The Hammerhead

He gives directions, electricity grudging respect

Illustration by Jennifer Ekrut and stickerama /

I knew a guy who worked at a sawmill for 25 years. He has 2½ fingers left. I totally get it.

It’s not that I’m not allowed to do home repair projects, but let’s just say the practice is frowned upon.

To me, directions are not gospel; they are more of a suggestion. Printed project directions are really some passive aggressive person’s idea of punishing us. You finish a project and there are always two screws, a bolt and three washers left over. That’s not a big deal if you’re building a birdhouse, but it’s pretty freaky if you just finished an inversion table. 

The only power tool I own is a hand drill. I actually did own a chainsaw for exactly one slice. A tree had come down in our yard, and I fired it up, took one good push into the tree, and it jammed.  I couldn’t get it out. 

I have 87 screwdrivers and 49 pairs of pliers because, like most men, I can’t resist when the hardware store bundles a set of 10 and teasingly puts them next to the register on the way out.

I have had a few home projects go sour — OK, more than a few — OK, a lot. Here are just two in the in Yordon-Cox Failed Home Projects Hall of Fame:


The Ceiling Fan

As God is my witness, I thought if you turned off the wall switch, it cut the power to the fan. If I designed houses, that’s how I would do it. The idea of a breaker box never really occurred to me.

I was replacing the light kit attached to the fan over our bed. Everything was going well with the fan project until I pinched what I thought were two dead wires together. I vaguely remember a flash of light as I was launched off the bed into our walk-in closet. Lying on my back, I smelled burning hair and saw a wisp of smoke. I was a 5 foot, 10 inch human sparkler. It was a minute before I could uncross my eyes, and I had to ask my Aunt Mary (who had died 20 years earlier) to leave the closet.

Lesson learned: Put pillows on floor of closet.


The Wagner Power Painter

I wanted to surprise Berneice by painting our family room while she was out.  As usual, I wanted to complete the project with minimal effort, so the power painter was the way to go. I began by shoving furniture and everything else to the middle of the room. Certainly, there was no reason to cover anything.

It’s simple. The power painter is filled with paint, then strapped to your back like a scuba diver’s air tank. You simply flick the switch, point the handle and start spraying the walls. At least that’s the theory. Remember I mentioned that whole “read the directions” thing? They may have mentioned not to use oil-based paint because it will clog the unit.  

So the motor is running and I’m pointing the spray handle at the walls but nothing is coming out. What I don’t know is the tank on my back is swelling up like a giant, paint-filled tick. 

I turned to inspect things, but the tick turned with me, out of my sight line — right up until it burst. The only place there wasn’t paint was the walls.

I was gone when Berneice got home. She surveyed the damage and was able to reach me at the ER, where I was being treated for burns caused by paint thinner.
Lesson learned: Strap paint tank to chest so I can see it expanding. 

My friend from the sawmill would tell me not to let a few disasters get me down. He would stick one of his nubs in my chest and chide me to never give up. Then raise his hand and give me a high 2½. 

Gary Yordon is president of The Zachary Group in Tallahassee, hosts a political television show, “The Usual Suspects” and contributes columns to the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper. He may be reached at

Categories: Opinion