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Just dropping by ... Creating it yourself

Yevet Tenney for Progressive Dairy Published on 30 June 2021

I had a conversation with a fellow student when we were in college, back in the Dark Ages. He said, “How are we different from the caveman? Do you know how to make a computer? Do you know how to do build a car?”

I knew what he was trying to communicate; we depend so much on other people’s creativity that we have lost our ability to be self-reliant. The next generation is in worse shape. Our educational system has come to rely on the computer so much that penmanship and math skills are going by the wayside because of calculators and smartphones. Don’t get me wrong – I love computers and smartphones. My life as a writer is made much easier by them. I think of poor Shakespeare writing his works in longhand and the translators of the Bible, making individual copies. I’ll take the computer anytime.

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Creativity and hard work have built this country. We would not have the conveniences of life we all enjoy if it had not been for those who used their ingenuity and work ethic to invent the things we use every day: vacuums, refrigerators, electric lights, smartphones. Someone had to have a vision big enough to make those things a reality.

Many in the modern generation are consumers, not builders. They expect the supermarket and internet to supply their needs: food, clothing, housing, transportation, you name it. What will they do if there comes a time when they must rediscover the old ways? What if suddenly they had to depend on their own ingenuity? How will they be better than the caveman?

My husband is a great example of someone who lives by the philosophy, if you don’t have it, create it. If it is broken, fix it. My husband built three houses. The first was a fixer-upper that belonged to his great grandmother. He tore out a wall and put up an attic room. He carpeted the living room with remnants and made kitchen cabinets. Just as that house was complete, he moved his family. They searched for houses to buy but found it cheaper to build. The family lived in an old school bus until the new house had a roof, floors, ceilings and stud walls. Then they moved in. The interior walls were made of blankets. My husband spent every waking hour after his full-time job to work on the house. Three years later, he had a mansion. It was magnificent. Carpet, hanging fans, expansive decks and porches that were decorated with wrought iron. He did the work himself. He didn’t know everything about carpentry or wrought iron when he started to build. He learned while he went along. Back then, he didn’t even have YouTube as a teacher.

After his first wife passed away, and he brought me to his home, he teased me about taking me to his rabbit pen. When we rounded the corner to his property, my mouth fell open. This was no rabbit pen. It was a place fit for a queen. He had dreamed the dream and made it a reality through his creative ingenuity.

After we were married, the need arose for us to move closer to our parents. So we moved to a ranch in Taylor, Arizona. It was July when we arrived; the kids lived in a tent and horse trailer. Reg and I slept in an over-the-cab pickup camper. It was wonderful living out in nature. You could see the stars, and the silence was magnificent. You could walk for miles and not hit civilization. I loved it. That is, until winter came.

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A friend loaned us a fifth-wheel trailer, and an aunt and uncle gave us a dilapidated single-wide mobile home. The kids slept in the mobile home and we slept in the fifth-wheel. What a treat! The mobile home had heat, but the fifth-wheel didn’t. I stacked on the blankets, but my feet were still blocks of ice. I learned what it was like to be a pioneer.

In the spring, we moved into the dream basement of our new house. When I say dream basement, I’m referring to the brick walls and concrete floor that would soon become the basement. It was April, so we figured it would be warm soon. My husband stacked up some bricks and hoisted some sheets of tin on the top for a roof. We put the bed, the chest of drawers and our hanging clothes in our makeshift room. In the spring sunshine, we thought we were set. Mother Nature had different ideas. That April was the wettest April in 10 years. It rained nearly every evening. We would wake up to stick our toes into the icy water that had accumulated under our bed. Luckily, we had placed our bedsprings and mattress on cinder blocks. We sloshed through the water to get the broom to sweep out the flood. Sometimes, our makeshift roof leaked. Then we had a literal waterbed. We learned to solve the problems we faced.

As time progressed, I thought it was wonderful to have outside walls, even if the inside walls were ghost walls. Ghost walls are studs where the wall should be, but you can walk through them. We worked on the house for three years adding this room and that room. It wasn’t easy living with his creativity, but he always had a solution to the immediate problem.

At times I got impatient and said, “Honey, why don’t you hire someone to come in and hang the rest of the sheet rock? I have a cousin that does it professionally. Why don’t you let someone else stucco the house? Take a break.” His response was always the same: “I don’t know what I’m doing until I do it.” I have come to understand that to mean, “This is my creation. Allow me to finish it. I need to be able to say I did it.”

It took me a while to understand that kind of thinking. I just wanted to live in a finished house. I was tired of the fragments of hand-me-down carpet and blanket doors. I was tired of doorless cabinets and time-yellowed sheet rock. I wanted it finished. Then I wondered what this kind of lifestyle was doing for the kids. Surely, they would suffer, but time told the tale. My boys are men with impeccable work ethics. They are lauded as top hands. My girls are raising children with the philosophy, if you don’t have it, create it. If it is broken, fix it. My children are resourceful and self-reliant.

As I look back, I realize that a finished project is not the important thing. What you learn along the way is more important. It is a basic human need to create and struggle to complete a project.

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When God created the world, He pronounced it “good.” The creation was a huge do-it-yourself project. He had a spiritual blueprint and knew what He was doing, but it had to be exciting to see everything that was spiritual take the shape of reality. Humans need to create and announce to the world, “I did that myself.”

I wonder if the premade society we live in has failed to recognize that basic need.

It has not been easy living in my husband’s creative state, and this lifestyle is not for everyone, but I have learned to appreciate the little things. I ignore the unfinished parts of the house and enjoy the newness of the last finished project. We spend much time dreaming about how this and that will be. Sometimes the dreaming is more fun than seeing the actual completed project. In dreams, you can make it any way you want. You don’t even have to be practical and worry about financial limitations. I may never live in a finished house, but I know there will be moments of joy and family projects that will make the waiting worthwhile. When it is done, we can say, “This is our creation, and we did it all ourselves!” end mark

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