put it back together and tiptoe out of the room. The next time anybody walked across the floor, the lamp would rattle apart, right before their very eyes. And I was nowhere in sight.
But then one day I broke Dad’s hammer, and I couldn’t find a way to “let someone else break it.”
I must have watched a Cowboy-and-Indian movie the night before, because when I woke up in the morning I went out to the garage to see if Dad had a tomahawk on his work bench. He didn’t, but he had a hammer that looked about the same size and shape, so I carried it outside, took deadly aim at a tree trunk, and I let it fly.
The “hammerhawk” missed the tree and hit a rock, and one of the claws snapped off and flew into the bushes, where I couldn’t find it. I was in trouble, because there was no way I could put the hammer on his workbench and let him “break” it. Not without that vital missing claw.
Just then Dad got home from work, so I came up with a radical new philosophy to explain how things get broken. It’s called “the truth.” I didn’t have time to come up with anything better.
“Dad,” I said, “the hammer got broken.” Not: “I broke the hammer,” but: “the hammer got broken.” (Look, I was new to this truth thing. And when you’re still on your learner’s permit, truth can get a bit swervy.)
“Well, how did it break?” Dad said.
Tough question. I mean, sure, the hammer flew out of my hand. And we could argue all day about whose fault it was — mine or the hammer’s. I said, “Well, somehow it got itself thrown at a tree. And the hammer missed the tree. And the hammer hit a rock, and the rock broke it.”
Stupid hammer. Stupid rock. And I’m still not convinced that the tree was all that innocent, either. Anyway, I was feeling pretty good that my “true” story was getting pretty crowded with likely suspects.
And then, in a noble effort to raise the truth to a higher level, I said, “You know, whoever taught me to throw when I was little didn’t do a very good job of it.”
Dad just nodded. “Get in the car,” he said. “We’re going for a ride.”
Well, that was it. It was curtains for me. Because not only did I watch cowboy-and-Indian movies, I watched gangster movies, too. And I knew what happened when an angry man took a guy for a ride. Especially an angry man holding a hammer with one lethal, jagged claw on it.
Choking back a tear, I said, “Can I say goodbye to Mom?”
“Make it fast,” he said. I dashed inside to give Mom a hug.
“What’s that for?” Mom asked.
“Dad’s taking me for a ride.”
“Oh, that’s nice,” she said. She was one cold-hearted gangland moll. I slumped outside, where Dad already had the car idling at the curb. We drove off, and I wondered where he would do it. At the river, in a pair of cement shoes? But no, Dad drove over the bridge.
Well then, maybe the railroad tracks, where I’d be tied across the rails? But no, we passed the tracks, too. And then we were in an Italian neighborhood, and I thought, OK, this is it. You could plug a guy and dump him out of a speeding car in an Italian neighborhood and nobody would even look up from mowing the lawn. I had seen the movies, and the movies never lie.
But we pulled up to the big Sears store on the corner of North Avenue and Harlem, and Dad swung into the lot. “Let’s go,” he said, and he walked inside. I was confused. I had never seen a movie where a guy got snuffed in Sears, but then I was still young and had an early bedtime.
He stopped in the hardware department, and I had visions of being ground up with a chainsaw and fed to the gerbils in the pet department, but no.
Dad pulled a Craftsman hammer off the shelf and handed the broken one to the salesman. “This old Craftsman hammer broke,” he said.
The salesman said, “Huh! How did that happen?”
Dad pointed to me. “The boy threw it at a tree,” he said.
I was stunned at Dad’s version of “the truth.” The way he told it, there was little chance the salesman would see how it was all the hammer’s fault. “A rock broke it,” I said. “The hammer missed the tree.”
“Yeah, hammers will do that,” the guy said. “They’re not accurate, like tomahawks.” I was starting to like this guy.
He turned to Dad and said, “OK, sir, is that the new one you want?”
“Yep, this’ll do,” Dad said.
And that was that. We dropped the old, broken, inaccurate hammer into the trash and took the new hammer home.
When we got to the car, Dad waited a moment before he started it up. It felt as if a lesson was on its way.
“See,” he said, “Sears promises that if one of their Craftsman tools breaks, for any reason, they’ll replace it for free. And I trust them, because they always … tell … the truth.”
Needless to say, I learned a valuable life lesson that day at Sears.
I learned that with the right tool, you could play cowboy-and-Indian without fear of stupid rocks ruining your fun.
The author splits his time between Southwest Florida and Chicago. Not every day, though. Contact him at email@example.com. Why wait a whole week for your next visit to Planet Kerth? Get T.R.'s book, 'Revenge of the Sardines,' available now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other fine online book distributors.