Backing over a metal chop saw with a '78 International makes a unique sound. I knew what I'd done the second I heard metal on metal. Even as I got out of the truck, I held onto a glimmer of hope that I'd backed into the loaner Corolla in the driveway, instead.
No such luck. I had crushed my grandfather's saw.
This wasn't some heirloom. It was a hammered Ryobi that someone had been on the verge of discarding before my grandfather dragged it home, replaced the brushes in the electric motor, and parked it on a shelf. As far as I know, he never used it. He died less than a year later.
When I got it in my head to build a ladder rack for my '78 Scout Terra, Dad offered up the old Ryobi. I dragged it home, plugged it up, and got to cutting. The rack took shape over four or five evenings after work. When I finally had the pieces assembled, my first order of business was to back the truck right over that saw.
Of all the mental conditions, denial is the most powerful. I'd managed to wedge the saw underneath the axle tube of the truck. When I pulled forward, I discovered the full extent of the damage. There were dig marks in the asphalt. The aluminum case was shattered and bent. The saw was never going to work again. Even as I registered this, I thought maybe I could find another old Ryobi with a spent motor and a good case. Maybe I could save it.
It was more than the thought of being out $250 to replace the saw. I've spent a lifetime cutting metal with a Sawzall and a cut-off wheel. Having the right tool for the job was a new and euphoric experience, and looking at the truck, it was clear that the rack needed just a bit more modification. The work wasn't done.
But there was something else. This was a thing my grandfather laid hands on. I have a garage full of his tools. I'm not short on connections to the man who, in one way or another, made me who I am, but looking at the pieces of his saw in the driveway was like stretching an old scar just a little too tightly. It was disappointment, and hurt, and shock at still missing the man all these years later.
My grandfather would have laughed the way my dad did when I told him over the phone a couple days later. The men in my family are all different shades of one another, and we all carry the same propensity for calamity. It was the laugh of someone who'd stood over the mangled corpse of a power tool or two.
I picked up a DeWalt chop saw off of Craigslist last night. It's a hoss. It dims the lights when I hit the trigger. It'll have no trouble helping me finish the ladder rack. It's also high-vis yellow, which means there's a chance I might see it on the ground the next time I go to park the truck.
The night I backed over the Ryobi, I scooped up as many pieces as I could and stuck it back on the shelf in the garage. There's still a chance I can save it.
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