Lee Pitts: The Fix-It Man
Benny could fix anything… toilets, tractors, stoves, marriages, window blinds, anything. There was never waiting for a part to come either. He had one of everything in the back of his truck. That was my job… to find the part. He would be under a heater and tell me to go get a “watchamacallit” and if by some chance I couldn’t find the right part he would make one with his calloused hands. Today we’d probably call him a consultant but I always thought of Benny as a genius. He knew how to do things.
We went out on a lot of false alarms. The elderly ladies in town would call up and say, “Benny, my washing machine doesn’t sound right.” Benny would go out to their house and listen to their Maytag wringer washer which sounded just fine. Of course there was no charge, just a couple cups of coffee. They just wanted a little company or maybe they wanted Benny to look at their sick dog or cat. He knew a lot about animals too and worked way cheaper than the vet.
Once every six years a certain lady would call about her stove. All she really wanted was the floor cleaned out behind it. That was my job too. Benny still drank the coffee but we charged her plenty. Benny never got rich but I think he did all right. He always had enough money to buy me a chili-cheese dog from Aphis down at the truck stop.
Benny was widely known for telling stories. The women liked the ones slightly off color. They would get red in the face and say, “Oh, Benny you shouldn’t say that. Do you know any more?”
He could tell a housewife how to take the oil stain out of her carpet in six different languages. He knew how to patch up sinks and family squabbles. He could take a drunk off the bottle and lift a bum off the floor. I’d seen him do it.
Benny had a small farm where every year he grew a wonderful garden. He used to try and see how hot he could grow peppers. He would use them in the wonderful Mexican food he cooked. But his specialty was sweet corn.
Around the dinner table all over town folks would sit down to sweet corn which they had just purchased at Mitch’s Garden Market. And they would say, “This is the best corn I ever ate. It must be Benny’s.” They just felt a little better knowing that Benny grew it.
It was quite an honor for me to ride shotgun with Benny in his truck all over town as ladies waved and dogs followed. I’m sure Benny had his faults but I can’t remember any. I never heard him argue and never heard a bad word said about the gentle man.
I’m sure I asked too many questions but Benny knew important things. The weather man on the radio would say it was going to be sunny but Benny would look up into a clear sky and see the blackbirds starting to flock on the telephone wires. “Looks like rain to me,” he’d say. And sure enough we’d get two inches. Benny understood. He had a knack for seeing things as they were and doing things as they ought to be done.
I don’t know how much schooling Benny had. I do know that my grandparents helped raise him and that he worked for Grandpa his entire career. I also know that after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and when the government started sending the rest of the Japanese-Americans in my town to detention camps, Benny didn’t get mad at America. He enlisted in the Army of the country who would have taken everything he owned if he had stayed home. Benny never talked about the war but I’m told he served with distinction and got several medals and commendations. They will never put a sign up on the edge of our town that says that Benny Taketa lived there… but our town was a lot better because he did.
Pardon me for doing all this reminiscing but when I look around and see all the things in this country that could be fixed with a little common sense, I think of Benny. But common sense these day is not so common.
Neither was Benny.
You know how some women lovingly refer to their husbands as darling, dear, honey bunch or creampuff? My wife uses none of those sappy or corny sentiments because she’s much too honest to engage in…
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