By LARRY M. JONES
Since I served in the Navy for the bulk of my most productive years, I often make reference to the people and places I saw during this lengthy journey. This past week, as I watched my wife Helen “organize” her sewing room and its storage area, I was reminded of an old wing commander under whose leadership I served. For the life of me, I cannot remember his name, but he was an unforgettable character. A U.S. Navy captain who went on to be selected for admiral, he was a charismatic and capable leader. One of his favorite pastimes was to drink beer with a bunch of junior officers at the officer’s club and pontificate to his captive audience. During one of these “counseling sessions,” I will never forget how he described the task of management. He explained that you break all the tasks or priorities you are facing into three groups. Identify those that you have to do, right now. Next sort out those that you need to do, but can wait until later. Lastly, choose those that you would like to do, but know perfectly well that it will never happen. The great leader is defined by his or her ability to determine which pile each task belongs.
In watching Helen clean and organize her sewing materials, I was even a bit shocked by the brutality with which she made some of the choices. Perhaps it’s her German heritage. They didn’t refer to the early Germanic tribes as barbarians for nothing. Along with her “take no prisoners” approach to cleaning out the junk, she was extremely methodical in organizing and storing the survivors. I’m just not that good.
When it comes to me cleaning out my shop, I’m far too timid. Although there are many folks worse, I have latent and at times even overt pack-rat tendencies. You can never tell when you’re going to desperately need some piece of an old lawnmower or some such contraption. I come by it honestly, and I trained under the best---my Uncle Foy Thomas. He was a consummate scavenger. Living in one of the nicest homes on Mockingbird Lane in Weatherford gave him the opportunity to inconspicuously survey his neighbor’s trash to see if anything could be salvaged. His wife wouldn’t let him keep all his acquired treasures, so he brought them down to the “pore farm.” He’s been gone almost 20 years, but I’m still tripping over these jewels he liberated from his affluent neighbor’s trash.