Draft: Think Outside the Box; Act on the Edges

Posted on October 30, 2012

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I started writing this more than two years ago. I saved it, thinking I’d return to finish it another time, probably because I lost my train of thought. I just stumbled across it now and, instead of finishing it, I thought I’d post it and let you take from it what you will.

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Drafted on: Aug 27, 2010 @ 2:27

During a recent employment hiatus, I found myself using an impact wrench to remove bolts from hundreds of feet of an auger chain in my dad’s shop. None of that probably makes sense to you. If you care, read on – if you just want to get to the point, skip the next paragraph.

My family owns a cotton gin, where farmers pay to have their cotton processed. Leaves and dirt are separated from the cotton, then the white cotton fibers are separated from the cotton seed. The fibers go to textile mills and the seed is usually used to feed cattle on ranches and dairies. The cotton gin accumulates enormous quantities of cottonseed, so it is all stored in huge warehouses. Cottonseed is moved to warehouses for storage by semi-trucks, which unload into a pit. The seed is then moved by auger into the warehouse. This particular auger was a long (700 ft.) chain with plastic paddles/buckets/scoops bolted every 2 ft. or so. The flanges that attached the paddles to the chain were bent from years of wear and my assignment was to remove all the paddles, straighten the flanges, and install new paddles.

And we’re back. With hundreds and hundreds of bolts, washers, and nuts, I was really making a mess. The plan was to gather them all, put them in boxes, and haul them to a steel yard for recycling when all said and done. While gathering the assortment of nuts and bolts, I noticed my dad was not dumping and tossing them into the boxes as I had been. He was strategically placing them around the edges of the box so that there were considerably more items on the edges than in the middle. Then it hit me like wisdom is known to do to youth all too often. The edges and corners of the box are the strongest. He didn’t want the bolts to break through the bottom.

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