January 17th…“DID YOU EVER WORK WITH A MASTER CRAFTSMAN?”
Even though they were captives overnight, at least a dozen happy sparrows chittered a cheery song for us as we pulled up the massive, blue roll door that opened into the cavernous Grounds & Carpentry Shop of the Battle Ground School District in Battle Ground, Washington. Above our workshop was the incremental cement bleachers of the relatively new sports stadium that had been constructed during the summer of 1967……shortly before our family arrived from Minnesota. With the freedom of daylight now streaming into greet our little songsters, they bid leave of us as their birdy wings rocketed them out of that open doorway to enjoy another day of flight in the lovely Pacific Northwest.
After having crossed the Battle Ground High School Graduation stage, in May of 1972, to receive my diploma, I eventually returned to my alma mater as an employee on October 2nd of that same year. My illustrious job title (tongue-in-cheek) for my new employment was “Floor Scrubber’s Helper”. My working partner (Ron Bergren) was my boss as we scrubbed and waxed floors throughout our very large school district. During each evening’s swing shift, we’d empty two or three classrooms of furniture, strip and wax the floors and then put the furniture back in before heading home around 11:30pm each night. At that rate of classroom cleaning, we usually made the circuit around the entire School District at least two or three times during the school year proper. Since the regular school custodians scrubbed their own floors during the summers, the District Maintenance Administrator (Al Bosisto) would temporarily assign us to help out the Grounds Crew during the summer hiatus. It was during one of those summer work assignments that I had the pleasure to meet a Master Carpenter.
In the quietness of our workshop that morning, I could hear footsteps approaching the enormous opening of the roll door we had come through earlier. With the brilliant morning sunshine to his back, and still low on the horizon, the silhouetting golden rays sent an impressively long shadow ahead of Adrian Haro as he approached our workshop to begin another day as the District Carpenter. Adrian’s ancestral heritage, from the country of Finland, had given him a tall, lanky frame that eventually appeared and softly loped into the doorway with his lunch box and a big thermos of coffee in tow. Whether Adrian was actually born in Finland, or born here and just grew up in a bilingual family; that I do not know. But I do know his English was flavored with the lilting qualities of his Finnish elders that came before him and I ascertained that he was likely fluent in Finnish as well as English.
I have always had an admiring affinity towards my elders; “The Greatest Generation” as they’re often called. These dear souls had seen so much life and absorbed grand amounts of wisdom before I even took my first breath. Even my own parents enjoyed the majority of their friendships with the “senior saints” in their own lives, so, I surmise my love for older folks stemmed from that of my own upbringing in the shadow of observing my parents and their respect for those older than they. This loving tendency came into play in my daily interactions with Mr. Adrian Haro. We enjoyed each other’s company and even took many of our lunch times together. As we’d sit there, in Adrian’s carpenter shop, eating our lunch, the aroma of wood-shavings emanated from the floor below us. We chatted back and forth as I would ask questions about how Adrian used the different tools of his trade in cabinet building and general carpentry. In his heavy Finnish accent, Adrian told me one day, “Yah know, Elliott, dair arr a lot of vood bootchers in dee verld, but very feeew carpenters!!!” His wisdom not only caused me to smile, but also caused me to think and affirm that phrase to be true. For, I, myself, am one of those “voood boootchers”!!! 😉
Oftentimes, Adrian’s wooden creations were long, large sections of cabinetry destined for one of the many schools within our District. Being much too large for one man to safely handle, Adrian often would come to me for assistance in loading, hauling and mounting those cabinets. Overall, I was more than happy to assist this master carpenter of ours. As I responded positively to giving him a helping hand, Adrian would tell me, in his Finnish brogue, “Ohh Elliott, tank yew so much, yew’re my hoovah boyka!!” (which is good boy in Finnish). But, if I had been pressed to do another task and not able to help this dear man, Adrian would feign dismay with me and say, “Vell, if yew’re tew busy, I find somevun else…….yew “bah-ha boyka” (which means bad boy in Finnish).
During those times when I was able to be Adrian’s helper, I was captivated by how much care he took to make his wooden masterpieces look just right. Most of the mounting of his carpentry was done with hand tools, there at the school site. After getting the large, new cabinet up on the wall, I can still see Adrian driving in the thin finish nails and then using a tool called a nail-set to make the nail disappear below the wood’s surface. With his keen, artistic eye, Adrian would then select the exact color of wood putty to fill those myriad of nail holes around the perimeter of that cabinet. When completed, an observer wouldn’t be able to tell there was even one nail used in that cabinet. That “Wood Master’s” workmanship, and his very life itself, deeply impressed this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.