Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Fertile Fields of Home

Sometimes you don't know what you don't know.

The truth of that hit home this week when I read an article in our local paper about a fellow who has repaired for me a chainsaw, lawnmower, and ATV, and also sharpened chainsaw and lawnmower blades from time to time.  He seemed to be a sharp fellow and I heard tidbits about him from time to time but never the whole story.

On one of my first visits to his backyard garage I asked his name before leaving.  "Robert Flute" was his answer.  Later on I was searching the internet for information on something and found his website, Hudson Mower Doctor.  The site has been modified since I first looked at it.  Back then he listed some unusually diverse services: flute and piano repair, piano tuning, writing essays, website design - and small engine repair.  Incongruous at best.

When a chainsaw sprung a leak beyond my own repair capability, I took it to him in pieces but inside a case.  Before I could begin to explain my problem he grabbed the case and carried to his garage, a sure sign of confidence that he would repair it.  Which he did.

My ATV had a carburetion problem from day one, and three visits to the dealer made only small improvements, so one day when I stood in his garage regarding another problem I just asked if he had ever worked on them.  "Bring it in and we'll see what we can do" was the answer.  I did just that, but had my doubts when he asked how to pull apart the pieces to reveal the engine, then started yanking at wires and hoses.  Yet 20 minutes later he announced I would need to go to the dealer to buy a needle-float valve and he would install it.

He did, and emailed me when it was done.  When I went to pick it up he pretty much gushed about the part he replaced, saying it was an "ingenious" device and would I be OK with leaving it with him to show it to his friends.  I did so, and wondered about these friends of his, whether they were like him, a different breed of bright folks, perhaps, because he sure seemed to be bright himself.

Indeed.  He was a member of Mensa, the High IQ Society.

He was a fascinating, highly-accomplished man, Dr. Robert Snyder, and all of it is detailed in the newspaper article I mentioned earlier.  And by this point you must be wondering why I would write about him since he probably has never heard of Northwood or Kensett, although now I think he may have.

It just strikes me that you have people like that seem to be hidden locally, and NK probably has more than its share but we never acknowledge them.

I think of one of our classmates, Richard Colbertson, who transferred prior to our senior year, a gifted pianist with perfect pitch.  The noon whistle went off one day as we paused between songs during boys chorus.  Hearing the whistle, Lowell Gangstad looked off to the distance as if he could "see" the whistle, then asked Richard what the pitch was.  In about two seconds Richard answered "High C" or whatever it was.  I only recall that Richard knew because I sure didn't.  And I just hope Richard had a better personal environment when he moved on.

There are others.  We've written earlier of the appliance dealer who invented a water temperature control device, the grad who became chairman of Gulf Oil, an upperclasswoman who was "in the room" as chief OR nurse during the first heart transplant by Dr. DeBakey, a classmate gearhead who could make anything run faster - or slower if he wanted, or the veterinarian who was an accomplished photographer developing his own prints.  For a small school, it seems to me we had some pretty gifted teachers, not to mention schoolmates in general..  I could add the names but know I'd be missing some and don't want to be guilty of overlooking the deserving.

That's where you can come in.  You may not have the story of the Mower Doctor to share, or maybe you do, and if that is the case, please pass it along.  We are fully aware of the fertile fields of Northwood-Kensett that turned out some gifted people, and, ironically, we still don't know what we don't know about them.  Help us out.

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