A tool bag full of answers

With my nose pressed against the window, I anxiously watched for the arrival of my father from work. With him he would often carry a large, black leather tool bag which, for a little boy like me, held a world of adventure.

After dinner, Dad would spend time at the kitchen table working on various fix-it projects.

I would walk by the table where he was working on some gismo. It is amazing how many little parts would be meticulously set out where they could be cleaned, re-worked and replaced. Every tool had it’s purpose.

“Can I help you daddy?”

“Yes, son. Get me my pliers out of my tool bag,” he said.

I would search through the bag to find the pliers. With each odd looking tool I would say, “Daddy, what do you do with this?” He would tell me, even though he knew I would ask again the next time. Finally, I would find the tool he asked for and hand them over.

He would say, “Just in time.” He would do some little something with it and then set it neatly with the other tools.

Thinking back, he probably did not need those pliers, but he found a use for them anyway just so I could say I helped him fix whatever it was.

Usually as he was nearing the end of his project, I’d run in and ask, “Dad when will you be done?”

He’d say, “Soon son, soon. When I get these tools cleaned up.”

My father was a man of tools, and with them he accomplished great things. The tool bag to him was like a doctor’s stethoscope or a preacher’s bible — it helped to solve the mysteries in his life.

He had the ability to fix almost anything. I am sad to say the mechanically-minded trait did not pass down in my genes.

Much of what my father did for a living rotated around his ability to fix things.

During his life, he worked for several companies fixing everything from Singer sewing machines to Royal typewriters. The job he retired from spoke highly of his abilities to adapt to new technologies. He was responsible for keeping the computers at the IRS running. I’m not talking about these little personal computers. I’m talking about when super computers ruled the world, and they took up the space of nearly a football field.

When he passed years ago, many of his tools came to me. Some are still packed away as he left them. Many of the tools I have no idea for what they could be used. I keep them simply because they were his.

More and more, I find myself doing various jobs around the house. While I am still not mechanically inclined, with patience I usually manage to figure out how to fix whatever it is. Many times I find myself looking through his tool bag for tools that might be put to use in my objective.

My father Floyd Franks died in August 1987 and one year later in August 1988, God sent another fatherly figure into my life, a television icon to all the world, but to me someone who in many ways picked up sharing fatherly advice in my life. One day, the late Carroll O’Connor and I were standing in a pawn shop set on “In the Heat of the Night” looking into a case of tools and knives. We talked about how you can often judge the character of a man by how he cares for his tools.

If he has respect for them, that will be reflected in his life. My Dad took care of his tools and he shared that respect with me.

Today we often depend upon others to fix things we cannot. Oftentimes this tendency carries over into other aspects of our lives as we look to others to fix things which are broken.

Patience and respect will lead you to solutions that can solve many problems.

The tools to fix them are often just inside your own tool bag; you just need to take the time to look.

These are lessons, we also share with Pearl and Floyd Franks Scholars as they embark on their lives continuing the traditional music of Appalachia. Learn more about how you can help make a difference in the lives of our scholars at