Well that reminds me of this old guy I knew. He was a guy’s guy. He was a man’s man. He was friends with everyone who didn’t stand in his way and about half the people that did at some point. He was the epitome of an old midwestern man. His age was not relative. I bet thirty years ago he was still the old man in this town. I bet in thirty, more people will still talk about him as “thee old man”, and that’s only if he isn’t still around smoking cigarettes and throwing the butts in an old tin coffee can at the end of the porch. He was the smartest man I’ve ever met, but don’t tell him I said that. From the day I met him until the last time I see him I expect it to go the same way.
I met him when I was but a mere 5 years old. I was the entrepreneurial spirit of our small town, even at the ripe age of kindergarten. I had a wagon, all the premade components, and the supplies to walk my lemonade stand up and down the roads. I was a door to door lemonade salesman with a brimming business. I had been on almost all of the five streets we had running through our “town”. I was on the end of the last one. One more driveway and I’d have enough money for whatever seemed important that summer. It was probably a baseball glove. It was always a baseball glove, at least until I was old enough for a car.
I saw the old statue of a man sitting in a rocking chair at the end of his porch. It was a hot day, hence the lemonade sales. This crazy old cracker was still in a black and red flannel, Carhartt double walls, his slippers, and a wonderfully odd, lipstick red, petroleum scented, mechanic jacket. The jacket looked like it was put together at a build a bear workshop and overstuffed so it could be a pillow for the man who only had this one jacket. It was covered in a wide array of stained reds. It looked like a poor man's camouflage. It fit him so well. The only part that could have been more of a win for this old beast was his hat, but well get to that later.
The leather skin on his face with more wrinkles than a highly educated brain glimmered with small beads of sweat in the sun. He would never take off his ranch wear and prevent a sweat. Afterall it was "just weakness leaving the body." His worn down fingertips would reach up to re-position those heavily framed steel aviators. I was surprised to not see sunglasses or transition lenses but what did I know, I was five. It didn’t take me but five steps within sight of this old man and up his driveway before he caught me in that foresight that seems to stick with senior citizens. I don’t all remember what was said that day but I know how it started and ended.
One wave of his hand and I picked up the speed. As soon as I was just under shouting distance I went straight in for the kill.
“Hey Mr. My name is William. My friends call me Billy. My mom calls me Will. My dad calls me “Dub-ya” or willy when he’s mad. I am the best lemonade maker in these parts. You want to buy a cup?”
He laughed. “ I will try a cup but what makes you so sure you want to buy a cup?”
I was a little mentally discombobulated. I understood at five how he wanted to try some lemonade, but I thought that was the same thing as buying a cup. I didn’t really know how to proceed so I kept with the sale. I turned to my wagon, swiped the top cup off the stack, and hit the container’s handle with my thumb. I wish I had kept the confidence through my puberty but I had it then for I immediately turned my head and said
“Well, it is the best lemonade in the whole damn town.” as I slammed a glass back and refilled for another.
“Well, are you gonna get me a cup? Or do I have to fill it up myself?” He croaked as he coughed up his twenties and all the smoke from back then.
I filled a cup with ice, lemonade, and even put a little fresh mint leaf on top
He grabbed the cup, took a swig, and looked me in the eyes with a stare that could have stunted my growth if he didn’t follow it with those words, “Damn son, you may be a liar, but if you are you’re a good one.”
I broke into a high-pitched laugh as any five-year-old would. We sat there on the porch as he told me his life story. I was five so I thought later in life it was all blown out of proportion, it wasn’t. He remained more humble than the pie he would always talk about. We talked until the sun started to come down. I got up to leave and he asked where I was going. I thought it was unusual, but you know I told him right away,
“Home, before dinner, so I don’t get in trouble.”
He smiled and raised his hand. “I can call your dad to come to get you on his way from work. That way you’re both in time for dinner.”
I was anxious to get home, in order to not be grounded and get to reap the rewards of my day of lemonade sales. “How am I gonna fit the wagon in dad’s car?”
“Who said you’re taking the wagon? “ He unwhipped those tobacco-stained teeth in a smile as he asked, “I’ll buy the whole wagon if you’ll come to fill it?”
“Hundred, hundred is the lowest I’ll take.”
I was dreaming of two zeros and all the matchbox and hot-wheel cars I could buy with a hundred more dollars. I’d saved for years and never gotten over a hundred. I could break the ice in one swipe right here. Then it hit me,
“You know my dad?”
“I’ll pay you a hundred dollars a month if you bring me some lemonade in the summer, Indian tea in the winter, but more importantly if you sit here once a month and have a smart conversation like this kid. It’s more for you than for me, but it ain't all for you. And yes kid, I know your father pretty well.”
For the next thirteen years, I would visit him at least once a month. It probably averaged about once a week, especially when I got into high school. I learned more and more about the man. I learned he wasn’t always the farmer and rancher our town knew him as.
At the age of fifteen he finished high school, he was at school for a year and a half before he was called into work for a company called NASA. That was the stupid red hat he had. After he had a couple of paychecks under his belt, we’d reached the moon, and with growing boredom for the people in the world, he started to read more and more into trading agencies. By the end of the year, he had three companies running over million-dollar quarters. He spaced them out and even took his personal business to the grave to avoid headlines. At the age of thirty-six, he had a polyphase farm on the outskirts of a small town. Within two years it was remodeled to be fully self-sufficient. After reading up on the law to detour the lawsuits from the state for being off-grid and harvesting the rainwater he was home free. Ranching was never easy but I would pay all the money he made to watch his farm in its hay day. He ran a one-man farm that ran at over one hundred percent profit almost every year. In an occupation where losing money every year is more common than making ANY, in any year, he was a God. He had a wife for, in his words, “The best ten years of my life.”, and until that car accident, it was his pride and joy too. He ran the crops in his field every damn year. By the time he was seventy-two, he had a hand or two to help him get it all done. Most years it was me if I didn’t have anything going on. He didn’t really need a lot of help. He had everything so well put together, it ran better than any well-oiled machine he had on the property.
He was a cool and somber old pile of dirt. He had as much wisdom as any monk I’ve met to date. He took about the same time between your question and his responses as the monks did too. The main difference between him and the Monks that I have spent time with were his one-liners. Well, the one-liners and the diet. This man told me so many one-liners that would make a better postcard than I’ve ever seen. He had all of these one-liners, yet, he had one conversation and three punch lines that stuck out.
We were talking on the edge of the porch the day before I was to leave for the university he helped me get into. It went about like this,
“Well, one day when I’m past this college thing, maybe you can call me smart.”
“One day is today, tomorrow, and yesterday, don’t let it fool you. You’re the only one you can change it and you might as well get on it.” His side-eye of seriousness let me know the conversation wasn’t going to be one to forget. I got the side-eye and he wasn’t about to chew my ass, at least that I knew of.
He said, intelligence isn’t a tool. Intelligence is how well you can get a job done. “
I looked at him with baffling confusion. I know it was baffling confusion because he gave me the argumentative chuckle as he slapped his knee. He told me I might want to write this down. Being a rancher from the midwest, who served two tours in WWII, had enough dividends from investing to buy the town, and so many more quirks I’d come to learn he never wrote a single thing down. Not unless he had to for someone else. He was serious about me writing it down before I stopped to listen.
He continued, “So Imagine your little IQ test. The one you’re good at. That is the truest measure of one form of intelligence we have. It’s not the end all be all, but nothing correlates with our own definitions of success and high scores in those definitions as much as IQ. The problem is it’s not all of it. Not even half. They invented this other bull shit term for your ability to be a people person. It’s called EQ. It’s the emotional one. It is part of intelligence for sure. It’s also not as useful to have a top two percent score and it doesn’t correlate with nearly as many of our own definitions.”
I stopped with an immediate interjection and question, “So intelligence is two parts? Why does one matter more than the other?”
“It doesn’t stop there. You see those are the two given parts of intelligence but they’re not even the whole pie.”
I hated when he would bring up the pie before lunch. He was obsessed with pie and he knew I would be hangry for the next hour if he didn’t wrap it up here soon.
“No, let me finish my example before we get back around to pie. So if we are trying to measure all the forms of intelligence it really comes down to two types. Those two quantifiable measurements of smarts are Eq and Iq. I’ll never think too much of em’.”
I nodded slowly in agreement as I picked the pieces he was laying down up.
He continued, “The emotional quotient is your factor. It’s the ability to read the blueprints, directions, and work well with the other people you need to call for help. The delegations, the teamwork, and all third-party pieces fit under this section. It’s the intra, and interpersonal connections. A lot of people will break it up because they may be better with the electricians than the plumbers, or some stupid shit like that. That’s just stupid shit to me though. You’re either good with people or not, yourself included. You’re either good with your body and nature or you’re not. You can always get better and you can always get worse, but the most important thing is you could do it all by yourself. You don’t need help. It just makes it easier.
This shit is what helps you build the fastest. The tools you have for every job may be extra and expensive but you could build the whole shed with probably three things. Hammer, nails, and the wood. It will go a lot faster, smoother, and look better if you have all the right tools and the knowledge to use them. The mathematics and logical thinking that you need for these tools, the spatial intelligence to see it all work in your mind, and the linguistic ability to find the right words. This tool belt is your IQ.”
“So you think I don’t know how E and IQ work? I mean you do remember the college you helped me get into right? “
His eyes had a pinch of rage I had yet to see. The inverse of when he talked of his wife. The same rage I remember from the one time I asked him about his son that I learned was in the car with his wife. We didn’t talk that day. He sent me home. This was that look.
“After that then there’s the hard work. The stuff where it doesn’t matter if you have the right tool, if you could have called in some help, or if you’re doing both because you can for sure do it faster if you buck up and start to knock it out. Fewer distractions and a mindset on accomplishing the task might just be the best thing on the list. I would put IQ a good hand over EQ if we're talking shed building speed. That’s not just my opinion either. But the truth is if you have too much of one and not the other you will just slow yourself down. The best intelligence is balance. Balance and hard work. Hard work and a good balance will take you past ninety-five percent of the other shed builders.
Overall intelligence is how fast you can finish the shed.”
I looked back at the old man with as much of a straight face as I could. Holding it together quite well I asked, “Hey Old man, wanna help me build a shed?”
We both smiled.