Cook your eggs the same way every time, don’t you? Some things, you just can’t help but come back to, to the same place, over and over again. For me, it is in a little store, in a little town, when I was just a little man.
Saturday morning, 9 a.m., 1979 -- A curvy woman, dark shoulder-length, curly hair, maybe 30, attractive, with a big, winning smile on her face, bounces in from the side door, right up to the nail counter.
“Do you have a block of wood and a hammer?”
Nick and I looked at her, and perhaps at each other. We didn’t say it, but this is a hardware store, lady, of course there is a hammer around here, and I’m sure, a block of wood.
“What are you using them for?” One of us asked.
“I bet I can balance 16 nails on the head of one,” her answer confidently snapped back in our general direction.
Per her instructions, we fished seventeen 16-penny, smooth-box, cement coats, out of the dusty nail bin and plopped them down on the semi-rough surface of the composite counter.
“Now drive one into the center of the block,” she said. “But not all the way down.”
One of us grabbed the hammer that hung in a loop at the edge, near the scale.
And, we did as we were told.
She grabbed up the rest of the nails. She places one flat in the center on the dark countertop, then, alternating on each side, places all but one of the additional nails, with their heads down the spine of that first nail, until all of them lined up, looking like an eight-winged dragon fly. Then, with the last nail dropped on top, facing the opposite direction, and also weaving between the segments of the metal dragon fly, she picks up the whole configuration, between thumb and forefinger.
Steadily, but very quickly, she balances it on the nail that we drove into the block of wood.
All sixteen nails balanced, by themselves, on the center piece.
“I told you I could balance 16 nails on the head of one,” she said, flashed the smile again, and left through side door. Never to be seen again.
I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve successfully, and sometimes profitably, used that trick since.