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For Want of a Nail, the Empire of Wal-Mart was Lost 

In the course of human daily events, there is often the need for a nail. Such a time befell me last week. The massive 5,000 square foot house that has become my test of manhood this summer, cried out for even more nails to complete my latest project defined by wood. This was the “Porch Project.”

When we bought the house, the traditional front porch was encased in cheap siding and made into a strange hallway on the front of the house. This was a 40  X 10 open room. And of course, as in any move, I stored my most valuable items from a misspent life of government and business wonkiness, my personal books and papers. 

So she who must be obeyed said in her calm yet “if you don’t do something about this mess of yours on the front porch it’s all going into the garbage“ voice late one night in April.

So there I was, looking out over the 200 boxes of books thinking that she wasn’t really serious about this. When we moved into the house, I thought it only natural that my personal collection of 10,000 books and rare papers (from my life as a government wonk) was so valuable that this vast empty front of the house would be a great place for temporary storage. That was five years ago.

Now the true test of our love had come to a crisis. She wanted to open up the porch to the bright sunshine of the outdoors. I stalled and begged for forgiveness! I thought of ways to maybe hide my loot throughout the house, cramming them into long forgotten closets. But after four weeks, my Commander-General spouse issued the final order, “D-Day will be executed within one week from today.”new porch

Nervously, asking the question that I was sure I would not like to hear the answer, “D-Day, what is that?”

Standing in front of me General Patton look like when addressing his troops right before a major battle, feet apart, hands on hip, clutching what might pass for a riding crop, she answered, “Silly wonk, it means DUMP DAY,” pointing her riding crop toward a mega industrial dumpster setting 20 feet from the house that had been delivered that day.

In that moment, my life flashed before my eyes. How could I save this archeological treasure of Kentucky state records, theoretical works on time travel, my complete run of Playboy years, 1965 through 1969 (my college years). UGH!!!

She got her way. I, with my friend Donald from Murray, worked a small miracle that May through June. We ripped, sawed, nailed, and painted a new porch on the old house. We moved all of my treasures to the second floor of the house just as the upstairs air conditioning system blew up. Average day time temperatures ranged over 105 each day and into the low 90’s at night.  

We worked in conditions that I have never seen before. Daily temperatures reached into 100 degrees actual temperature with heat index’s of over 115 to 118. Brutal was the construction as was the project was completed on time.

That was then, the summer project.

Now my mistress of the home front has decided we need a fall project. With the porch finished, she wants to complete the upstairs guest bedrooms for our family before the holidays.

Donald and I prepared each of the bedrooms for occupancy. Now, all that is needed will be a clever strategy for integrating my book collection into the design for each room. My master plan is to build a series of interlocking 8 ft tall bookcases from room to room.

Part of the wood had already been delivered. And then disaster struck late on a Friday afternoon. NO NAILS!!!nails nails

Somehow, during the week leading up to my big work weekend, I miscalculated the reserve 5 pound bag of nails as full. The long days and nights of working insane schedules in harsh heat had undoubtedly made me crazy. I forgot to check the nail supply. There were no nails in the bag, just empty hot air in a brown crumbled bag.

Not to worry, I told myself as I grabbed the car keys. Off to Wal-Mart world for nails.

15 miles and 20 minutes later I stood in front of the nail section of Wally World. At least that was what I thought it was. Looking around for some help I approached a small gaggle of Wal-Mart workers in the near empty center isle.

With my finger slightly raised as if I was going to ask an important question, lips forming the first words of “Excuse me, but I need help” the whole congregation of Wally World helpers flew into five separate directions. I was the duck hunter and they were the ducks.

Standing alone, imagining Wally World’s hidden cameras zooming down on me as if I were a naked terrorist loaded down with stuff to steal, I felt confined to my fate as a lonely shopper at Wally World where no man is an island, just a forgotten customer.

Finally resigned to the current situation, I reviewed all the nails. That took two minutes, with 30 seconds to spare. What a pitiful supply of nails. I found only two sizes that even came close to the 6 penny I needed. The nails were in a small package. It seemed as if I would be paying for each nail’s shipment cost from China.

After about five minutes of searching the shelves of Wally World, it became very clear there were no nails to be had for my weekend project.

Decision time. Travel back to Clinton. Go to the hardware store just before it was to close for the week. Told “Spoonie”, the big guy in charge I needed help. He is over 6 feet tall and has some road years (been traveling down the road of life for many years) about him.

Looking up to his mountain man, I said, “Spoonie, I need five pounds of six penny nails. Can you help me?”

Slowly turning fromClinton Hardware his old wooden desk/customer check counter, where buyer and seller must share the same personal space for their transaction, he looked down at me over his bifocal glasses, and uttered these words, “Follow me into the back and watch your step.”

Some 18 steps later, I was standing next to a giant nail bin, which rotated with 36 different types of nails for all kinds of farm and home use. The bin looked like it was new in the 1930”s. Taking rough and worn hands with firm fingers, Spoonie struck deep into the bin just to my left. “Here, look at these.”

Sure enough. In front of me was a handful of bright new 6 penny wide top nails. For a few seconds all I could do was to stand and appreciate the fact that I stood in the presence of greatness. Here was a building constructed in 1910, with an official old timer, holding out the right nails for my weekend project. It was like a scene out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

All I could say was “Give me 5 pounds.”  

With the speed of a Ninja warrior, Spoonie grabbed a 4 inch diameter magnet with a large handle and drove it into the targeted nails. Lifting up before me was quite a scene. Probably 50 nails were collected by the magnet and being shoved into a large nail box.Clinton Hardware side

 Working quickly, Spoonie had my order done in less then two minutes.

As I drove the few blocks home, I couldn’t but think that for want of a single nail, the might and power of China’s partner in America, Wal-mart could no longer deliver goods or services to an American customer.

Somehow, the tide is being reversed. People are beginning to shy away from the monster mega WallyWorld and move back to searching out home town sources for goods an services.

Wow, I thought. Just spent $7.86 and got five pounds of nails to make a weekend of bookcases, from a mountain man named Spoonie in a place framed in 100 year locally red cast brick, in a small forgotten spot called Clinton, Kentucky, a long way from the shadows and reach of Wal-Mart Empire. I felt cracks in the mega retail empire growing with my small purchase. Maybe, just maybe the Age of Globalization is meeting its match in the emerging Age of Localization.

Long live the local hardware store!            


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