Wednesday, July 1, 2009
The 7th habit personified
Sharpening a chain for a saw is a slow and meticulous process, two traits in which I'm usually lacking. The only thing worse than sharpening a chain is trying to cut a tree with a dull chain.
When I'm in my neighbor's workshop sharpening my four chains on his bench-mounted grinder, I find my mind wandering. As I slide the grinding wheel down on each chain tooth, my mind's eye becomes fixed on a scene from almost 50 years ago.
My two cousins and I are hoeing corn with my grandfather in the hot July sun. He will give us 10 cents a row if we manage not to chop down too many stalks. We three young bucks start out like balls afire. We soon take off our t-shirts and wrap them around our heads to keep the sweat out of our eyes. We race each other down the long corn rows.
I look back to see my grandfather in his long-sleeve khaki shirt moving down the rows with an easy efficiency. He stops every 20 minutes, reaches in his back pocket and pulls out a file to sharpen his hoe blade. He seems to move almost in slow motion, but nothing is wasted. If he is sweating you can't tell it by his khaki cap and clothes.
My cousins and I wrestle with our hoes which have become as heavy as telephone poles. Our water jugs are empty and soon we beg to go to the house where we drink Kool-Aid until our stomachs hurt and then we collapse on the shady front porch.
My grandfather comes in for dinner. He pays us each 40 cents for our four rows. He has hoed probably 25 or 30 rows without breaking a sweat.
The 7th habit of Stephen R. Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" is "sharpening the saw."
Vilas V. Vawter Sr. was highly effective with his sharpened hoe long before Stephen Covey collected his famous habits.
That's what I think about as I sharpen my chains.