The Corner

Can Do

Wow, my tinkering post tapped into a deep vein of discontent: 26 e-mails so far, and still coming in.

I’ll get them all read this afternoon. In the meantime, here is the old can-do America, the one I grew up believing in, the one the whole world admired and marveled at. The extracts are from The Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge. He is writing about his father, a Vermont countryman in the latter decades of the 19th century.

He was a good business man, a very hard worker, and did not like to see things wasted. He kept the [village] store about thirteen years …

In addition to his business ability my father was very skillful with his hands. He worked with a carriage maker for a short time when he was young, and the best buggy he had for twenty years was one he made himself. He had a complete set of tools, ample to do all kinds of building and carpenter work. He knew how to lay bricks and was an excellent stone mason …

Following his sale of the store about the time my grandfather died, bedises running the farm, he opened the old blacksmith shop which stood upon the place across the road to which we had moved. He hired a blacksmith at $1 a day …

My father seemed to like to work in the shop, but did not go there much except when a difficult piece of work was required, like welding a broken steel section rod of a mowing machine, which had to be done with great precision or it would break again.

He kept tools for mending shoes and harnesses and repairing water pipes and tinware. He knew how to perform all kinds of delicate operations on domestic animals. The lines he laid out were true and straight, and the curves regular. The work he did endured. …

My father was at times a Justice of the Peace and always had a commission as a notary public. This enabled him to take the acknowledgment of deeds, which he knew how to draw, and administer oaths … or to take affidavits …

In my youth he was also always engaged in the transation of all kinds of town business, being constantly elected for that purpose. He was painstaking, precise, and very accurate, and had such wide experience that the lawyers of the region knew they could rely on him to serve papers in difficult cases and make returns that would be upheld in the courts …

The man who wrote that filial tribute was President of the United States, within (just barely) living memory. [Sigh]

On the other hand, I bet old Colonel Coolidge (yes, he’d earned military rank too, somehow — I forget the details) would have made a simply terrible “community organizer.”

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