Pete and John believed that they should make as many pallets as possible. They weren’t sure why except that they were told to do so. Making pallets was not an art in itself, but making them efficiently was. The nailers, as they were called, wore nail aprons. A small rake-like instrument was available to rake the nails out of the box and into the nail apron.
Two men worked together, one on each side of the table made especially for the purpose. Both men grabbed the necessary wood needed to make a pallet, and laid them in place. A jig had been made to hold the wood in place so it would not move.
With one hand the men would reach into their respective nail bags and get enough nails for one pallet. With the other hand, they pulled the nails away from each other. The nails that came away were the ones with the heads forward. That was done as often as necessary so all the nails had the heads in the same direction. This process only took a few seconds. One nail was quickly rolled forward to the thumb and forefinger. The nail was positioned. The hammer tapped the nail hard enough to stick. The finger was quickly withdrawn, and with one loud crack the hammer came down and drove the nail completely into the wood.
The whole process was done without thinking. It was as automatic as eating. Pull out nails, strip them into the hand with the heads all pointed in the same direction, place the nail, set it with one crack of the hammer, and with another crack the nail was in. Roll the next nail forward, pound in the nail. Continue until the pallet was made. One man would grab the finished pallet and stack it while the other man grabbed more wood. The process was repeated until it was time to go home.
As you can imagine the whole mind-numbing process could become quite boring. One day Pete and John were nailing and visiting. All this nailing and visiting did not leave much room for concentrating on what they were doing. Boredom settled in. Repetition breeds boredom, and boredom produces negligence.
Just for something else to do to combat the boring task, Pete held a nail in place for John to plant with one swing of the hammer. John knew that Pete would pull his hand away if he swung the hammer. It did not even enter his mind that he would not do so. Pete knew that John would not hit the nail even though he had his hammer raised. It did not even enter his mind that he would. The stand-off lasted about three seconds. John raised the hammer and sent it toward the nail with lightning speed knowing Pete would pull his fingers away. Pete continued holding the nail knowing that John would stop short of the nail.
John swung and Pete held the nail. Before anyone could say ouch, John hit the nail. Pete’s thumb and forefinger was reduced to a flattened piece of flesh. Blood splattered in every direction. The boredom was over.