You better watch what you say

My group of friends in Knoxville is planning a camping trip for mid-September up at the Elkmont site in the Smokies.

Last night, Ben and I went to Home Depot, and I bought an ax. I wanted one with a titanium-reinforced wooden handle—maybe in a classic ash—and precision-machined head plated in the same alloy that NASA uses in the shells of its spacecraft. I wanted an ax that I could pass down to my son’s son’s son. The head should be around long after all those single-use plastic bottles have finally decomposed.

I had to settle for a composite handle and an ax head made in India.

While I was looking at axes, I also saw Estwing hatchets. And 22 oz. Fat Max framing hammers. And thick leather work gloves suitable for training birds of prey. If you ever need a Harris Hawk or Golden Eagle to sit on your forearm without puncturing your flesh with its talons, Home Depot’s got you covered.

I didn’t realize I was interested in falconry until I went to Home Depot. In fact, when I walk into that tan-and-orange warehouse of tool love, I discover needs I never knew I had. Roll of 7mm plastic for vapor barrier liners? Yes, please. Step ladder? I’ll take three. Dewalt variable speed drill and table saw? Take them out to my truck. Do as I say. Where are the Husqvarna chainsaws? I have credit.

I start dreaming up projects that I had no previous inclination to undertake. I believe myself capable of designing and building a stained and weather-proofed deck with stainless steel grill and smoker, outdoor fireplace, and tiki torches. Why wouldn’t I?

I see visions of an immaculate fescue lawn with weeping willows, birches, and dogwoods and the finest treehouse ever built. Swiss Family Robinson eat your hearts out.

Since when have I been a builder? The past doesn’t matter, because when I walk into Home Depot, I remember something important:

I am a man.

My chest swells, and I walk with the strut of a professional bull rider.

I can kill deer and catch fish. I can build a fire with wet wood. Though I’ve never been in a fight and though I have no enemies to speak of, I am confident I could best all my foes in hand-to-hand combat. Don’t provoke me.

My steaks are bloody, and my coffee is as black as oil. I am able to handle a horse, beautiful woman, profanity, and hard liquor with equal poise and skill.

I know an incessant hunger for beef jerky.

I have wide shoulders and sound limbs, and taken with my castle-storming brow, high cheekbones, and angular nose, it’s safe to say that my forbears were rulers of men.

I am also a person of fine sensitivity—complex and deep feeling—but my emotions never blow me about like a leaf. I can compose both witty and serious verse, depending on the occasion.

Sure, Home Depot is a big box corporation that can cripple local economies and put mom-and-pop hardware stores out of business, but I may need a snow shovel at 8:45 one night, and a man must be resourceful and come up with the necessary resources under any circumstance. I am a freakin’ man. I break the spirits of wild mustangs and tear apart live rattlesnakes with my teeth.

I may make my living with a computer, but don’t be fooled. I own an ax. You better watch what you say.

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