Old Shop Stories

Old Shop Stories

by C. Blaine Hyatt

book review by Michelle Jacobs

“My objective in recalling and writing these stories is an attempt to preserve an understanding of this culture as told by the individuals who lived these experiences.”
Hyatt revives the stories of his father that were often told over and over in the old shop, a place full of memories hushed by time but kept alive in the recollection and retelling for the next generation. Hyatt’s father, Chester, was born in Utah in 1903, so these stories evoke a different way of life and “reveal the history and perspective of a culture, time and experiences of a people in our country that has all but disappeared.” Hyatt hopes to preserve the past through this collection and impart some of the values and lessons he has learned through his father’s stories. What emerges is a wonderful tribute to a man who lived a full life of experiences close to the land, to his family, and to his community. Historical events like the building of the Hoover Dam, the rise of the automobile, and prohibition serve as a backdrop for some of the stories and remind readers of the individual lives at work and at play within these monumental moments in history. The stories range from Hyatt’s father’s childhood through his later years, so a vibrant and clear picture is created of a resourceful, hardworking, helpful jack-of-all-trades. Hyatt’s father thrived in nature, spending his life farming, herding, hunting, and roping throughout Utah. This lifestyle is wonderfully rendered in the book through details and description and through the lessons learned from the land.

Plainspoken and authentic, this story collection explores the value of a life well-lived in terms of experiences and relationships rather than possessions and material goods. This account is rich with lessons about what matters in life and about meeting problems with resolve and resourcefulness. Some of the coming-of-age stories are funny, and some are cautionary. Some are reminiscent of Twain’s Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer stories of adolescence with reckless encounters, tomfoolery, and enterprising endeavors. Throughout Chester’s life, he maintains a deep influence over friends and family and relishes telling the stories that have shaped him into the man that he becomes. Many of the stories are full of action because Chester was a man in motion—on the move, productive, and engaged in working, fixing, wrangling, and helping. These stories shine with details and brim with hard-won wisdom like, “Any damn fool can be prepared for what they know is going to happen, but it takes a wise man to be prepared for the unexpected.”

Biographical and historical, these stories represent a family’s collective memory and pay homage to the past and to the life of one man living through a bygone era. Readers might feel a kinship with the Hyatts when considering the lure of family stories passed down through generations. There is power in remembrance and in the archive of lived experiences. Humanity dwells most fiercely in the wisdom that survives beyond death as it thrives in children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and on down the line through the years and centuries. Ultimately, Hyatt inspires readers to determine their own legacy because he firmly believes that we all leave something behind of ourselves in the people we meet, influence, and love. He uses his father’s life and stories as a model for the power of an enduring legacy. In essence, Hyatt’s well-written collection makes for a worthwhile and engaging read.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

Old Shop Stories