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Here’s a guest post from my brother-in-law, Alan
(originally titled, The Shop- It Was Built to Make Machines,
but It Really Formed a Family).
Alan recounts his own warm, first-hand memories
of the family shop (as previously referred to here).

I am deeply grateful to Alan for his
recollections both in word and picture.

– – – – – –

Even the Holy Scriptures designate a beginning, but I find it difficult to put a time stamp on the beginning of “the shop.” Mostly because the lineage and heritage of Young always involves a shop. This story is about the shop which was built by my Dad and the rest of our family. Our Dad, Rolly, and the four boys- Alan, Larry, Tom and Dana, were helped out by our Mom-Lois and our sister Jane. The house was built in 1973 as part of our family’s big move from Grand Forks to the land my parents bought from Mom’s father, Alvin McIntyre. Alvin and his brother, Cliff, grew up in the Old Farmhouse about 5 miles out of Grand Forks.

As children we had many trips to the farm- some in the family station wagon, some on our own bikes. As a family we spent many long hours in the summers of 1972 and 1973, clearing trees and brush from a thick wooded area north of the farmhouse that was up until then, left unfettered by time.

These woods were dominated by large oak, ash and basswood trees and thick underbrush. Beneath the underbrush one could discover the paths worn by cows from the days when Alvin ran a dairy operation and the cows were allowed to wander through the northern acres, creating paths that still form the boundaries for the current “Young Compound.” It was while wandering through these paths one Sunday afternoon that Dad and Mom were inspired to take Dad’s newly formed invention of the PanelLift® drywall lift and move from town to this new frontier.

The original portion of the shop measured 70 feet long and 42 feet wide. The concrete foundation was poured on June 8, 1973. (Interestingly enough, Eileen and I were married 12 years later on June 8, 1985). The shop building was completed in the early fall. The house was being built simultaneously by a contractor, but when it came time to move into the house it wasn’t finished, so we parked all of our boxed-up belongings in the back of the shop. My mother and my brother, Larry, spearheaded the organization of this effort, numbering every box and cataloging them in a big three-ringed binder. We also moved all of our furniture into the shop. Dad hooked up a stove, table, and other necessary items for a functioning kitchen in the front inside corner of the shop. A rug was laid down with a couch and chair for our living room. Our family bedroom was the 1948 Ford school bus which my dad had turned into a camper in 1966.

The bus was parked in the middle of the shop and it slept all 7 of us… and had a flush toilet. Pioneers from 1800 wished they had it so good!

                                                                  Alan, Dana-Tom?, Larry, Jane, Mom

The shop’s living quarters were topped off by a long rope that hung from a ceiling rafter. A large knot was tied at the bottom of the rope and this served as an inside swing that pacified the high energy of four boys and amused their sister. This North Dakota Bohemian living arrangement lasted about a month as the house was finished in time for Christmas dinner and the shop was ready to begin its 45-year career as the forge that would shape the lives of five fortunate young people. The shop was the vehicle to our futures whether we understood it or not.

The early days of a family-run business can be tricky- especially when much of the work force is still in high school and college. Dad’s new machine was slowly catching on with rental shops and contractors. It was a Providential boost to the business when a major tool distributor, Goldblatt Tools, found out about the PanelLift.

They began ordering from the fledgling home-manufacturing shop-in-the-woods. Soon a couple of full-time workers were hired to support the operation as the five kids were still in their high school and soon-to-be college years. It was the years spanning 1973-1985 that the five Young kids earned their way through college by running drill presses and punch presses, turning parts on a lathe, performing assembly tasks, and learning valuable trade-related operations including welding and painting and tasks involving mechanical design problem solving. Although only Dana and Larry stayed with the family business, all five kids learned that having a work opportunity 50 feet from their home was a good thing.

                                                                                              Jane and Dana

                                                                                                        Dana

                                                                                  Tom, Dana, Larry, Alan

                                                                                           Alan, Dana, Larry

I can’t speak for all of us, but I know I spent thousands of hours from 1973-1982 working summers and weekends to pay my way through school. Those were not easy hours. The welding booth in the summer was wretchedly hot and I remember making the decision many times to wear the least amount of leather protection so the heat wouldn’t be so oppressive. The trade-off was having to bear the inevitable welding spark that would land on my t-shirt, slowly burning a hole in it until it reached my skin and an unseen glowing spark would slowly die out 2 inches north of my navel.

Suiting up for painting was great in winter but in summer it was a sweatbath.

                                                                                                                       Alan

From this time, at this place, each of us had a vision. For some, that vision revealed clearly that these surroundings would become their future- they would help nurture and grow the machine that Dad designed and help grow this shop and in the process, make a larger forge for others who would come to work for the business. For some of us our vision was different- even if we didn’t know we had a vision at this time.  Maybe it was just cluttered by the machines we were running…

… or the machines we were building.

                                                                                     PanelLifts, ready to go

But this work allowed us to get our hands dirty and our bodies sweaty. Our clothes became worn and frazzled.  We learned not to take for granted the comfort of a shower and clean fresh clothes, as we awoke the next day and put on yesterday’s dirty jeans and t-shirts; after all, we didn’t want to ruin new clothes before the old ones had finished their abilities to shield us from dirt, grease, welding spatter, and paint.

Working in this shop allowed us to be together working with family.

                                                                            Dad, Mom, Dana, Tom, Alan

But working in this shop also allowed us to be alone. Alone at long, tedious tasks, producing parts that stacked into boxes, carts and assembly racks. We learned the value of tedium, the value of monotony, the value of being uncomfortable while your body did work and your mind was free (or forced to drift elsewhere).

Whatever one’s work environment may be, I think there is a forlornness [in its loss] unmatched by people whose hands helped to build the place they work. I think of farmers and their families who through the generations have managed the same homesteads as they built barns and granaries, sheds and facilities to run their operations. Now, as corporate farms take over the landscape, these farmers and their families are faced with the declining ability to keep pace and are losing their businesses; but more to the heart- they are losing their land and buildings- a loss that is different than moving from a cubicle to another cubicle, a company to another company, even moving from one career to a different career. When your body has contributed to the means by which an enterprise has been planted, grown, and flourished, and now that enterprise has lost the means to be maintained- there is an emptiness.

I see this emptiness now as I walk through the dimly lit rooms of the old shop. Once the heart of the operation, it is now a shell.

There are left over machines, benches, odd tools, and stacks of odd parts…

… out-dated jigs that once cleverly allowed intricate parts to be efficiently produced- all now sitting and waiting…

…waiting for what may come next.  For now, there is no clear answer to their future.

Maybe some day these machines and this building will be resurrected for a new beginning.  Maybe they will return to dust as we know our own bodies will some day.

But even as I turn on the light in an old corner office, I am reminded that we are a people of The Resurrection.

December 3, 2018

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Two things happened this week which have brought a chapter in my life to a close.  The first was the death of our “big, blue bus.”  It’s not altogether un-resuscitable, but the cost is prohibitive.  This bus had come to define our family vacations and was the vehicle (pun intended) of many good and happy memories.

The second event began last night around 8:00 pm, but didn’t fully sink in until this morning when I woke up.

I probably made the wrong choice to not attend church this morning. Dana and I had been in the Cities, dropping off our youngest at school.  We got in this morning at 2:00am (thanks entirely to Dana’s ability to stay awake and God’s good sustenance).    We had gone to church last night at Bethlehem before leaving the Cities and with school workshops beginning tomorrow, I felt I could use the time to finish up some preps for the week ahead.  So in my groggy state this morning, I decided not to get up and go with Dana again to church here at home.

However, I got up to a too-quiet house and walked passed much too-empty rooms and bedrooms and I feel very lonely this morning.  You see, today my nest is empty.  I can’t help but think of this once-bustling house and recognize that from here on, life will be different.  No doubt the house will bustle again from time to time, but from here on, my job description is forever changed.

I remember my eternally optimistic mother-in-law commenting once when she was at the same spot I am, that all the stages of life are good and have something to offer us.  I’ve repeated that to others in the last month, the last week, the last day as I’ve tried to make myself believe it.  But today it doesn’t feel that way.

The foil of life is that we can be given the keys to such great truths by those who go before us, but until we actually walk through those doors ourselves, we cannot really comprehend those truths.  How often as a young mom I was told how fast the years fly.  It didn’t feel that way as the days and hours seemed to lengthen in a kinetic, exhausting (but joyful) blur.

But today there is no one who needs an early morning feeding or a shoe tied or help with their school work or lunch made or clothes ironed or a drive to an activity or papers signed or …

At the risk of sounding too depressed (I don’t think I am) or too pathetic or melodramatic, I wonder who I am now.  I’ve actually been wondering this for some time as I watched my youngest go through all of her high school “lasts” and I tried to steel myself for this day.  If I’m not a full-time mom anymore, who am I?  I definitely don’t want the new me to be defined by my career.  I do not wish to replace family and home duties with those of the job.  I am glad for my role there, but I do not want that to be what defines me.

I guess I’m finding that my roles as wife and daughter of God are those that bring me the most hope right now.  As I have watched my dad and Dana’s dad both lose spouses, I know that our self-selected futures are not promised us and that in this life we will have trouble.  To the extent that I am mortally able, I try to hold the future with an open hand, because, as Corrie ten Boom has said, “it hurts so much when God has to pry our hand open.”   But I do hope for the time ahead—that it will mean a renewal for Dana and I—a time to begin making new memories for the two of us. I don’t imagine that we will revert to those (relatively) carefree, early pre-children days because the world…and our world…has developed too much gravity for that.

But I do hope for a new picture of Dana and I to emerge in the days and weeks ahead.  I also hope that the Lord will see fit to give us a ministry we can enjoy together.  Apart from the ministry of parenting, we have not really had an opportunity to serve side by side in a mutual calling.  From my present short peak, I can imagine future work with The Voice of the Martyrs or The Center for Christian Thought (a new, proposed undertaking of our church).  I could imagine following Dana to seminary some day and can only imagine the avenues that might open.  And then there are the possibilities of what I can’t imagine.  But for now it is enough that God not only holds but actively designs our futures and we will (we must) move ahead now trusting that his Word will be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our paths.

I’m sure there are still those ahead of me who would warn how fast these years will fly.  I pray that the older and wiser me will be mindful of the preciousness of the time I’m given and I will lift my head more often from the day-to-day of “life” to be grateful and hopeful.

 

[Photo from 2009; camping trip to the ND Badlands.]

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