The Right Tool for the Job

I’m always grateful for the right tool for the job. This morning seemed perfect to plant some fall seeds: There was rain last night to moisten the soil, and more rain expected over the next few days. We’ve likely got a couple of months or more til the first freeze, and some of the crops I planted can go into early winter under mulch. I got my handy planting ruler and set to work putting in lettuce, mixed greens, cabbage, carrots, and beets. Though I watered them in this morning, I’m grateful for a lovely rain this afternoon because nothing nourishes them better. Once they start to sprout I’ll cover them to keep the grasshoppers from devouring everything. Hope springs eternal. We’ll know more later.

Months go by without a ruler crossing my mind, and today two very different rulers popped out of hiding. Long before my dad was a Colonel, he was an engineer. His sister married an engineer, so my Uncle Charlie who recently passed away was also an engineer. Cousin Melinda was telling me about her father’s slide rule and I said it sounded like my dad’s, which I kept because… well, because I liked it. She sent a picture of her brother holding their dad’s slide rule, so I got the Colonel’s out of its nice leather case to compare them. Just alike! Down to the location and color of the name. We guessed maybe they were both Army issue… or maybe they just all looked like that from the 1940s. Wren thought it looked like another toy for her to add to her collection on the floor.

I have no clue how to use this ‘simple analog computer,’ but it’s a beautiful tool: elegant, smooth, precise, and clearly at one time the right tool for a variety of mathematical calculations. Closer examination of the tool revealed the manufacturer’s name (Keuffel and Esser Co, NY, founded in 1867 by two German immigrants); a serial number I think (660673), and the model number, 4081-3. I’m grateful for Wikipedia where I learned that K&E manufactured slide rules from 1891 – 1975, when pocket calculators rendered them obsolete. I also learned that “The K&E 4081-3 Log-Log Duplex Decitrig was a mainstay for engineering students and practicing engineers in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.” (I’m enjoying exploring the value of Curiosity, #40 on the List.)

And finally, among many other things today, I’m grateful for the first ripe tomatoes from the garden. I sautéed some garden green beans with chopped onion and walnuts, added everything to a pile of torn romaine, and topped it with a yogurt-mayo dressing using Penzeys Creamy Peppercorn base. So simple, so delicious!

2 thoughts on “The Right Tool for the Job

  1. Not totally obsolete when calculators came in: In my pottery studio I have a small slide rule set to the ratio of my clay shrinkage (from raw/wet to fired/dry). Handy and frequently used for years.

  2. My father was also an engineer and his desk drawer at home held several slide rules. I remember them well.

Leave a Reply