Cooter, I am not. Unfortunately.
This is somewhat ironic because “cooter” was the pejorative some of the town kids used when I was young to label those of us who grew up in the country. In that sense, I was then — and always will be — proud to be called a cooter.
But, sadly, it really isn’t so.
Ben Jones was Cooter. He served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democratic congressman from Georgia in the early 1990s. But before that, he became somewhat famous as Cooter Davenport, the mechanic on the CBS-TV show, “The Dukes of Hazzard,” which aired from 1979-1985.
I was a fan. As a teenage boy, how could I have not been a fan? What’s not to like about a TV show that features a cool Dodge Charger, high-speed chases with cops and actress Catherine Bach in her Daisy Duke cutoffs? Oh, yeah, and then there was the theme song and cool narration provided by Waylon Jennings.
But about the only thing Cooter and I have in common is an appreciation for Daisy’s cutoffs. I am no Cooter. At least not when it comes to mechanical aptitude.
I was forced yet again this weekend to confront this truism. As I changed a flat tire on the riding mower, I couldn’t help but fantasize about a life filled with the right tools and the skill to use them. Of course, there I was in the humidity and sunshine without the right wrench, a three-quarter-inch socket and an extension. A breeze would have been nice. And a floor jack would have been even better.
As it was, I used a four-way tire iron, turning it one tiny fraction of a full circle — turn after turn after turn, with sweat dripping into my eyes, to remove the three bolts that held the flat tire in place.
A job that would have taken fewer than five minutes with the right tools and the skill to use them, took me much longer. This is nothing new.
But at least it gave me something to write about, which is something I’ve always been able to do. Also on the plus side: The wheel stayed on and the lawnmower worked when the household’s young man fired it up to finish mowing the yard.
And I was also reminded that the grass isn’t always greener in someone else’s yard. As I paid for the new tire and bought a set of wrenches to make putting it on a bit easier, I told the tire iron story to the mechanic who helped me at Farm & Fleet.
“Just once,” I said. “It’d be nice to have the right tools and to know how to use them.”
“I know what you mean,” he said. “Whenever I want to fix something at home, all of my tools are here.”