For Want of a Nail

I’ve been thinking about that old saying about for the want of a nail the kingdom was lost. The full proverb is:

“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”

What made me think of this proverb is my attempt to get my brakes fixed. The four brake cylinders were replaced, but the parts store sent a master cylinder with the wrong clocking, so that part never got replaced. The brakes worked fine for a few months, but the last time I drove and put on the brake, the pedal went all the way to the floor. The car stopped, but it spooked me, so I went back to the mechanic to get him to order the correct part. I checked on Friday to see what’s going on, and apparently, he hasn’t been able to find the right part.

And that’s when the saying, “for want of a nail,” started going through my head. A master cylinder isn’t that expensive, around fifty dollars, maybe, and because of not being able to get that part, my car is suddenly defunct. Although I seldom drive, I’ve been worrying all weekend about being permanently without a car since it’s so important to have for emergencies. And then suddenly it dawned on me: if I had to sell the car because the brakes didn’t work, you can darn well bet that whoever ended up with it would figure out how to get a master cylinder. So I am going to keep after my mechanic to make sure he finds a part. I plan on talking to him tomorrow to see if taking a picture of the part will help him locate the correct one, because I am not going to let this go. I’ve spent too much on the car in the past few years restoring it and making sure it runs perfectly to give up on it now.

As if that isn’t problem enough, I had a hard time dealing with my lawn mower today. Although I hadn’t planned on mowing the grass for a while, I noticed that a lot of people were mowing their lawns today — the people whose lawns had greened up — and one fellow I talked to said this was the right time. I contacted my contractor, and he agreed that it wasn’t too early to mow.

So, I got out the mower, found the battery, and dug out the instruction manual. I don’t use the mower enough for the practice to become second nature, so I have to relearn how to use it every spring. I got it started, it went a few feet, beeped, then stopped. I had no idea what was going on because the battery was full, but I went ahead and plugged the battery in the charger while I cleaned the mower of any possible clogs.

Eventually I got it to work. Apparently, the grass was too tall and too thick for the available power, so I raised the mower to the highest level, replaced the battery, and all was fine. The grass is still too tall, though if I don’t let it get much longer, perhaps the next time I try mowing I can cut it a bit shorter.

By the time all that was done, I didn’t have the energy to deal with the string edger (it’s actually a weed whacker, but it can be set to trim the edge of the grass). I don’t remember ever using it, so I have to start from scratch learning how to wrap the string and attach it and all the rest of it. That will be a project for another day.

I used to think I was good with mechanical objects, but apparently not. Still, this is just the beginning of the mowing season, so I will have plenty of time to get familiar with my tools. Perhaps this time the instructions will sink in so next year there won’t be all these problems.

Hopefully, long before then, the mechanic will find the right part to get my car running. Or rather, get it stopping.


Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

5 Responses to “For Want of a Nail”

  1. rami ungar the writer Says:

    Good luck with fixing the brakes. I hope they get the right parts soon. And they’re not missing any all-important nails.
    As for me, I’ve had the poem “One fine day” stuck in my head for about a week or so. And I’ve been using it to annoy people ever since.

  2. Judy Galyon Says:

    I understand your problem with your mower. O had thought about getting one that I could start readily, but realized this place is too big, rough and to hilly for me to handle. I have used my weed eater a few times, but my daughter has to put in the new line when it’s needed.

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