Sunday, March 09, 2008

Hardware heaven

My Father-in-law is one of those guys who can tell you what size socket you'll need for the bolt you were showing to him several days ago.

He's also that guy who can tell the difference between a CPVC and PVC 90-degree fitting just by feeling them.

And he's that fella who grumbles whenever he sees yet another open wall in our house that doesn't have the studs on 16" centers, but will calculate (in his head) exactly how much sheetrock we need to buy to eliminate any waste and still have the bare minimal tape lines.

Yep, he's that good.

No wonder he's hard pressed to find a worker at any of the mega-chain home improvement centers that can come close to answering any question he may be seeking an answer to. Over the years he's learned to seek out the most elderly employee he can find for advice in an often vain attempt to pursue the "with age comes wisdom," methodology.

Yep, he's a hard man to please...hardware wise.

The last person you'd expect to find manning the aisles of my small town's one and only hardware store in search of lost souls of the hardware variety, is the lovely ashen blonde, middle-aged Soccer Mom-ish woman named Darla.

An 11+ year veteran of this particular franchised hardware store, Darla was the one red smocked employee that most of us frequent customers went in search of when we ourselves were in search of a particular item. Experienced shoppers clued in early when somehow any and all unanswerable questions queried of other store employees, always found purchase and success with Darla.

Even my F-i-L would seek her out on his occasional visits to our local nuts and bolts dive, commenting how "...refreshing it was to find someone who knew what the heck they were talking about that wasn't getting paid an engineer's salary."

No higher hardware compliment could be paid than my F-i-L's ravaged-by-one-too-many-saw-cuts thumbs up.

Just yesterday, while putting down our new tongue & groove 1"x4" pineboard floor in our mudroom, my wife put down her hammer long enough to make a finishing nail run to the hardware store as we were getting low on the floorboard securing stock. My F-i-L handed her a sample nail that we were using for comparison and she was off.

15 minutes or so later, S reported that "that lady" at the hardware store (she doesn't shop there as much so she's not on a first name basis with the workers there) no sooner said "hey" when she was asking what we were working on, nodded when my wife finished her description of our project, excused herself with a smile and returned in a minute with a box of 1000 of the prettiest 8d diamond point, bright finish, 2.5" finishing/trim nails you've ever seen (exactly what my wife was handed by her Father mere minutes ago).

Early this afternoon, we heard the sirens and speculated as we watched first the ambulance, then the Sheriff's patrol car, followed by a local police black and white, trailed by not one but two big rigs from the Fire Department, that something bad had happened.

Even on a Sunday, news spreads fast in my small town and by 3 p.m. we got word that Darla had been killed in a car crash just east of town. The car containing her and her boyfriend somehow ended up off the road and in a ditch filled with water runoff.

She apparently drowned.

Tonight as Franny and I made our way downtown on our nightly doggie walk, we detoured off of Main Street and found ourselves standing in front of the corner hardware store.

A single fluorescent light was burning bright, sending 40-watts of cool white glow through the plate glass windows of the store and out into the historic downtown intersection of my small town.

If there is a hardware store in heaven, Darla is surely on duty.


Anonymous said...

How terribly sad! Darla's family and friends are certainly in my prayers today.

Anonymous said...

That is so sad. I read about it in the paper. My heart goes out to her family.
We really have to tell people how much they mean to us each and every day because you just never know.

Annie said...

How terrible. You've written a lovely tribute to her.