Well howdy there, neighbor! Looks like you’re ready to do some fixin’ up around the house. That’s quite a haul. What are you going to take on? Buildin’ a deck. Well, that’s a mighty big project you’re takin’ on. Ever done somethin’ like this before? No? You got all the tools you need? Not sure, huh? Oh, I know Frank built his deck last year. Nice job he did, too, but well, Frank’s been doin’ that kind of thing for a long time. Well, don’t mind me. When you feel like time for a break, feel free to come sit on my porch and relax, ya hear?
Oh, there you are! How’s it goin’? Yeah, it’s pretty darn tough. Here, you sit for a spell and relax. Say, did I ever tell you the story of Clem Wardlow? No? Well, you’re in for a treat. This is a story my daddy first told me, and his daddy told him. They say Clem Wardlow the worst fixer-upper there ever was.
Legend says Clem Wardlow was a city slicker who bought a farm somewhere up north, Indiana or Ohio or somethin’. It really don’t matter where his house was. The care of the place was left to the man of the house, and that’d be Clem. Ol’ Clem, however, wasn’t very good at that kind of work and he was kind of cheap. He didn’t ask for help and he didn’t pay someone who had the know-how. No sir, he was going to do the fixin’ himself. So he used glue instead of nails, and rope instead of chain, and wood instead of bricks. He didn’t seal joints and didn’t prime before he painted. But he wanted to modernize his old house, so he didn’t just fix it. He improved it. Leastaways, he tried to improve it. He cut drywall before measuring so when he came up short he just left a bare patch. He didn’t put down tar paper before nailin’ down shingles. He didn’t put down padding before he installed carpet. He never made sure he had all the tools he needed. Never bought any sandpaper because he couldn’t see the sense in sandin’ something down that was just goin’ to be painted later. Never bought a lot of tools he needed ’cause he didn’t understand what they was for. Clem knew his work was bad, but he never put two and two together on how his bad work was costin’ him money.
“Why should I pay someone to fix up somethin’ I can do myself?” Clem thought. “Why should I buy this expensive tool when somethin’ cheap works just as well?”
Well, my friend, you know why you pay for someone to do a job. You pay them ’cause they can do it right, although sometimes those people follow in the footsteps of Clem Wardlow. And you know why you pay for somethin’ expensive; because somethin’ cheap don’t work as well, at least not in the long run. But Clem never paid for anything he could get for free and never paid more than he had to for what he couldn’t get for free. His roof had leaks and his basement had mold and the plumbing leaked. But Clem was stubborn. Then one fateful day the area was hit by a killer tornado. It was a mile wide at the base, they say, with enough power to throw tractors into the air. When the neighbors came out of their shelters, most of them still had their houses, or at least part of their houses still standing. But Wardlow Hill? Nothin’ but a pile of rotten wood and broken bricks. No one ever knew what became of Clem Wardlow, but the neighbors say he stubbornly carries on, still trying to fix things he ain’t got no business tryin’ to fix. His spirit wanders this world looking for people who fix things. It don’t matter if the person is in business or just workin’ around the house. No one is safe from his meddlin’.
Now, everyone who’s every tried to fix somethin’ has run into the handiwork of Clem Wardlow at one time or another. You know what I’m talkin’ about. There’s always somethin’ that just ain’t right. When people are tryin’ to fix somethin’, and they ain’t got the know-how, but try anyway, that’s the spirt of Clem Wardlow. It don’t matter if the thing that’s been fixed is a house or a car, or if it’s in the city or the country, you can always find the handiwork of that vengeful spirit. You remember young Jed’s sixteenth birthday present? His Ma and Pa got him a used Mustang for him to fix up. He was the happiest boy in the valley. But when he tried to fix the passenger door panel, he found it wasn’t nuthin’ but chicken wire and glue. That, my friends, is Clem Wardlow.
Remember ol’ Bill Hicks who moved into the city? Got himself that fancy job and moved into that big house in the fancy neighborhood. But what did Bill find? He found that the drain pipes in his downstairs bathroom were connected by white teflon tape. That’s right, teflon tape. Even the inspector missed that. Or those bricks in his porch that didn’t have any mortar? Nope, not a lick of it. Not only that, but there was only packed sand for the foundation. And on top of all that, whoever tried to install or fix that porch used some kind of wood glue to glue the bricks to the sand foundation. We laugh about it, but you got to think, why would anyone do that? Surely they must know you got to have a solid foundation and use mortar. I mean, what was in his head? Heck, even all the towel racks was hung crooked. But I guess the contractor just didn’t understand the point of usin’ a level. Whenever someone doesn’t let their lack of know-how stop them from trying to do the work, that’s the spirit of Clem Wardlow.
There is a way to fight back. You just need to know when the spirit might be lurkin’. When you try to fix somethin’, and you get in over your head, and you think, “I can fix this; how hard can it be?” you stop right there. If you take on a task and think, “Wow, this is expensive; maybe I should get the cheap stuff,” you stop right there. If you’re reading some kind of instruction manual and realize you don’t have the tools it calls for and you think, “Well, what I have will just have to do,” you stop right there. You might be channeling the spirit of Clem Wardlow, and that, my friends, is probably somethin’ you just can’t afford. If you ain’t got the know-how, don’t do it. If you ain’t got the money or time to do it right, don’t do it. But you know, that’s just the ramblin’ of one old man. Feelin’ better, neighbor? That’s good. Yeah, I’ve got Frank’s phone number. You want to ask for some pointers? Probably a good idea. Here you go. Good luck with your fixin’ up. And I’m glad you liked my little story.