On Yard Work

It was 1921, and Central Europe was still recovering from the devastation of the Great War. Germany was particularly hard-hit, with many of its towns in ruins, its once-lush countryside scarred by craters and trenches. Dieter Hahn, a young mechanic coming of age in the town of Parsberg, was dissatisfied with the options for making a life for himself. So one fine spring morning he gathered his family together and announced he was moving to Scotland.

I would relate to you the conversation they had, but it was all in German, and I don’t speak German.

So Dieter, a petite man at five feet two inches and one-hundred and twenty pounds, packed his belongings and left on the next steamship to London. From there it was but a simple train trip to Edinburgh, where he searched for work. Despite his having a good grasp of English, Dieter was constantly frustrated in his job search, as all of the machine shops balked at his German heritage. Soon, he was forced to take a job as a gardener, tending to several of the large estates outside of town.

Dieter soon proved himself as a hard worker, mowing vast swaths of lawn, planting trees and flowers, and cutting shrubbery into fanciful shapes. He earned the respect of his bosses and coworkers, who were soon singing the praises of Dieter all across the area.

But Dieter had a problem. The estates he maintained had lots of fences and hedgerows, And it was difficult, at times virtually impossible, to cut the grass that grew up against them. So Dieter began to tinker.

As it just so happened, Dieter had become friendly with the master of one of the estates whose lawns he maintained, and was granted the use of an old shed, where he set up a workshop. He would work there every night and weekend, passionately trying to solve this vexing problem.

One day, Dieter happened to walk past a machine shop where all the mechanics were gathered around a small object on one of the benches. Curious, Dieter walked in and saw them examining the smallest motor he had ever seen. The mechanics were at a loss as to what to do with it, and were on the verge of chunking it on the scrap pile. Dieter stepped forward and said he had a use for it, and if they’d give it to him, he’d have it working in a week. Intrigued, the mechanics agreed.

Dieter worked all that week, and seven days later, he returned to machine shop in triumph. He presented the engine, mounted at one end of a hollow shaft with blades at the other. The mechanics laughed at such an odd contraption, until Dieter bade them to walk to the empty lot next door. There, he started the engine and quickly trimmed all the weeds along a dilapidated fence.

The mechanics were amazed, and soon word spread of Dieter’s invention. Dieter knew he was onto something big, but what to call it? Soon, that question answered itself, As people came from miles around to the machine shop, asking for Wee Dieter’s tool.


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