Bountiful Tea Bags

This is likely the last Tea Bag, unless it's not.  Anyway, I wanted to leave things all tidied up.

December 2005

As usual, I went by to see Mr. Henry this Saturday.  He was still in a good mood, swinging the cane around and explaining the ways of the world to me.  He didn’t even complain about anything.

But when I got ready to leave, he pointed to his bicycle and said, "You might as well take that piece of crap to Goodwill, I got no use for it anymore!"  That startled me some.  It was hard to imagine Mr. Henry without his bicycle.

I dutifully made room in the bed and went to pick up the bicycle.  But as I turned to lift it in, I felt a tug on the frame.  I looked back and Mr. Henry had a firm grip on the rear fender.  After a few seconds he let go and went back into the house.

I busied myself securing the bicycle, but I didn’t feel good about it.  Then, as I was climbing into the cab, the cane smacked into the windshield.

"One more thing!  I need you to go apologize to Miss Maybelle for me."

This was not my idea of a good time.  Miss Maybelle is not known for forgiveness.  Mr. Henry had been caught attempting to misappropriate Wal-Mart property, a serious matter in her eyes.  And in the grand scheme of things, apologizing for another person's misdeeds is kind of a losing proposition to begin with.  

Of course, I did have to do it.  And it wasn't so bad, after I explained to her how the stability of the cart had made him feel so much better.  She's always had a soft spot for Mr. Henry, not exactly an unusual thing in my town, so she let it go pretty soon, and began to talk in more general terms.

"People just don't understand!  Those buggies cost us money, and when they take 'em we have to send out somebody in a truck to find 'em and bring 'em back.  And sometimes they come back lookin' like that!"  She pointed over to a somewhat abused mass of steel off in a corner.

I went over and took a look at what used to be a buggy.  It was never going to make the rounds of the ladies' fashion section again.  But as I stood there, an idea gradually came to me.

"Miss Maybelle, I think I've got a deal for you." 

When I went to work Monday, the carcass of the buggy was in the bed of my truck.  I parked around back, with the people who work for a living, and went in through the shop door. 

Now, I don't swing enough weight around the plant to make people nervous, but they do know I'm high enough in the corporate food chain that I don't have my name sewn on my shirt.  There's also a vague awareness that I have some connection to the printing of pay checks, so I usually get treated with at least some measure of deference.

Even so, I wasn't sure that would work on Bryan the Beast.  We don't call him the Beast because he's mean or anything, it's just that he’s not particularly interested in human conversation.  He's kind of like a really good hunting dog that way.  He can understand what you say, and do what you want if he feels like it, but all you get in return is a few yips and barks.  But he makes the production equipment sing like the choir at a summertime tent revival.  One time when the second shift had a problem with the #2 extruder, the foreman called Bryan at home and held the phone over the machine, hoping the Beast's electromagnetic presence would solve the problem.  

So I didn't bother with a lot of discussion when I found him, I just explained the situation and the general idea of what I needed, and asked him if he could help.  He stood there for a few minutes and you could see the gears turning around in his head.  Then he grunted, gave me a little double nod and turned back to what he was doing before I interrupted him.  In Bryan's world, this counts as an extended conversation. 

When I left that afternoon, my truck was empty.

When I went home on Tuesday, I noticed Bryan was still working.

He stayed late on Wednesday too, and so did several other maintenance guys.

Thursday afternoon, everybody out back waved at me when I left.

Around lunchtime on Friday, the Beast came wandering through the office.  He stopped at my desk, coughed twice, gave me a thumb's up sign, and went back to the shop.

I made sure to stick around until closing time, since I was pretty sure I would have an audience in the parking lot.  But as it turned out, I was more the audience myself. 

Out in the middle of the lot, surrounded by about a dozen guys, there it was.  It was even more elegant than I had expected.  I couldn't tell where the buggy stopped and the bicycle began.  I went up, shook a few hands, and began my inspection.   

I ran my hand over the smooth epoxy paint and said, "This is almost the same color as our Model 42!"  The three guys from the paint shop tried to keep a straight face, but dissolved into laughs and high fives. 

I walked around and checked out the front wheels.  "I suppose you guys will need another big Yazoo Trailmate mower next spring."  Two more guys looked a little sheepish, but proud. 

"Think it'll hold together?" I said, winking at the welders.  "Maybe, if he don't go too fast!" came the reply.  

Another guy came up to show off the special vinyl trimmed holder for the cane.  It looked like a skinny rifle holster.  Others came to claim credit for the dual American flags on fiberglass whips and the brackets for Mr. Henry's leaf rake.  After some more raucous self congratulation, everybody pitched in and helped load the new Henrymobile into my truck, and the lot cleared out. 

But of course the Beast was not part of this socialization.  He was watching from the shop door with his thumbs tucked in his belt.  I don't know how he managed to organize this whole project with his reluctance to talk, but he had done it. 

Left alone, I was able to properly check out the most interesting feature.  Mounted to the rear wheel was a triple articulated bungee cord stabilized multilinked buggy hitch.  It was a thing of serious industrial beauty. 

I looked up from it and gave the Beast a little half wave.  He lifted the fingers of his right hand up from his belt and moved them a few inches.  Salute returned.  Then he turned and went back into the shop.  

So that's how things are now.  Mr. Henry runs down buggies all over town and tows them back to Wal-Mart.  Miss Maybelle pays him out of petty cash, and everybody's a little better off. 

Oh, and I forgot to tell you.  One of the guys went to that booth at the Mall that makes airbrushed license plates, and got a real pretty red, white and blue one to mount on the front of the basket. 

It says, "Bounty Hunter".