Anyone who has ever been around children knows they can be most hindering when they're trying to be helpful. Even on a job site spanning a thirty-acre estate, a little boy can manage to get in the way. As a five-year-old, I spent many summer days with my father and grandfather on just such an expansive property in Andorra, Pennsylvania. I would watch the men working, try to pitch in where I thought I could and, of course, ask way too many questions.

One day, I was really getting in everyone’s hair. While making my rounds to the different sections of the site, I came across Harry Muller. Harry was one of the best carpenters who worked for my family and eventually would teach me many of the master carpentry techniques I use today. But, on this occasion, he just wanted to have some fun with me. “Jonny,” he said, “can you go ask Bob Pearl if he has a left-handed monkey wrench?” I was so excited. One of the men had actually given me a real assignment!

Now, Bob Pearl was working clear across the property, but that didn’t bother me. I was on a mission. I raced over to find Bob and, slightly out of breath, told him, “Bob, Harry needs a left-handed monkey wrench.” Bob looked at me quizzically for a moment before he caught on. “Oh, you know what, Jon,” he replied, “I think I gave it to Nate.” Of course, Nate was working in another corner of the estate, but determined to find that left-handed monkey wrench, I ran over to find him. Nate, in turn, sent me over to see Therman. Therman told me to ask George Karlson. He said he had given it to Morris who finally told me to ask my grandfather. “Are you sure he said left-handed?” my grandfather asked and sent me back to confirm with Harry Muller. “I’m sorry, Jon,” said Harry, “I meant a right-handed monkey wrench.” And the joke carried on.

I spent the entire day running from Harry to Bob to Nate to Therman to George to Morris to my grandfather and back to Harry again. By the time it was all over I had been sent to find everything from right-handed hammers to left-handed saws. And I was unsuccessful every time. Looking back on that day, I realize that at any time any one of these men could have told me to get out of their way in a more direct manner. But their prank was their way to spread out the duty of keeping an eye on me while making me feel part of the team. Since then, I’ve managed many of my own job sites and have done so in the most professional and safe manner. But, I never forget the importance of having fun.