Linda and I recently shelled out 600 bucks to finally take care of some plumbing issues in the house which had progressed way beyond the point of denial and my poor power to find ingenious solutions with duct tape. Replacing the 40 year faucets in the bathtub, vanity and kitchen actually required a hole to be cut in the wall as well as the severing and soldering of a few copper pipes. I should have been able to do the job myself because I’ve been well trained in home improvement techniques by watching all the “how-to” programs on TV..but Linda would have none of it.
It’s true; I’ve been a fan of “This Old House” since it first went on the air. I also love all the woodworking shows and have lived vicariously through master carpenter, Norm Abram, since his first appearance on the program in 1979. I’ve even bought several power tools but, as Linda or any of my kids will tell you, I am NOT handy with them; more like dangerous, actually. They happily recount instances of my tool related close encounters with death and dismemberment due to over confidence, carelessness and an occasional lack of respect for electricity. I don’t know why I find handymen so fascinating. Perhaps it was because my dad was one of the best; not only as a carpenter, cabinet maker and woodworker but he was a pretty good mechanic too having turned a garage full of rusty Model T parts into a couple of beautifully restored vehicles which he proudly drove in area parades for years.
Today, there are lots of television shows dedicated to nothing but the building and restoration of cars and trucks and even though I don’t have a shred of mechanical ability myself, I am mesmerized by the process. Just as I admired my dad’s skills, I regard these TV mechanics as superstars. For some reason, I really enjoy seeing old vehicles saved from the junk pile and transformed into sparkling new souped-up street machines. Perhaps there’s a metaphor in there somewhere about getting old but I doubt it. I ain’t that deep. But I must tell you that I DO have a little personal history on this subject that goes back to long before there were any television shows about it.
My childhood chum, Donny Tucker, was just like all boys in the 50’s and 60’s; crazy about cool cars. But UNLIKE most kids, Donny was born with a silver wrench in his hand. By the time he was ten years old, he knew all about auto mechanics and could take a car apart and put it back together like a pro. He also knew how to weld and operate a cutting torch. We were young lads in high school when the subject of our building a hot rod together came up. He knew of a 1927 Model T shell that we could mount on the chassis of a later model Ford flathead V/8 which he also had access to. We would be able to work out of a shop owned by his dad. It had lots of tools, a welder, and cutting torch.. PLUS a Knipco Kerosene heater which stunk to high heaven when in use but kept us toasty warm in the wintertime. The deal was that I would pay half the cost and be there to help with the grunt work. Beyond that, my contribution to the hot rod’s construction was mostly holding the trouble light and handing Donny the tools he needed. I don’t remember how long it took to build but most of the money I earned from delivering groceries and mowing lawns went into that dang hot rod. I also missed at least a year of dating possibilities because WAY too many nights were wasted in that blasted shop holding a light and yawning a lot. Finally the day came when it was ready to fire up and take for a test drive. We’d bought a couple plastic chairs with metal legs, cut the legs off then bolted them to the floor board to use for seats and that was about the extent of interior work. It really was a HOT rod; so light in the rear end that the old tires would spin at the slightest provocation from the throttle. To be honest, it was a little (okay a lot) scary to drive. What the hot rod lacked in creature comforts and other amenities was more than made up for by the great paint job. Our friend and fellow Volgaite, Denny Nagel..who still runs a body shop in Brookings today, did the work giving it a fetching blue metallic color. Well..see for yourself.
That’s Denny behind the wheel. He eventually bought the hot rod after Donny and I decided that..for him anyway..most of the fun was in the building. I had other reasons for agreeing to sell; even at 50 cent a gallon gasoline, I couldn’t afford the cost of fuel, oil, tires and the price of insurance. I think both my Dad and Mom were much relieved when it disappeared from our drive-way and up the street in a cloud of dust. I’d forgotten what the hot rod really looked like until I ran into Denny Nagel recently. He thought he might have a photograph of it lying around somewhere which, as you can see, he did. Denny also thinks he knows where the thing might actually be located. I wish he wouldn’t have told me that because now all I can think about is finding and restoring it just like my mechanical heroes on TV. I’ll have to check with Donny though to see if he still has the use of a well equipped shop. I’m pretty sure Linda would be more than glad to have me out of the house a few nights a week. Besides, I’m still one of the best light holders and wrench passers in the business. Now, let’s see, where did I put Don’s number?