REM

My dad has always been a homestead hero: When I outgrew my beloved purple jeans, he dyed some denim from an old pair and lengthened them. When I outgrew my bike, he turned it into a boy’s racing bike that my little brother rode for years.

I guess you could call him a bit of a modern MacGyver: My dad has never made a rocket-powered harpoon gun out of toilet paper and gum wrappers, but he does know how to turn various odds-and-ends into the perfect part for any project.

Of course, it helped that we saved almost everything (we were the family that washed and reused Ziploc bags, after all). But, apparently, hoarding pays off for repair. During a family visit last Sunday, my Dad told me, “Well, it’s official, holding on to everything is completely justified. We just fixed the truck with the old basketball hoop.”

The basketball hoop had long outlived its useful life. It has been sitting idle in the backyard for a couple of years now. My brother’s Ford Ranger, however, is in the prime of its life and was in dire need of support. The fenders have been flapping away, chipping paint and clattering loudly, ever since the off-road fender flares were removed.

Dad’s idea: Add some struts to support the body and keep the fenders in place. This, by the way, is what my father chose to do on his birthday.

Luckily, there were already holes in place for struts…on one side. The other side required some new holes. The holes needed reinforcing, and so did some cracks. My father mixed epoxy with loose fiberglass to seal the cracks, then layered more epoxy and trimmed sheets of fiberglass over it for support. He used a plastic bag to smooth it all out.

Foundation in place, we scavenged for some struts: enter basketball hoop. One of the smaller support beams from the hoop’s adjustable backboard fit perfectly. We bolted it in.

We found a leftover piece of electrical conduit and trimmed it to fit the other fender. The weakened fender corners got some angle-brackets riveted and bolted in place to support the truck body, which was suffering from asymmetry.

The total cost of repair: an hour or so of work, some cannibalized scrap, spare epoxy, bolts, and fiberglass. The result: a fully supported, non-flapping, seamless set of symmetrical fenders, and some family bonding time.

When my Dad and my brother finished, we all came out and admired their handiwork. Dad pronounced this to be a “Good Birthday.”

MacGyver is held up as the Chuck Norris of fixing. A paragon of ingenuity. The hero of lifehacks. But, for me, the real hero is the everyday guy. Sure, Mac thinks fast and fires up an invention—but they are one-off inventions, and he usually sacrifices a perfectly good keg to shoot down a particularly stubborn door.

The true spirit of MacGyverism is the ability to see that keg as more than just a keg. To look at a basketball hoop, and instead of throwing it out, see that it could, someday, be a part or tool. Or even a fender strut.

Repair is the ultimate reuse. Plus, repair fixes the world. And that’s pretty heroic.