The transmission of collective knowledge seems to be a thing of the past.

Hundreds of generations of young men served out their apprenticeships before being allowed to hang out a shingle on their own. They learned the best ways to do things and, in turn, taught others. Things changed only when the occasional rebel jumped on a ship headed for the New World, or, in fairly recent times, turned out something that earned him ridicule from his peers and a Nobel Prize.

There was a time in my neighborhood when you’d ask some old person how to replace the brake shoes on your car or the best way to move a small building.

Things have changed over the past 70 or so years, however, because, as you might have noticed, the old people who used to live in your neighborhood are all gone. Now, before attempting any project, we turn to YouTube. If one is persistent – and very lucky – it is often possible to find a guru who, without horrible music blasting in the background, will tell you in clear, concise language what you want to know.

Here is some good advice, and I wish I’d followed it when my clothes dryer died: Before you throw money at a problem, do some research.

My dryer is at least 20 years old. I got it from a longtime friend, John Rapose, who had a store near the public landing in Rockland. John was the cigar-chomping manager of Crie’s Hardware when I worked there in 1953.


This dryer owes me nothing. In recent years during the summer months it might have dried the sheets from six beds and fluffed the towels from three bedrooms almost every day. So I was neither surprised nor alarmed when it wouldn’t start.

It had quit before. So many times, in fact, that I’d written on its sides with Magic Marker: “5/16,” which is the size of the socket that takes it apart.

But this time, one of the electrical components had failed.

For years I’ve been mystified by a tool called a multimeter that helps electricians find broken wires. It is covered with buttons and dials and needles. Every time I needed to use one was an occasion to drink hot tea and take to my bed.

Management soon tired of my hand-wringing and suggested that we get a new dryer. Isn’t that what most people do when a tiny $10 part deep down in the unexplored bowels of a $500 appliance lets go?

In my barn are a relatively new vacuum cleaner and a relatively new power washer, neither of which will run and are worthless because some tiny part slipped or snapped. Locating and replacing that broken part might be compared to cleaning out the Augean Stables.


I can’t bring myself to throw them on the dump or fix them. And no self-respecting Maine person would ever slip a broken appliance into a garage sale.

Even though those two appliances don’t work, I am comforted to know that they are paid for.

My wife’s suggestion that we buy a new machine struck a raw nerve. Even a hint that something can’t be fixed can breathe new resolve into an old Maine man.

I bought a used dryer motor on eBay, as well as a heat switch and a door switch, and started replacing parts. This was a trick I’d learned from a half-witted automobile mechanic who, instead of figuring out why a car didn’t run, kept replacing parts until it did.

At this point I took a deep breath, went back to YouTube and learned that the problem was probably a very elementary one.

After some more hand-wringing and whining, I was told by Facebook friends how to use the multimeter. I quickly determined that there was no power going through a small thermostat switch.


Wanting to make assurance doubly sure, I asked my electrician friend, Mike, to come down and verify my suspicions.

He did. The tiny, overheating thermostat was shot, so I ordered one. It was perhaps the best $7 plus shipping that I’ve ever spent.

This morning, it took 20 or so minutes to put it in.

When I came up out of the cellar, Marsha was sitting in her breakfast chair. I said that I was disappointed that she hadn’t already gone to work.

She said, “Because you didn’t want me to know that you’d already fixed that dryer and simply sat around doing nothing the rest of the day.”

Have you lived with someone so long that without even trying they can read the hidden secrets etched on your innermost soul?

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:

Comments are no longer available on this story