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 Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Exactly how narrow
does a niche have to be

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew

Webster's Dictionary states, "A niche can be a place, employment or activity for which a person or thing is best fitted." Also, "A slot can be an assumed or assigned place or position."

Old-timers said of a man who changed jobs often: "He just hasn't found his niche yet."

A man who worked hard but never seemed to get anywhere: "He got into a slot and can't climb out."

Down through the years, I have known or heard of several people who found their niche in life even though it was narrow and limited in scope. I once interviewed an old man, a grandfather of a friend, who told of his niche when he was growing up in Arkansas.

It seems the community held a barn dance once a month in a large barn with a rough plank floor. As most of the crowd were young folks who danced barefooted occasionally, they picked up a splinter or two. The young boy kept a sharp-pointed knife and homemade tweezers ready for use.

When the need arose, he sat with tools in hand, removed the splinter and applied a disinfectant containing mostly moonshine. For this service, he charged a penny. His services as a "splinter-picker" earned him free admission to the monthly barn dances.

A man named Mr. Street arrived on main street in early McLean, Texas, each Saturday morning. Both pants and coat pockets were filled with refurbished, repaired and sharpened used pocketknives. He tried to trade knives with every man he met that day, always insisting on a nickel or a dime "to boot." It was a needed service and earned him a bit of spending money during the hard times of the Great Depression and Dust Bowl.

His personal niche was the fact he was a well-known "wart rubber." Mothers brought their children plagued with warts to Mr. Street for the "cure." He rubbed the warts, and within a few days the warts went away. For this service, he did not charge, but I imagine it sold a lot of knives.

An old-time Alanreed blacksmith named Jim Bryant made butcher and paring knives out of broken buggy axles. Each Saturday morning, he gathered his inventory into a slotted overalls leg and hitchhiked to McLean. There, he prowled the streets all day, selling his knives for one dollar each and proved they were sharp by shaving hair off his forearm. By the way, the knives are collector items today. If you own one, let me know.

Another man I heard of lived on the edge of a Panhandle town and drove a Model A pickup. If you wanted to drill a water well and make sure you found water, you called the man. He would arrive with his willow twigs and walk until he found the best place to find water. He charged a fee, but you didn't pay unless you found water.

I'm on the track of a horse chiropractor but haven't caught up with him yet. I suspect this is another narrow niche in which to work. Do horses or the owners call the chiropractor?


Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"
November 17, 2009 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.

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