MyStoryYourStory: We fixed a shed out back

"Only Southerners know the term 'fixin' can be used as a noun, a verb or an adverb." – Author unknown

When chatting recently with a woman from Memphis, TN, on a flight from Minneapolis to Portland, I sensed somewhat of a language barrier.

As we began conversing, she asked me to repeat what I was saying since, she explained, "I don't understand a word you're saying. You see, I'm from the South, and we speak differently down there."

In other words, I talk funny. And all along, I thought it was the Southern accents that were so difficult to understand.

As we continued swapping stories 30,000 feet above the Earth, crossing over South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho and finally to the Washington-Oregon border, she used a couple of terms that threw me.

You see, Southerners tend to draw out their words, emphasizing the first syllable. Pecan is pee-can. Cement sounds like cee-ment. Often is off-ten. On is own. Veteran is Vet-er-in. Pen is pin, and so on. In the South, "Y'all" is singular and "All y'all" is plural. And they have sayings like, "Would you raise that winder (window) down?" that put your head in knots.

Not only did the woman and I sound odd to one another, we had different expressions and uses of the language.

Originally from a small town in Arkansas, she described her birthplace as being so tiny it was nothing but a "wide spot in the road." Such a quaint and definitive term, I thought.

Later in our conversation, we got to talking about our pets. I learned that she and her husband now have a tiny indoor dog that pretty much rules the roost. But years ago, she said they had a large outdoor dog for which they had "fixed a shed outback."

Fixed? The term didn't register at first, and then it hit me. She and her husband had "constructed" a doghouse for their canine friend. Fixed. Constructed. OK, I got it.

The more I thought about her use of the word fixed and the general definition – to repair, I realized we really don't use the term much these days, let alone actually practice it.

We have become a throw-away society. Used to be when something broke, we'd fix it or take it in for repair.

Even so, my sensibilities about break-fix haven't kept up with the times. When something breaks, the first thing I think about is how to fix it.

Take, for example, the zipper on my purse, which came apart on my flight from Omaha to Minneapolis. At first, I was fit to be tied. Most women these days simply would have headed for the nearest airport gift shop to buy a new one.

Instead, I impulsively spent the entire flight trying to figure out how I'd temporarily fix my purse for the remainder of my travels.

I took a piece of hot pink Duct Tape, my favorite fix-it tool, which I had used to hold down my hot rollers so they wouldn't escape my carry on bag, and fastened it on the weak point of the zipper.

Later, I would swap out the Duct Tape with a heavy-duty safety pin. My fix-it mentality didn't end there but continued in hyper-drive, troubleshooting how I'd permanently repair my purse after my travels.

And then, I remembered the broken zipper on my favorite jean shorts, which I didn't have time to deal with before my trip. After arriving home, I made a beeline to the fabric store and purchased a six-inch jean zipper to replace the broken one.

Now, if you were born after 1970, you're probably wondering why all the wasted time and energy. Pop a button, buy a new shirt. Rip trousers, shop for a new pair. Break a few dishes, look for a new set. Fall out of love, find a new beau.

For those of us rooted in the dark ages of mid-20thCentury, to fix what's broken makes the most sense – it is second nature.

We came by it honestly, so bear with us while we repair our broken furniture, plaster our cracked walls, stitch our torn clothing, sew on our popped buttons, mend our broken relationships and try to fix anything that is repairable.

2012 © Copyright Paula Damon.

A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Bosco Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her writing has won first-place in competitions of the National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women. In the 2009, 2010 and 2011 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contests, her columns have earned eight first-place awards. To contact Paula, email  boscodamon.paula@gmail, follow her blog at and find her on FaceBook.

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