“Stuff That Works”

I grew up riding around Wyoming in my dad’s GMC pick-up. The cab had a dry, salty horse smell (still does) and there was always a fence stretcher and a yellow rain slicker in the back seat. You didn’t have to worry about kicking the dirt off your boots as you got in because there was usually half an inch or so of mud and dust on the floorboards already. If you were in that pickup truck, chances were high that a Guy Clark CD was playing on the stereo. To this day, when I hear Guy Clark, I’m transported back to that GMC diesel truck; bouncing around on dirt roads at the ranch or driving across Wyoming’s highways for ski races or horse shows. 

Growing up listening to Guy Clark, I know almost all of his songs; but, there are a few in particular that have close meaning to me. One of those songs is titled “Stuff That Works” a track off of Clark’s 1995 album Dublin Blues. The song is an ode to the simple things in life. The things that work and the things that hold up year after year. The things that provide us pleasure based simply off of their reliability. The kind of things we never need to replace. 

I got an ol’ pair of boots 
And they fit just right 
I can work all day 
And I can dance all night 
I got an ol’ used car 
And it runs just like a top 
I get the feelin’ it ain’t 
Ever gonna stop

To me, these lyrics are written for life in the West. Particularly ranch life, where you appreciate every good tool and hang on to anything that gets the job done, whether that is a good cow horse or an extra tire for the tractor. When I started working for the Land Trust, I realized that this concept of using things until you can’t use them anymore also applied. CCALT staff has an appreciation for, well… stuff that works! 

CCALT was founded in 1995 and about four years later, between 1999 and 2000, Lynne Sherrod (the Executive Director at the time) and her staff purchased their first piece of “new equipment.” The new addition was a Hewlett Packard LaserJet 4050 Series printer. The printer only printed in black and white, and if you wanted something printed on two sides, you had to manually flip your paper over. 

Today, 17 years later, the CCALT staff is still using that exact same printer. In its lifespan, the printer has printed 470,276 pages; around 28,000 pages for every year of its life. The printer has been involved in the printing of nearly every conservation easement, except for the first three (there are 299 easements total). The 4050 has printed baselines, event invites, title commitments, fundraising letters and envelopes, name tags, and table tents. For those of you familiar with Chris West, the printer was a stable piece of equipment at CCALT before he started. It’s also worth noting that the printer was acquired right around the time CCALT reached 10,000 acres conserved. Today, the Land Trust has more than 500,000 acres protected. 

Chris West recalls putting funds in the budget several times to replace the 4050 and Lynne Sherrod says she, “Can’t believe it’s still working because we had a lot of issues with it.” And yet, the printer persists. 

 We don’t think about this printer or celebrate its success because it is such a stable fixture in our operation; but it definitely fits into the “stuff that works” category of tools, equipment, and things. If this printer were to stop working, we would notice its absence. Over time, the technology has changed; and CCALT has acquired a new color printer, but the 4050 still has its purpose. Even as I write this, it hums away, printing a financial pro forma for CCALT project staff. 

Stuff that works, stuff that holds up 
The kind of stuff you don’ hang on the wall 
Stuff that’s real, stuff you feel 

The kind of stuff you reach for when you fall 

I am grateful to the 4050 printer for more than 17 years of hard work, and I’m grateful to Guy Clark for putting into words how we feel about the things in our lives that we can rely on. Here’s to at least five more years of black and white printing bliss! 

Click here to listen to “Stuff That Works” by Guy Clark.