The Owner’s Manual for Life: Refer to the Son


I like seasons, and I’m particularly pleased to live in a place where the seasons are distinctly different. Lest I’m ever accused of being less than politically correct, I hereby affirm that I’m in love with seasonal diversity.

I will say, though, that as much as I like green growing things, I find that grass with snow on top of it is a lot less trouble than the fast-growing stuff. I much prefer skiing to mowing. But ’tain’t the season for skis. They’re shoved lovingly under the bed. The lawn mower is now oiled up. And—I do like this part!—the barbecue grill is ready to go.

That took a little doing this year. When I opened the grill a few weeks ago, stuff started falling off the lid. Rusty stuff. I frugally figured I’d just clean it up, replace some parts, and grill right on. Then I touched a burner pipe. It fell apart. Along with a few burner covers and a grate or two. Okay, more parts required.

But when I put the pencil to it and pondered the engineering necessary to install a few of the new parts, the answer was obvious: “Do Not Resuscitate.” Attempts otherwise would be, to change the metaphor, “perfume on a pig.”

So . . . a new grill. Same brand. Same configuration. Dual gas/charcoal. This time I ponied up for the optional “smoke box” and, with scenes of rust fresh in my mind, also purchased a grill cover.

The nice lady at the store asked if I’d like one already assembled, mentioning with a tired look that it took her two days to put hers together. I was tempted. But such is not the Shelburne way. If something later malfunctions, an explosion ensues, and I make an ash of myself, I’d like to have the satisfaction of knowing that I was the one who blew it. Up, that is.

Assembly did not take me two days. But it did take 33 steps.

The grill was manufactured in China, but the company is obviously owned by somebody with barbecue credentials. And, contrary to what we’ve come to expect, they were smart enough to hire instruction writers who are fluent in English. I even smiled when I saw a label on the smoke stacks: “If you can see this, you’ve put this together wrong. This goes inside.” I’d have felt even more at home and akin to the company owners if it’d said, “Whoa, Pard! If yer readin’ this, that dog won’t hunt! Ya just backed the cow out of the barn south-side first. Try ’er agin!”

Of course, the instructions include the usual lawyer litter. I’m not supposed to attempt putting this together if I’m missing any of my parts. Also, I’m supposed to perform a spray water/detergent leak test every time I light this thing. Right. If you hear of my incineration, you’ll know I forgot. But I’m assured that noticing some smoke is normal.

The Owner’s Manual for our lives is more straightforward. The Author pretty much brings it all down to this: If you have any questions about how your life should be assembled, just look at my Son.


      You’re invited to visit my website at!



Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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