Richard RiouxPauline HartePatti RasmussenTim WhyteLeon Worden

Where have all the hammers gone?

Pauline Harte · November 11, 1997

I am in a pondering mood today. I am, once again, attempting to solve a mystery that has relentlessly plagued this 25-year marriage. I have viciously attacked this mystery from all angles, in a thousand different ways. I've turned it inside out and upside down and I have never even come close to finding a single piece to a very annoying puzzle.

Today, I have come face to face with this mystery once again, and my thoughts are rolling around like ball bearings in a glass tube. But no matter how much (or how loudly) these thoughts clink, plink, bounce and ricochet, they just cannot come together long enough to answer a question that threatens to haunt me throughout eternity.

And if my husband's seemingly unlimited patience with my unbalanced checkbook and bizarre menagerie of demented pets holds out long enough to celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary -- egads! -- I know this mystery will be standing right there with us while we're cutting that anniversary cake and lovingly gazing into each other's trifocals.


I needed a hammer today and couldn't find even one, although by now I should be wading hip-deep in a sea of hammers. Since 1974, we have lived in three homes in this valley. Hundreds of hammers were purchased in each one of these homes, but we have never run into any extra hammers when packing up and moving on to greener pastures. It is a considerable stroke of luck to find one hammer at any given time. Today, that considerable stroke of luck I have come to depend on remains tauntingly elusive.

I just know that someday I am going to jab that garage door opener and when the door lifts up, a thundering avalanche of hammers is going to come tumbling out of the garage, burying my car beneath a gleaming, galvanized mountain of steel and wood. it will take days to dig me out. Exhausted workers will shake their heads in wonder, asking, "WHERE DID ALL THESE HAMMERS COME FROM?"

Every Saturday, my husband starts the weekend with the same tired, old, predictable question. At approximately 10 a.m., a gratingly familiar whine seeps into the house from the outer limits of the workbench.


Fingernails down a blackboard. "What came first, the chicken or the egg?" I counter, my own fingers firmly in place at the top of my own blackboard. "Huh?" from the outer limits.

"Well," my voice of reason spells out, "Did you need this hammer BEFORE it was missing, or did you decide you needed it just because you know it's lost and you think this might be a good time to "get into it" with me because you are subconsciously in the mood to get into it with someone and you are using a stupid, inconsequential thing like a little, old lost hammer to get into it with me and the hammer just happens to be in the right place at the right time which, as you well know, is nowhere that can actually be found at this moment in time? Like I said, "What came first?"

His slack jaw and an almost imperceptible twitch in his right eye tells me that even after 25 years of marital bliss, I've still got it.

"Now, if you REALLY need a hammer," I continue, helpfully, "you can use that heavy, wooden cooking spoon in the kitchen. Unless you have to hammer into a stud. In that case, you may as well run out right now to the hardware store and buy a new hammer. If you REALLY need one, that is."

He pulls out the big guns. "You were the last one using the hammer. Just think back to where you were when you were using it." Yep, the Guns of Navarrone were pointed right at me.

"Hmm," I muse, quickly assessing my own arsenal. "That's an interesting question. Provocative even. 'Do you want to know where I was when I WANTED a hammer, or where I was when big chunks of the wall fell off because the wooden spoon was too big for the space that I was trying to hammer a screw into because there wasn't enough room to use the screwdriver we used to have?'"

Was he groaning? How dramatic!

"You know," I interject, swinging my sights into place with eagle-eye precision and the survival instincts of a 25-year veteran of marriage with a man who actually expects to find his workbench as neat as an operating room surgical implement tray. "If you REALLY needed that hammer, you would have gotten that wooden spoon by now." As you can see, I've got some rather big guns of my own.

I hear a car start up. Off to buy another hammer!

I will admit to losing a couple of hammers, but until it is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that black holes absolutely do not exist I stand firm in my belief that hundreds of hammers have walked out of our various domiciles on their own volition.

And is that any harder to believe than Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy?

Not for me.

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