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Pacifiers, wheelbarrows and fish hooks

The other day in church I looked over at a baby boy who was as happy and well behaved as any little boy in church can possibly be. What was the secret? There was no secret -- the answer was obvious. The little guy had a pacifier or "nookie" in his mouth and was sucking and slurping with joy and contentment. He probably thought he had the real thing. And I said to myself, "what a brilliant invention that nookie was -- why didn't I think of that myself?"

Today we salute the greatest simple inventions -- one so simple even the least inventive among us could have invented if we had just thought about it. No I'm not talking about drinking water in plastic bottles -- that's not an invention, that's a scam. Why not sell fresh air?

After saluting the nookie, I immediately thought about wheels on luggage. I remember when suitcases had to be lifted and carried wherever they were supposed to go. Then some bright guy or gal, no smarter than any of the rest of us, just more alert, decided to put wheels under the back end of one of those heavy suitcases and a strap or handle at the other end to pull it on rollers instead of lifting and carrying it. Brilliant in it's simplicity. Now almost all luggage is on wheels. I wish I had thought of that.

I talked to a senior citizen last week who spent most of his lifetime on one of the biggest lakes in Minnesota, where thousands of people put docks in the water every spring and take them out every fall before the water freezes -- usually a big job. Years ago, before anybody thought about putting wheels on the end of docks to just roll them out instead of lifting and carrying them, this senior invented hinged docks. The part of the dock that was on the shores stayed where it was and the part in the water was connected by a hinge and just pulled up out of the water and folded over the part on the shore without having to move the section on shore. I'm sure the process required some cables and pulleys, but it worked and my friend made and delivered thousands of them. Now, even simpler, many docks have wheels on them to pull them out just like pulling a suitcase through an airport.

Every time I use my favorite implement, my wheelbarrow, I marvel at what a great and simple device it is. With eight working parts I can move any heavy load: one tire, two handles, two hands, two legs and one back (no brain necessary). I love my wheelbarrow.

The fish hook is simple and brilliant. There's a loop at one end for the fishing line, the graceful curve, the sharp point and barb. It almost never fails and it can be made for only a few cents. The guy who invented the fish hook may have been just slightly smarter than most of us.

Whoever thought of forcing a wedge, wooden or rubber under a door to keep it open was utilizing the most basic of devices -- too simple to patent I'm sure, but simple and handy just the same. What would we do without wedges and shims?

Last week when I sewed a button on my cargo pants I marveled at the beauty and simplicity of the sewing needle I used. I could have used another simple device, the thimble, but none was available. We've had sewing needles since Biblical times: "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven." Stick pins (straight pins), safety pins, bobby pins and thumb tacks are all essential for the survival of the species.

But my favorite invention is so simple it could be replaced by a wad of cotton -- it's the earplug. More and more, we are bombarded by somebody else's bad and loud music, barking dogs, roaring engines, senseless chatter and loud arguments. With earplugs, we can still feel the vibrations, but the offensive sounds are blocked out and the mind is free to muse about nookies, wheelbarrows, fish hooks, needles, camels, rich men and heaven.