October 5, 2023
[starbox]Sometimes we cannot really anticipate the positive future effects of something we do today. This was illustrated to me this winter as it has been rather chilly in the house and I dug deep into the linen closet for something to put over me while watching television at night. My wife couldn’t believe what I found in there, a very warm but crude quilt made of pieces of old men’s suits. Something she couldn’t remember every buying or receiving as a gift during our 32 years together. A call to the world’s greatest mother-in-law didn’t help much. She suspects it was made by her great grandmother during the Great Depression as part of a church fundraiser. All I know for sure is that it really keeps me warm on a cold winter night and that our cats seem to like it. I’m pretty sure Grandma Robertson had no idea it would still be in use 80 years down the road. After all, my mother-in-law was an infant at the time. It makes you wonder what things we have had a hand in creating will long out live us. My first gearbox designs are now forty years old. The machinery I sketched up for that 4 lane lift bridge in Bay City Michigan is thirty; so are the lock and dam gate drives on the upper Mississippi. But more important than the things are the people. I hope that I have carried on the legacy of the folks who schooled me in this trade. I know I take unwarranted pride in the accomplishments of the younger people I have had the opportunity to help train. And we all owe a big debt to the people who took the time to write the books, standards, and papers that made our trade what it is today. Perhaps that 140 year life span they keep threatening us with will one day become reality. Until then it is our privilege to share this occupation we love with others through the things we make and the lessons we teach. Not a bad way to spend a life.