I can’t remember how old I was when I first handled a hammer. I do recall that it took both hands to lift it from the floor and I wasn’t able to lift it much farther than that.
It was HEAVY.
The handle wasn’t all that heavy, just a short stick of wood. I picked that up easy enough. But, when it came to lifting the hammer head…well, that was another story.
Dad quickly intervened lest I drop the thing on my toes. No worries about dropping it on my head – I couldn’t lift it that high.
As I grew older, larger, stronger, I learned to manage a hammer. First, with both hands as I pounded in the direction of a nail, but rarely on it. Then, with one hand – much to the horror of Dad because that left the other hand in harms way.
I learned that by holding the hammer behind the head I had more control over what the hammer head did and where it went than if I held the handle like my strong dad did.
I also learned that I liked to hammer and enjoyed the heft of the hammer in my hand.
Dad taught me most of what I know about hammering. I watched him build things, repair things, hammer nails, saw planks. He was my mentor.
One day he handed me a smaller…lighter weight hammer that was easier to manage and that wouldn’t do as much damage as his larger, heavier hammers could.
Then, he handed me a nail and pointed to a discarded board.
With my little claw hammer in one hand and my nail in the other I mimicked what I had seen him do countless times. And, then I did what I had seen him do only a couple of times.
I missed the nail head and hit my hand that was holding the nail.
Dad said, “Well, Babe, why did you do that?”
I’ll admit, I was asking myself the same thing!
As the pounding in my hand subsided, Dad showed me repeatedly how to hammer a nail.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap-tap.
That was the sound his hammer made when he hammered a nail – when it was a long nail. He was strong enough that he could drive a shorter nail in with one whack.
Tap – set the nail into the board while holding it.
Tap – drive the nail in 1/3 of the way.
Tap – drive the nail in 1/2 to 2/3 of the way.
Tap – drive it in fully.
Tap-tap – make sure the head of the nail is flush with the board.
I wanted to hammer the nail: tap, tap, tap, tap, tap-tap. Not, tap,whack, tap, whack, tap, tap, tap, whack, tap, tap, whack, whack, tap, tap, tap, whack, tap, tap, tap….
Time and experience has a way of teaching us many lessons and building strength where it’s needed.
Brother was fond of Dad’s hammers, too. He and I would select one each and take them out to the picnic table in the back yard, crawl under it, and crack open the little river rocks Dad had placed under it.
As my hand/eye coordination improved, my right arm grew stronger and my aim got better. Not only was I able to hit the nail on the head without missing, I was able to continue doing so without stopping until the nail was flush with the board.
To me, that was an accomplishment. I had arrived.
I graduated to a “real” hammer – one of Dad’s heavy hammers.
It wasn’t long until I was tapping out Dad’s rhythm.
Driving a hammer is like riding a bike – once you learn how, you never forget. However, if you don’t do it often, you find that your muscles lose their strength and endurance.
High school pulled me from Dad’s workshop. Girls were encouraged to embrace Home Economics and boys took Shop. My muscles grew soft as I sewed, stirred batter….
Next came college – no opportunity to pick up a hammer and have fun there.
Then, I married. Apartment living left me with no need of a hammer, apart from hanging a picture on the wall.
My grandmother kept her hammer under her mattress “in case she ever needed it.” I didn’t understand that until one night when I was home alone and I heard someone/something scratching around my apartment door.
A hammer is an up-close and personal weapon of choice. I didn’t intend to allow anyone intending me harm to get close enough for me to be able to wield a hammer in defense. No way!
I dug through the hall closet and came up with Hubby’s aluminum baseball bat and stood it beside the door.
Hubby and I moved into a house. Houses are perfect for hammers. There’s always something that needs to be pounded back into place.
Or into place…like tomato stakes.
There’s one thing about tomato plants, they like to grow. And, if they aren’t supported into a “bush,” they will run along the ground like the vines they are. Hence the need for tomato stakes.
Fast forward to our “this year’s garden.” Our tomato plants were caged when they were young, but quickly grew too tall and too wide to be corralled by the cages. To prevent wind and heavy rain from breaking off the vines, I selected old tomato stakes found when I trimmed over-grown hedges and hammered them into the ground. Then, I tied the snaking vines to the stakes for support.
The cucumbers had outgrown their cages as well, so I took several shorter stakes (that had broken off due to dry rot) and set about pounding them into the ground around the cucumbers.
I used one of Dad’s old heavy claw hammers to do the job. The heavier the hammer, the more work it will do for you.
Well, this hammer did more than I counted on.
The wood at the end of one of the stakes was brittle. When I brought the hammer down hard onto the top of it (to drive the stake into the ground), the end of the stake shattered and the hammer came down (hard) onto my left wrist as I held the stake firm for the pounding.
I thought I had shattered the bone.
Inside I went for a Ziploc bag and ice. Mom was no where to be seen, for which I was grateful, so back outside I went to sit and nurse my wounded hand.
When the cold from the ice pack became unbearable and inflicted more pain than the pounding it received did, I removed the ice pack and examined my hand.
I had not broken the skin open. That was good. I had a bruise, but nothing appeared broken. That was also good. I could move all of my fingers and could make a fist. Again, good. I had pain, but everything worked. Good – all good.
Mom came out to see what I was up to, took one look at the ice pack, another at my reddened hand and said “What did you do?? Did you break it open?”
I assured her I was fine. “I just got hammered,” was my reply.
Her reply: “I thought your dad taught you better than that.”
I thought he did, too!