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Short Stories: The Missing Hammer


From 1983-1994, I pastored the Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. After meeting for two years in several rented buildings in Somerset, we purchased an abandoned, brick United Methodist Church five miles east of town. Cost? $5,000.

The sanctuary was built in 1831, and a flat roof annex was built in the 1960s. Both buildings were in horrible states of disrepair. I spent the next ten years repairing and remodeling the buildings, as did some church members and my three oldest sons. Rarely did a week go by when we weren’t working on one of the buildings. Keep in mind, I had ZERO construction skills, so I was learning on the job — everything from plumbing to electrical work to tarring a flat roof to framing walls.

In 1989, I purchased a broken-down 12’x60′ mobile home for my family and me to live in. I parked it 50 feet from the church sanctuary. Think about that for a moment: 720 square feet for a family of eight. I had to do all sorts of building projects to make the mobile home fit for us to live in. Again, I had to learn on the job, as did my sons.

At the time, we had a Sears credit card. When I needed tools — and it seemed I always needed tools — I bought Sears’ Craftsman tools. One such purchase was the hammer pictured above. I loved this hammer. Well-balanced, perfect for my use.

One day, my favorite hammer disappeared. I looked and looked and looked for the hammer, without success. I was fairly certain that one of my sons had “borrowed” the hammer and left it “somewhere.” Of course, no one confessed to the crime. I ended up having to buy a new hammer.

Years later, on a crisp fall day, my sons and several church boys were raking leaves along the back fence of the cemetery. As was typical back in the day, the boys burned the leaves. One of my sons decided to help the fire along with gasoline. This quickly turned the leaves into a raging fire, burning all the leaves along the fence line. Fortunately, the fire didn’t jump to our neighbors farm field.

After the fire died down and was extinguished, guess what showed up? My hammer — surprisingly unscathed by the fire. “Someone” had left my hammer in the weeds along the fence line, and there it lay until the fire.

I still use this hammer, and I am always reminded of the fire when I do. I suspect after I am dead and gone that my oldest sons will battle over who gets the hammer. Such memories . . . And maybe, just maybe someone will confess to leaving the hammer in the weeds.


Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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    Bruce, imagine a couple of thousand years from now (or so), if humanity still exists, someone finds your hammer and incorporates it into a museum collection of the cultural history of what will then be considered ancient civilization. This is why I wish I had a time machine: curiosity and pondering the future gets me in trouble.

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    Davie from Glasgow

    And if that’s all they find they might extrapolate a whole culture from it. They might even assume it was some religious article – or write papers referring to the “North American Metal Mallet People of the early 21st century”.

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    My grandfather worked for Sears for over 35 years, so every appliance and tool he owned was a Sears product. My uncle has all his dad’s tools, all still in excellent condition.

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    That’s so funny. My hammer story is that I got a new teaching job. I needed somewhere in my new classroom to hang my coat, so took hubby’s best hammer and a nail to knock into the back of my door. The hammer disappeared from my desk overnight…and I knew the only possible ‘thief’ was the caretaker after hours but being new, didn’t feel I could accuse him. And I had to confess to hubby I’d lost his prized hammer. The next day the caretaker appeared with my hammer, he’d kindly taken it and secured the wobbly head for me. Then a couple of teachers came to me and said ‘The caretaker says you’re a bit of a woodwork expert…we’re thinking of starting balsawood crafts with our classes, so we’ve come for your advice’…..husband still laughs at my ‘expert’ nomination on the strength of being seen to hammer one nail into my door!

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    MJ Lisbeth

    Great story! Finding the hammer made me think of a news story I saw a few days ago: A gold miner in the Yukon found a wolf pup, almost perfectly mummified, in the permafrost. The pup died 57,000 years ago, and the carcass was in such good shape that scientists could tell what she ate for her last meal: salmon.

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    Yulya Sevelova

    The hammer survived maybe because it was made in America ? A Chinese one would have fallen apart and rusted to boot,lol.

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Bruce Gerencser