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Why Pliers?

Technically, they’re not pliers…they’re channel locks. Or as I have come to know them, “the blue hannel channels.”

Toolbox channels

Uncle Rodge’s “blue hannel channels.”

The channel locks in the image above — the ones covered in grease — were once owned by my uncle, Rodger Hoover. Uncle Rodge had a knack for coming up with unique names for things. It wasn’t enough to call them the “channel locks with the blue handles.” No, the name needed to rhyme. We’d be elbow deep in automobile grease and…

“Greg, we need some channels.”

“Which ones? The red ones or the blue ones?”

“Oh, this job calls for the blue hannel channels.”

Uncle Rodge was the man who taught me how to work with my hands. I spent most of my summers at his side, helping him do whatever needed to be done. We hung gutters and planted trees and hauled rock/brick/dirt and built fences and fixed leaking faucets and changed flat tires and cleaned nail-studded lumber.

Uncle Rodge had a rather casual relationship with time which meant we often worked late into the night. We’d run extension cords out of the back porch and down the driveway and then suspend a drop-light from the open hood of the car so that we could work. I spent hundreds of hours under the hood learning how an engine worked. He taught me how to adjust a car’s timing and clean the battery posts and change a flat or just give it a tune-up.

But I learned more than simply how to fix things around the house. Much more. In the midst of our work, I learned how Air Force squadrons flew in formation during World War II. I learned world geography and how to eat a Big Mac in just three bites and how to clean grease out from under my fingernails with a pocketknife and how to get up the nerve to ask a girl out on a date.

He taught me how important it is to weatherproof a pair of leather boots and how to safely use a shotgun and how exciting a good book can be. I learned about honor and how to stand up to a bully. He showed me how to think and how to tell a good story and how vital it is to be a man of my word. And perhaps most importantly, he taught me that the only measure of a man that amounts to a hill of beans is his heart.

In short, Uncle Rodge taught me what it means to be a man.

He died in April 2012 after several years spent living with the effects of a debilitating stroke that left him in a wheelchair, barely able to speak. He was buried with military honors.

I own his blue hannel channels now. I still use them regularly. They have become for me a symbol of strength and the blue-collar work ethic and the nobility of hard work. They symbolize Uncle Rodge.

If you find anything in my blog that is helpful, chances are the origin of the ideas can be traced back to Uncle Rodge in some way.

Rodger Burton Hoover (September 2, 1941 – April 21, 2012).