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Cheryl Hughes: Star Bit

This summer, Garey and I have been teaching Sabria how to do practical things.  When Garey and I married—nearly 50 years ago—I didn’t have a lot of practical knowledge.  I was raised on a farm, so I knew how to carry water from the creek to water the hogs.  I could hang clothes on a clothesline, take them down and fold them, but I didn’t know very much about how a washing machine worked.  I knew how to wash dishes but not how to cook, because my stepmom didn’t want us around when she was in the kitchen.  Garey and his mom, Aggie, taught me how to cook, and I will be forever grateful to them.  I also knew how to hoe, top and tie tobacco in hands—a bygone skill that had little use in the world I was living in as a twenty-something.  

My stepmom worked at the sawmill with my dad, but she didn’t want us there either.  I really wish she had.  There is something about understanding and running machinery that gives you a confidence you can’t find anywhere else.

I’ve told you before how much I love power tools, like drills, miter saws, drill presses and the like.  I’ve been teaching Sabria how to operate the DeWalt 18Volt drill.  Garey upgraded to more power, so I got his hand-me-down.  It does everything I need it to do.  I taught her how to change out drill bits and screwdriver heads before we tackled a real project.

Our first project was hanging one of those small concrete bird feeders on a post near my raised bed enclosure.  Garey saw us, and not one to shy away from giving his expertise, he said, “The screw you’re using isn’t long enough.”  

“The only screw I have that is any longer needs a star bit,” I said, “and I don’t have a decent star bit.”  I didn’t add that I despise star bits and the screws they rode in on.  Let me explain.  The star bits I own aren’t worth owning.  Even when I have the right size, I’ll end up stripping the head of the screw or the bit spins inside the screw head and the screw goes nowhere.  Garey has mechanic grade star bits, but they are too long for my taste, and they give me even more grief.

“I have one,” Garey said.  “I’ll be right back.”

While Garey was in his shop digging through his bits, I cautioned Sabria.  “Don’t let him take that drill out of your hands.  Papa means well, but he doesn’t think anybody else can do as good a job as he can.”

Garey returned with a three-inch screw and a six-inch star bit.  “Great!” I mumbled to myself.  

“Now Garey,” I said, “let her drill the pilot hole.  She can do it.”

The drill bit was already in the drill, so Sabria started drilling the hole.

I need to pause here to tell you that the place where we were hanging the feeder involved a step ladder.  Not the kind that put Garey in the Nashville trauma center before Christmas.  This was just a three-stepper.  Sabria was doling her best to drill the pilot hole, but it was a bit high for her, so she couldn’t get all her weight behind it.

“Here, let me,” Garey said, reaching for the drill.

“Garey, she can do it,” I said.  To his credit, he let her finish.  He insisted on doing the star bit/star head screw, so we let him.  I didn’t figure Sabria would be able to manipulate that lengthy bit while up on a ladder.

Sabria has a tree in the woods that she likes to get away to, and she asked if we could affix some pieces of wood as handholds, so she could better climb.  She drilled pilot holes in the pieces, then we took the wood, screws, drill and star bit over to her tree.  She was able to get the screws into the small boards and into the tree.  I was so proud of her.

I still hate star bits.  However, I went online that afternoon and ordered my own mechanic grade star bits, albeit much shorter than the ones Garey has.  When you live in a star bit world, you have to make concessions. 



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