the all-seeingeyeHardware Packrats

Hi, my name is Dale. (Hi, Dale) I am a third generation hardware packrat. It's been about 3 days since my last hardware purchase.

My grandfather was the worst of us. Not only did he collect hardware, it was completely jumbled together, and kept with complete disregard to its quality. If it was a little metal bit, he kept it, somewhere.

His basement was legendary for its disorder, and yet he could find the things he was looking for. After he died, I helped my father and two uncles clean out the basement.

The process went like this:

One of us would dump a drawer out on the floor. Then we'd sort through it for any treasures and set those aside. Then the remainder was scooped up with a snow shovel and dumped into a garbage can or cardboard box. We repeated this for almost two days.

When at last we had finished with the clean-up, the trash at the curb was a double line of cans and boxes at least 50 feet long. We quickly learned not to seal any bags or boxes. The pile attracted more than just a few trash pickers within a few minutes.

I suppose that represents another turn in the circle of life for that particular collection.

My father promised that I wouldn't be left with nearly that mess-and when he died just three years later, that was the case, things were in a lot better order. My father was not always the best example to follow. This is especially true regarding the accumulation of bits of hardware you might find yourself needing, well, someday. There were times when this tendency came right up against my mother's dislike of clutter. Her father was also a pack rat of almost mythic proportions. At least dad's collection of future hardware had some order to it. Lots and lots of generally tidy drawers-but even that bothered mom.

When I was about 17, dad and I walked to a garage sale just down the street. A neighbor of ours had died and the widow was clearing his garage and workshop. There was a huge pile of hardware of all types going for next to nothing. Who could pass that up? The problem was how to get this huge pile past mom.

One of the other things in the sale was a brand-new metal garbage can. We'd been needing to replace ours anyway, so dad made an offer on the whole lot of hardware plus the garbage can. We piled the loot into the garbage can, and walked home with it, all the while trying to give the impression that it didn't weigh about 200 pounds. It never occurred to mom to ask why the garbage can had to go to the basement before being put out in the garage. We hurriedly stashed the hardware and it was several years before mom found out about it.

I'm still working off that collection. Given the really poor quality of a lot of current hardware-store fastenings, that barrel full of hardware has been an important part of my projects ever since.

As I said, I'm a hardware junkie. The syndrome is obviously genetic. It isn't curable, but it isn't fatal either.