I’ve always had a love and respect for well-built tools.

It’s a trait I picked it up from Dad. My father started as a pattern maker, an extremely precise branch of the woodworking arts. For him, working was breathing, so he’d come home from a 60-hour week at the foundry, then spend all day Saturday and much of Sunday in his shop.

Consequently, I grew up around tools, and spent many a Saturday morning fetching him a dizzying array of tools so he could keep working.

Getting yelled at by your dad when, for instance, you brought him a monkey wrench instead of the crescent wrench he asked for, is a great way to learn your tools. It’s like learning a language by living in a foreign country, only louder.

Dad also had the mindset that he could do anything anybody else could, and he was usually right. So I spent a lot of time helping him with more woodworking and home improvement/maintenance jobs than I care to list, including building entire homes and room additions. I also worked as a roofer with my wife’s uncle for a time.

I’m not ready to get my contractors license, and rustier today than I would like, but at least I know what tool I should be using, most of the time.

So I was on familiar turf when I called on Tony and Tanja Lay last week to talk to them about their YouTube channel, “Tony’s Tractor Adventures Homestead.”

One of the really cool parts of my job is getting to meet and talk with interesting and friendly people, and the Lays were certainly that. Tony showed me the pose he used for much of his service as a U.S. Army warrant office — balance a clipboard in one hand, a cup of coffee in the other and give a dead stare over the top of your sunglasses at anyone who dares to interrupt you. It’s no wonder he made chief warrant officer before he retired.

I found Tanja equally engaging. She has a photographer’s eye, invaluable in their current venture, and was the glue that held the family together during his long deployments overseas.

They both laughed at how she would greet him after a deployment: “Love you, missed you, here’s the checkbook, your turn,” Tony said. “I didn’t have time for post-traumatic stress.”

He admits to being “wound pretty tight” after coming off a deployment, and with good cause. Although he was never a participant in combat during his deployments — he self-effacingly calls himself “a glorified UPS man” because of his job of getting important parts from warehouses to where they were needed in the field — he’s heard the “plink-plink” of small-arms fire hitting the armored transport he was in more than once.

I also met their dog, Gizmo. I was assured that Gizmo wouldn’t hurt me, but he would never be my friend, and that he wouldn’t appreciate me trying to make him my friend.

I was disappointed, but when someone who knows a dog far better than you do tells you not to do something with that animal, you ignore them at your own risk. So I promptly ignored Gizmo, and we got along fine. He even posed for a couple of shots for me. After interviewing them, we went for a walk around the homestead the two of them are building. This is the part where the tool lover in me came out. As a farm boy who grew up around machinery and heavy equipment, and later a warrant officer whose job was first maintaining, then managing shops full of heavy equipment, Tony has a real flair for finding labor-saving devices.

One, a small sawmill capable of turning logs into lumber gave me a real twinge. Dad used to talk all the time about wanting a sawmill, and I remain sorry that he never got one.

He also wanted a small bulldozer, and hoped to get the 700-pound, gas-powered, aluminum furnace he’d bought in Ohio up and running one day, but that’s a different story.

Another piece made me think of my brother-in-law Larry — himself a retired Marine, who also has the do-it-yourself gene. He and my sister Kate heat their Virginia home with wood, and the commercial firewood processor Tony showed me made me drool on Larry’s behalf. Tony and I also shared stories about how, as teenagers, we were the firewood processors.

Sadly, not a trace of the muscle I supposedly picked up during those days remains. What you do not use, you are bound to lose.

But my favorite bit was when Tony and Tanja gave me my own tractor adventure.

Last year, I bought a new lawnmower to replace the 25-year-old mower Dad had used. It was almost like getting a new car (and was, in fact, shockingly close to what I paid for a Honda Accord station wagon I bought used more than a decade ago).

The new mower was made by a historic brand, and I immediately fell in love with it — not only the mower itself, but the history of the brand, and the culture of antique mower and tractor collectors in general. I began watching video after video on all three subjects on, what else, YouTube.

I also began to scheme about adding a small utility tractor to my collection, and even showed my wife a suitable candidate, posing in front of it during my coverage of the Henry County Fair. Sadly, the ration of need to cost will likely keep me from this goal for some time to come. I’m considering buying “Farming Simulator” for the Nintendo Switch instead.

I am shy by nature, so when Tony and Tanja began urging me to take a spin on their TYM tractor, my immediate thought was “how big of an idiot is this going to make me look like if I mess it up?” But you also need to grab the chances life gives you, so I hopped on. To my surprise, the tractor’s hydrostatic drive used controls exactly like my new mower, and I took it for a brief but enthusiastic spin before parking it.

I think I’ll ask for Farming Simulator for my birthday.

GLENN TANNER is news editor of The Post-Intelligencer. His email address is gtanner@parispi.net.

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