• 72°

An ol’ sole’s story

Will Rogers said he didn’t want to ride on anything he couldn’t get out of and change the tire on.

Et tu, Will.

So, while the pilot of the tiny, tin airplane waited and waited to taxi down the runway, I sat with my hands prayerfully folded on my lap.

My seatmate was a young man with “Technology” written all over him, from his Oxford shoes to his computer keyboard carrying case.

He shared that he was a data scientist. He could have fooled me.

I said that I worked for a newspaper in a small Alabama town. That info usually flips on the “redneck” light for many. But, not this young man. He turned in an interested way.

“I love a newspaper,” he said.  “No matter where I go, I get a newspaper and take it to the hotel to read. When I drive from one place to the other, I pick up newspapers from the smaller cities and towns. They read better than the Internet. I don’t know any of the people or about the places but I like to read about them.”

We began a friendly conversation. He was from Virginia and was going to Texas, then California on business; I was going home, to a small Alabama town.

Back to the newspapers.

“Recently, I read something very interesting in a small-town newspaper,” he said. “There was this man who made his living resoling shoes. He put new soles on old shoes. In the article, he said there was a story with every pair of shoes he resoled. A story as to why those shoes were important to that person. That was interesting to me. Something as important in one’s life as an old shoe.”

All was quiet in the plane. He was quiet. I thought he was asleep. The ride got a little bumpy.

He stirred, turned and asked, “Do you know what I’m talking about when I say ‘shade tree mechanic?’”

I said, yes, I did.

“When I was growing up, I liked to tinker around with old cars, with all kinds of motors,” he said. “I was thinking that a shade tree mechanic would be much like the old man who resoled shoes. Don’t you think? Every old car would have a story.”

He paused for a few minutes.

“I don’t think a man could make a living as a shade tree mechanic now,” he said. “Couldn’t make a living … but it sure would be living.”

The young man said he had enjoyed the ride. He hoped he had not talked too much.

No, I said, he had not talked too much. But enough to give me a story to tell and the hope that one day I’ll read in a newspaper somewhere about a man who makes his living as a shade-tree mechanic and each old vehicle has a story to tell.