The house where I grew up at Malaga, Ohio was probably built in the late 1880s. When replacing a floor in an addition to the house, we found newspapers from the early 1920s. The house was built without an indoor bathroom and a ramshackle outhouse still stood behind the barn. Eventually, years before we bought it, an upstairs room for a bathroom was added along with a kitchen and what we used as a mud room.
When we first moved in, all the roofs of the house were deficient. During heavy downpours, we had to quickly gather all the pots and pans to place under the many drips that splattered the hardwood floors in the upstairs bedrooms. Finally, after numerous efforts to patch the problem, my brother Joe took it upon himself to replace the asphalt shingles over the main portion of the house. He had never done such a job but figured it out and successfully installed the new roof. He tied a rope onto himself and secured it on the other side of the house as a safety precaution. I helped by carrying shingles to him up the ladder but neither he nor Mom let me work on the steep roof. Joe had the determination and creativity to invent a variety of novel jobs that needed to be done around the farm and he surprised and scared me over and over again.
In the back of the house the addition had a metal roof. It also leaked on a regular basis but we continued every year or so to spread tar over the nail holes that were the source of the leaks. During one of these repairs Joe, Dad, and I were in the middle of our work when a total eclipse was due to occur with television coverage. At the appointed time, Dad allowed us to get off the house with the provision that we let him know when the eclipse was beginning. He thought he could finish the job before the eclipse began.
In just a few minutes the celestial event began. I ran out of the house and hollered to Dad that the time had come and then darted back into the house to watch. I made my way through the mud room with the screen door slapping behind me when I heard thud, thud, thud, thump. The only thing I could think of was that Dad had fallen. I turned ashen with fear and made a one hundred and eighty degree turn and headed back out the door. Sure enough, there was Dad already up and brushing off the shoulder that hit the ground. At the age of 68, he landed only inches from a concrete cistern top and suffered only a bruised shoulder.
Dad didn't have the money for a professional to make repairs. Either he did the job or Joe was forced to accomplish the task. In those days people who lived on a farm had to be creative and inventive. Those words describe my brother Joe to a T. There were few things he wouldn't try and he almost always succeeded. As a role model, he taught me to try to do the impossible. Joe's leadership helped me attempt and succeed in my own life.
R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray's new book, "Tons of Stone above my head: Coal Mining Stories with Leadership Lessons," visit his Web site www.raycomlearning.com.
Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.