You can be a brain surgeon or a billionaire, but when you break down on the side of the road in the pouring rain, the most important person in your world quickly becomes a mechanic. Embarrassingly, I have suffered at the hands of my own mechanical ineptitude for a long time. As an 18-year-old flatting with a friend, my career in this field was over before it began. Apparently, starting a “cold engine” by covering the vehicle with blankets and pouring hot water over the bonnet is a questionable response!
Then there’s those big red flashing buttons on the dash, of which (admittedly) a couple may have accidentally eluded my immediate attention over the years.
Vehicle breakdowns are a source of panic for me. I am not delusional enough to get out and “pop the bonnet” and proceed to stare into that great abyss like I remotely know what’s going on in there. Nope, I’m more of ‘where is the distress flare’ type of gal. So, when my teenage daughter recently cracked the head in her car, I became traumatised that I may have inadvertently passed on my dodgy mechanical gene and, subsequently, thought I had better investigate exactly what makes a mechanic tick.
I introduce to you Mr Mark Dodd. Mark comes from a family of talented mechanics – his father Steven was my husband’s primary farm mechanic for many years and his brother Willie is also a highly skilled diesel mechanic. These two little boys spent their childhood in their father’s rural shed enthusiastically placing their little hands on every tool and every nut they could. It was there in that shed that their bones grew as tall as the machinery and their mechanical knowledge flourished under the nurturing guidance of their humble but talented father.
Mark was offered a pre-apprenticeship at an early age and upon his practical release component it was glaringly obvious that this young would-be mechanic had already obtained skills far beyond the basics.
He went on to finish an apprenticeship in small engines and worked in this field for many years. However, like his father and brother, he was never going to be defined by any particular engine size or type.
I caught up with Mark under the hood of a little bulldozer that needed a health check-up before it was put back to work. With the precision of a surgeon, Mark operated – surrounded by nuts bolts and filters – as I recall memories of little children happily constructing and deconstructing Lego. Spanners and crescents seem to jostle for the wisdom extended in Mark’s hands as he methodically pulled the engine apart and serviced its body parts. Then, like magic, that little digger sprang back into productive life. Elation from the owner and a deep thought of marvel and perhaps undervalued sentiment from me for a trade that keeps the engines of our world going.
Modest conversations ensued around re-building truck motors with thousands of moving parts involving tens of thousands of dollars, a family car that refuses to start and a lawnmower that simply won’t cut the grass. The more I thought about this the more I realised just how incredibly important the mechanic’s role is in our mechanised and productive world, and that my respect had only ever extended to a polite thank you and an expectation that motors will start. With confidence and a huge repertoire of skills behind him, Mark has returned home and started his own mobile mechanic business. For our rural and farming communities, this is a desperately needed and welcome service, as the expense of dragging machinery into centralised workshops grows. The presence of a field mechanic in a time-pressure situation in the productive sector is like a gift from God.
Mark is polite enough to recognise that his mechanical world is changing rapidly with electrification, and he has every intention of keeping his skills abreast of technology. For now though, that beautiful old fashioned combustion engine with its sounds, spark and moving parts will keep our world going for some time yet. They didn’t know it back then, but those two little boys with inquisitive minds and fingers in their daddy’s shed, would grow up to become a pair of vital cogs that we heavily rely on to keep our mechanised world going, put food on our table and save us from adversity. Hashtag, go the mechanics – we need you all day, every day!