Under the Wire

If it ain’t broke


September 16, 2020

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I’ve heard that rule spoken for years. Like all rules, they’re easier to follow if they agree with what you were going to do anyway. “If it ain’t ...” fits me to a tee. It involves doing nothing.

Doing nothing is one thing I do well. I’m probably better at nothing than anyone I’ve ever met. I wasn’t always this good at nothing. Years ago, I was good at nearly everything. Around the age of 16 I was an expert on just about any subject or situation I encountered. I loved to tinker with motors, machinery, clocks. You name it, I would fix it ... even if wasn’t broken. In fact, I couldn’t wait for stuff to break, just so I could fix it. Now, that’s saying something. If any of you have ever been around a 16-year-old boy operating any object with moving parts, you’ll recognize how things begin to break in their presence. Speaking from the personal experience of being 16 once and teaching a couple of hundred more over an eight-year high school teaching career, I know 16 year olds (boys anyway). I won’t go into all the causes but driver’s license and the discovery of girls play a role.

Over the years, however, I began to suspect I wasn’t the mechanical genius I once thought. Perhaps stepping over dismantled motors, machinery and clocks that had accumulated got me thinking. More likely, though, was the developing concept that it is easier to just wait until things really don’t work before tearing into them. Age, too has taught me not to get in a hurry. It’s going to break eventually, anyway. Just wait, you’ll get your chance to dismantle and rebuild.

The problem is, things never seem to break when you have the time or desire to fix them. The tractor breaks on the way to the field to bale hay. The pump motor won't start when you really need to pump, etc, etc. Add to this, things tend to fall apart on Sunday morning when you’re supposed to be in church and all the parts houses are closed.

Machinery isn’t the only falling apart I encounter in my life. I love horses and roping on them. Over my lifetime, I’ve spent much more time on a horse than a tractor. Given experience in both means of transportation, I’ve noticed similarities. Both will “fall apart” when you need them the most. Like the tractor on its way to the field, old rope horse “falls apart” on his way of the big roping. One day before the finals he either comes up lame or forgets all he ever knew. This phenomenon has intrigued and plagued me for years.

In earlier years, I was continually working on prevention. Even though my horse worked perfectly, I had to tinker. Generally, by the big roping day my worst fears had materialized, aided of course, by my meddling. That's when my “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” philosophy began to take shape. When things are working, leave them alone. You’ll get your chance at disaster soon enough. Don’t worry about if or when, just enjoy now. Do nothing and enjoy.

So far, it’s worked pretty well. I still get plenty of wrench time and “horse tuning” experiences.

Now, however, the problems are easier to spot because there really is something wrong. In between times, I do nothing. I’m getting darn good at it, too.


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