What are some things around your house that you can’t live without? They don’t have to be big expensive things like your car. They could be smaller things like a certain fishing lure or a garden tool or, well, I suppose, a Norpro strawberry stem remover. It has a barbed scoop on the end of a red plastic handle that works perfectly for removing strawberry stems. It costs around $2. Kathy says it's one of her favorite household gadgets.

Do you have some favorite gadgets or purchases that have made your life easier and you couldn’t live without?

I collect pocket knives and I expect them to be sharp but my knife sharpening skills were never good. Even after my Boy Scout training I had problems getting a real sharp blade. The more I worked on them the duller they seemed to get. Then I discovered the Smith knife sharpening tool. Guys and gals, step right up, you will never have to worry again about having a sharp knife.

It is very easy to use, even guys can do it. Rather than move the blade to sharpen, which you do with most sharpening tools, with the Smith tool, you hold the knife blade facing up on a table top and then you move the Smith sharpener back and forth along the blade edge. It’s remarkable and this is no joke. You will never have to buy another knife sharpener again. You can find them at your local hardware stores for about $7. Careful, guys, don’t cut yourself.

We had to be extremely careful about Kathy’s movements after she returned from Abbott Northwestern Hospital. Her back surgery left her unable to walk so we had to quickly move from our log home on Sunnyside Road to our new home on Lake Julia, which was more accommodating. Our new home had a bathroom and bedroom on the first floor but no kitchen. My son-in-law, Shawn, helped me move a small refrigerator to the first floor (the kitchen was on the second floor) that made life a bit more manageable.

Later on Kathy was able to use a walker allowing us to live on the second floor, which did have a kitchen. Shawn and I moved the smaller refrigerator into the garage where it sits today. I now use it for pop, fish bait, cleaned fish, excess fruit and water. It really has come in handy.

After Kathy had her surgery she was given a small sum of money from one of her insurance companies, which came in very handy on one particular occasion. I was out hitting the garage sales one Saturday when I received a call from Kathy telling me to stop in at one particular sale. Her friend told her they had a pontoon boat sitting in the yard. I found the garage sale and bought the pontoon boat for $6,000. The boat came with a nice trailer and a 50 horse Mercury motor.

In the beginning Kathy could get onto the boat with her walker. Unfortunately that is no longer the case but the boat is often used by our children. It’s perfect for giving my granddaughter a ride on the water and it is very comfortable to use for fishing. I also like to take our dogs for a ride. They poke their heads between the aluminum rails, catch the lake breeze while their ears flop in the wind. We have it stored in the winter, which gets a little expensive but it has proven to be a great investment thanks to Kathy’s friend who tipped her off.

My brother gave me a tip one time that has saved my back. We have a small decorative pond on our property which I empty every fall. To empty the water I use a small pump. The pump was not too expensive and it saves me a lot of time and back breaking work when I previously emptied it with buckets. I also use the same pump to empty my small 14-foot fishing boat when it fills with rain water. What a labor saver it has proven to be. I wouldn’t trade it for a boat lift and canopy. Well, I might have to think about that for a minute but that would be a big investment.

In my younger days my father would hand me a garden spade and tell me to take a few minutes to dig angleworms so we could fish sunfish or perch. Using earthworms was my bait of choice until a few years ago when my brother, who works for Rapala lures, said he never uses live bait any more for panfish — not even minnows for crappies. Instead he uses a variety of plastics, especially Gulp. He is a clean freak and worms and night crawlers were too messy in his boat.

I began using Gulp and I haven’t regretted it. I catch just as many, if not more fish. It is less expensive than buying dozens of crawlers or minnows and Gulp last longer. Gulp comes in different varieties and colors. I particularly like the 2 1/2 inch Gulp minnow. Local bait shop owners are nearly out of Gulp. Other fishermen must also have found it to be a good investment.

One of my best small investments took place about 30 years ago. I purchased a boat, trailer and a 5 horse Sea King motor for $200. That little motor may be slow but it always starts and it suits me just fine on Lake Julia. It was a good investment. If I am in a real hurry I use my kayak. I think my arms are good for about six or seven horsepower.

I am sure you have some favorite small purchases you made over the years and if you lost whatever you purchased or it just wore out, you would probably hurry to buy another to replace it. All of these little things have made life easier for us and they make all the difference. Remember, it’s the little things in life that count even though it may only be a Norpro strawberry stem remover.

Riddle: What’s big, red and eats rocks? (Answer: A big red rock eater.) Remember when “pet rocks” were popular? Now the person who started that craze definitely made a really good investment. Who would want to buy a pet rock? Millions were sold.

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The best investment America can make is to invest in the time to tell all young people to graduate from high school. It doesn’t cost a dime and the rewards are mind boggling. Now that’s an investment.

John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.