A Damned Fine Lock

It’s good to be back in the Great North Woods, where life makes sense.

Sam (is a dog) and I got back to the Tiny White Box mid-afternoon Friday, both of us still a little full from Thanksgiving in the city.  Sam (is a dog) was a little bit less full, since he’d eaten one of two pecan pies I’d made Wednesday, vomiting some of it out within 20 minutes, but spending much of the day Thursday with his hind end dribbling nuts, corn syrup, brown sugar and cinnamon.

Excited to be back, we went for a walk before unloading the Jeep.  Sam (is a dog) seems to have solved his evacuation problems and was glad to be chasing squirrels again, instead of lunging at the end of his leash, as he’d been forced to do in Manchester.

Although I hardly ever lock the Tiny White Box—I’m mainly near here, or will be after an hour’s walk—the eight-day whirl—award ceremony, family visits, meals and coffee with story-stuffed folks—had been long enough to justify closing the Brinks padlock onto the front door, after locking the back door from inside.  This eight days was also long enough for snow, cold and gremlins to get into the cleverly-designed lock.  When I inserted the key, it would not turn, wouldn’t open the only route from outside to in.   Although my picture may make me look incredibly strong and powerful (and moderately handsome), in reality I am not.  Locked outside the only home we have, though, I transformed into the Man of Steel, the metal in my hand becoming the Key of Butter and tearing off in my hand.  With the keyhole filled with what had formerly been our way in, I had thinking to do.

Luckily, it was only 2:30 or so.  Further luck, I could take an identical lock off the back door—locked from inside.  In the spirit of Arlo Guthrie, I took dozens of pictures of the locked lock.  We’d go to the Pittsburg hardware store, present all the information, and a clerk would say, “Here’s the tool you need.  That’ll be $12.50.”  The 15-minute drive into the center of town had a little gaiety, as Sam and I were excited to have a real life-and-death situation to solve.  (“Life and death” here is a bit of an overstatement.  Still, if we couldn’t get into the Tiny White Box, we’d either be freezing in a tent for the night or searching for a motel that would take dogs.)

The clerk at the Pittsburg store was very nice as she said, “Nope.”

“Nope?” I repeated.  Not an answer I’d included in our possibilities.

“Nope.  We don’t have any bolt cutters, and even if we did, I don’t think they’d be able to get at that hasp.  That’s a good lock.  Shame you’ve got to cut it off.”

Since she’d just noped my plan to cut it, I didn’t have the gumption to explain I wished I had shoddy lock, a crummy lock, a tear-away lock.  Instead, I asked her for suggestions.

“Hicks Hardware might have something,” she said.  “Down in Colebrook.”

Colebrook is about 40 minutes away, and it was now 3:00.  She called and found out they were open until 5.  Sam (is a dog) and I sped south, our gaiety somewhat diminished.

The Hicks Hardware guy agreed with the earlier assessment.

“That’s a damn good lock.”

A damned good lock keeping me in the snow, I wanted to point out, but didn’t.

“I don’t think you could use bolt cutters,” he said.  “Wouldn’t be able to get enough torque down into that tiny hole.”

I fought off the urge to say I knew we could fill a universe with things that wouldn’t work—a court order, magic, a flower; we sought something that would.  A hacksaw, maybe?

“That’d take you a few hours . . . and even then,” he trailed off.  “Let me get my locksmith up here.”

The locksmith examined my broken key, my pictures and my intact lock.

“That’s a good lock.”

Again with praise for my choice of ways to keep me in the cold.

“Well, I could sell you bolt cutters, but those’re about 50 bucks.”

“Cheaper than staying in a motel,” I said, “but the other guy said that wouldn’t work.”

“Wouldn’t,” said the locksmith.  “I said I could sell ‘em to you.  But I wouldn’t.”

“Well,” I said, counting to ten or higher in my head, “what would you sell me?”

“Nothing I got here,” he said.  “You really need a grinder, and that’s a two- or three-hundred-dollar purchase.”

“Well . . .” I murmured, “if that’s the only way . . .”

“My son’s got one he’d probably loan you.  Under the circumstances.  Let me give him a call.”

Within 20 minutes, the son had appeared with a grinder, a charger and a brand-new cutting wheel.  He took down my name and my promise to return the grinder today.  Within an hour of that, Sam (is a dog) and I had cut through the lock’s hasp, carried stuff into the Tiny White Box and loaded the grinder back into the Jeep.

Saturday morning, we returned the grinder to Hicks Hardware with profuse thanks, which were brushed off with smiles, as if to say, “We’d do that for anybody—but especially for a man who was savvy enough to have such a damned good lock.”

We went for a walk, stopped at the IGA for milk and returned to the Tiny White Box in the Great North Woods, where life makes sense.



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