THE VIEW FROM ST. CHARLES

MARCH 13, 2023

VOLUME 36

MORE CHILDHOOD TALES FROM STEEL PENCIL

As I was preparing my thoughts for this article, I realized how other people can change the trajectory of your life and you don’t even realize it’s happening. Before I get into the details of this, you have to realize I came out of the womb with the desire to make stuff, fix stuff, and figure out how things work. My late wife once asked me, how do you know how to fix something you really don’t know much about? I jokingly told her that mechanical things talk to me. In fact, they do. If I stop and think about the object that isn’t working, quite often I can imagine how it works, and why it isn’t working. I’m not sure if that makes sense.

So, a new family moved into our neighborhood, Tom was my age and a likable kid. I liked his family as well. His father was a bit younger than my father, and very smart about mechanical things. He was a WWll veteran and had a strong military attitude. So, it was fun to hang out at Tom’s house and see the projects his dad was involved in. By the way, Tom was the kid I used to hang out in the tree with and shoot everything that moved with our BB guns.

I’m not really sure how it happens, but some kid in the neighborhood does something and then everyone has to do it. One of the most popular with boys in those days was coaster carts or “soap boxes”. We just happened to have a great hill to coast down. Everyone was building really crude wooden carts with ropes tied to the front axles to steer them with. Tom and I started building one in this garage, then his dad stepped in. He started getting out all of this power tools and you would not believe what we ended up with. Bear with me and I will try to describe it.

The base was probably a 2×10 about 5′ long. He built a back rest over the rear wheels. He built a wooden box like a model T hood on the front with the remnants of the 2×10 for the front and rear of the box. He put a round wooden pole through the box and mounted an actual automobile steering wheel on it. He the wrapped sash rope around the pole, routed it through a pully on each side to steer the front wheels. Nobody in the entire neighborhood had anything that could hold a candle to it. We were the official Kings of the Hill.

If that didn’t make Tom’s dad cool enough, He had a high-performance Hudson automobile. So, Tom’s dad had us making model airplanes, and we joined a local model airplane club, and his dad took us to the meetings in his Hudson. I was transfixed by that car. One night we were returning home, there was a long straight road ahead of us, and Tom’s dad opened it up. I watched the speedometer climb to 110 mph. I must have thought about that experience for about a couple of years. Think about the atmosphere during this event. Nighttime, the only light in the car was from the instrument panel and watching the needle on the speedometer just keep climbing all the way to the top. It was pure magic.

The time I spent hanging out with Tom, just sort of launched me into the next phase of my life of building and creating things. One of the next big phases was probably the most dangerous. I’m really amazed that someone wasn’t seriously injured or killed. We started making real honest to goodness sling shots. Just like the one David used to slay Goliath. Imagine one of those in the hands of a ten- or twelve-year-old with absolutely no experience whatsoever. I mean, where do you go to take sling shot lessons? I’m not kidding you, when the stones came out of these things, they sang like a bullet ricocheting off a rock. Most of the time we had no idea where the rock even went. Luckily that didn’t end with a fatality.

We were building model aircraft with small gas engines that ran on some kind of fuel, it wasn’t really gas, otherwise we would have blown up our homes. Then a company came out with a miniature solid fuel rocket engine. We were on that immediately. We put them on model cars, as well as aircraft. I built a large wingspan free flight aircraft with a rocket engine, and it was amazing. It was a large aircraft, so it was rather slow. Being a pint-sized mad scientist, I built a smaller aircraft with shorter wings like a fighter jet. It almost killed my neighbor. I ignited the rocket engine and released the plane. It immediately nosedived into the ground. When it did, the rocket engine came loose and shot through the air like a bullet, just missing the neighbor woman two doors down as she was walking out of her house. Luckily for me, she didn’t even know how close she came to being on the ten-o-clock news.

Now you have read three installments of my young life and I’m still not up to twelve years old yet. So, my adventures in this exciting new world of mine just keep coming. I’m also starting to notice girls more and more. So somewhere around twelve years old, these pesky creatures start finding their way into my life. More on this in later articles.

It’s been fun to recall this stuff, that I don’t think about much. But I thought I should write about this being that my 82nd birthday is coming up next month. So far, my brain hasn’t reached its expiration date, so I should probably share this before it’s lost forever. It’s so frustrating, to think about something that happened when you were a kid and you wanna talk about it with your siblings, and then you realize they are all gone. You’re the last one standing. But life is good. Live it at full throttle. It’s what you’re supposed to do. God Bless all of you.

VERITAS VINCIT ~ LIVE FREE OR DIE

2 thoughts on “THE VIEW FROM ST. CHARLES

  1. I know the feeling of losing a sibling that you shared lots of your past with. Maybe you should write a mystery novel of your childhood experiences and what could have happened but didn’t and change the names.

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  2. I guess you could say I’m trying to wrap things up for my kids and grandkids, and great grandkids, so they know who the old codger was. Good suggestion about the mystery novel, but I’m quickly running out of runway. But what the hell, I’m having the time of my life. 😉

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