chainsawOver 40 years ago, when we were in the Air Force and had two little boys, we lived in an apartment complex in San Antonio, Texas. My wife, Dianne, and I look upon those Air Force years as a shared period of our lives. Anyhow, that apartment complex had a handyman. He did everything and anything that needed fixing or doing at the apartments. He was a treasure.

I’ll come back to that handyman in a moment, but first here’s what happened to me today. I discovered one of the toilet bowls had a flow valve that was about to fail. So, I ran off to the hardware store, got a new valve and in an hour had it installed and not leaking. I thought about that fairly simple task. If I were older and less mechanically adept, I might not have gotten that fixed so easily or cheaply.

One of the handicaps of getting old is losing the ability to fix stuff. Many skills and abilities go into a simple plumbing repair: being able to drive to go to the hardware store, knowing what to buy, having the right tools, being able to crawl about under the toilet, feeling empowered to take on the task, etc.

This interaction between age and need brings me to my point about handymen.

Here in Wimberley, there are many retired, semi-retired, underemployed, free thinking artists and old hippies. Sometimes I think this population divides itself into two groups: handymen and people who need a handyman. There are handywomen too, but fewer. These folks, like our handyman from years ago, will fix anything for you. They go get parts, come to your home, fix whatever and charge a reasonable fee.

They even provide another benefit. They become part of your social support system. Since they too are a resident in a small town, they not only fix your stuff, they stop to chat with you and are not adverse to a bit of lunch or cup of coffee.  And this is the interesting thing.  We have this network of handypeople. It’s not a church program or something social services thought up. It’s pure enterprise and social interaction all in one.

My son, when he first moved back to Texas from California, was an assistant to a well established handyman. His boss would chat with the customers while my son did all the work. This was a very successful strategy.

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