mad in pursuit journal


Tools & Territory

Which way to you swing? Artisan? Do you panic at the thought of losing your "toolkit"? Or farmer? Do you panic over losing touch with your "territory"? Or maybe you're perfectly balanced between the two.

Patrick Dunne, FarmerI'm writing up the history of my dad's family. As I went through the chronologies of the Prices (his father's side), I tried to figure out what among all the details was really important to me. I wrote this:

What’s interesting to me about the Prices is their long history of craftsmanship — even though my dad, with his sunny-morning sociability, keen ear, and disinterest in fine handiwork, was more of a farmer, taking after the Dunnes, his mother’s side.

Hmmm... What does it mean for a city boy like my dad to be a "farmer"?

For artisans like the Prices (carpenters, tailors, dressmakers, lacemakers) your toolbox is home. That's me. If I have the right bag, the right notebook, the right pens, the right computer software, I can go anywhere, do anything.

Farmers are nothing without their land.

My dad Curly Price was a salesman who kept his territory of hardware and paint stores stocked with Dutch Boy paint. He rode the ranch, traveled the fences monitoring his "farm" for signs of trouble and unmet needs. Although the trunk of his car was filled with color cards and cans of paint gone bad, his car was not about tools. It was about tending his territory, as important to him as his grandfather Dunne's horse and trap.

He loved the song in "The Music Man": "ya gotta know the territory." And he loved the tragic "Death of a Salesman," about poor Willy Loman, who lost touch with his customers, as well as his sons.

Curly's life was landscape. His career was about his sales territory, but his land was full of networks of family and friends. His ear was always attuned to distant thunder — or simply to the bleating of a lost sheep sitting on the bar stool next to him .

He couldn't build a window to save his life.

This idea is more poetry than it is one of those either-or things. All jobs have "territories" and all farms need tools. I was a "have books, will travel" young woman. But the older I get, the more I appreciate my landscape and am trying to develop my sense of place.

As I examine all the streams that feed into the river of my life, I do like to give them names and watch how they flow. Maybe that's the farmer in me.


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Photo: Patrick Dunne, Irish farmer, with his horse and trap (my great-grandfather)