February 3, 2017
Don Pedro Biernay, at 75, moves more slowly than he did the first time I saw him in 2008. His mind, his ability to fix, repair or create anything in or around the fields of Chilefarms, is as vigorous as ever.
Having worked in the countryside since he was 16, his only tools are a shovel with black tape wrapped around the handle, bits of wire, a single-bladed scythe, a sharp pocket knife, and a sledge hammer. He's never set foot in a hardware store. Even if they existed when he was younger, he was too poor and would have had to walk miles to find one.
With those earthly possessions he can organize scores of canals to irrigate acres of corn, alfalfa, or potato fields, cut skinny poles to stabilize tall plants or tree branches, tie bamboo poles or long lengths of eucalyptus together to make railings or widen a small bridge. This year, in a concession to age and arthritis, he built a hand railing to help him climb up and down the steep hill at the edge of the recently built reservoir. In Don Pedro's case, genius was born of scarcity. Pride takes a back seat.
Video by Paul A. Tamburello, jr.
Profile of Don Pedro, 2008