Walton Whether they live in the city or the country, most folks have a couple of basic tools around the house.
Now, consider Evan Johnson. Here's a man who has a real set of tools. Not just a couple of wrenches or a T-square or two, but literally thousands of tools, somewhere around 2,500, give or take a few, Johnson estimates.
They're all throughout his oversized garage, in cabinets, drawers, on workbenches and hanging from walls.
There are a couple of unusual ones, such as the "sparkless shovel" used for jobs near fire, and a heavy-duty pair of hedge clippers from 1876.
But Johnson is particularly proud of the collection of 25 quick-adjust wrenches. One model, made by the Perfect Handle Wrench Co., weighs a solid 15 pounds. Johnson picked it up at a garage sale for $11. Now he figures it's worth about $100. Some of the other wrenches are genuine collector's items and could fetch $300 or $400, Johnson estimates.
For those who love trivia, the first wrench was patented by a man called Solymon Merrick back in 1835. Wrenches, called spanners by the English, are now an integral part of a toolbox. Quick-adjust wrenches speed up the task of changing the wrench's opening to fit nuts or bolts that need tightening.
Johnson enjoys sharing his love and knowledge of the old tools with others, speaking with area civic clubs and, on every Friday morning that he can, taking a tool to nearby Walton Rural Life School and speaking to the youngsters in "the tool of the week" program.
The students learn a bit about history and can touch it, too, as they pass around items from the collection.
There are others with the same love of tools that Johnson has, groups such as the Southwest Tool Collectors Association and the Missouri Valley Wrench Club. (Yes, there is such an organization, complete with Web site.)
Johnson's wife, Carolyn, tolerates her husband's vast collection with a good-natured spirit. She gave the green light to the collection's start when her husband began in earnest some 48 years ago.
These days, besides giving Johnson lots to talk about with interested visitors, the collection gives him a special goal when the retired couple go on one of their trip and stop by an antique store. Johnson also goes to garages sales and scans the Internet for possible new acquisitions.
His wife, however, figures the combination of older age and running out of room will make it necessary to sell the collection.
"Someday we're going to have to downsize and have an auction," she said.
Until then, Johnson is going to relish his collection. "I'm just enjoying life," he said.