Friday, June 29, 2007

Old Friends

There is nothing like objects that are what I call "old friends". A well worn, but, reliable tool. A bit from the past that makes you wonder where it's been and whose hands have touched it. Maybe it's some thing that reminds you as Henry Ford once said "change is not progress".

All through my youth I and other budding outdoorsmen my age all lusted for a Garcia Mitchell 300 fishing reel. Usually seen in the possession of our elders, almost always attached to the requisite blue fiberglass rod. Alas, Lust is not reality for most money strapped teenagers. I settled for a green open faced Zebco, attached to a blue fiberglass rod of course. The Zebco gave several years of reliable service. Still it wasn't as smooth as the Mitchell 300. Time found the Zebco replaced by a Daiwa ultralight rig. After about 8 years of light duty the Daiwa graphite rod just exploded right at the molded in ferrule. The always reliable Zebco had been passed on to my stepdaughter for her use. This left me without a fishing rig. Or, did it? About 3 years ago my paternal grandfather started giving me stuff. In this stuff was a old gunny sack full of ratty fishing rods and an old tacklebox. I never paid much attention to the sack contents beyond the bamboo flyrod that stuck out of it. The flyrod went into my gunsafe for future restoration, the gunny sack went into a corner of the garage, kept out of respect for grandpa. A year after the gift, grandpa much to our suprize suddenly passed from this world. At that time the gunny sack was checked out a bit closer. An old white with red trim fiberglass rod with an odd french open faced spinning reel. The reel was beyond repair. A pair of old blue fiberglass rods, guides seriously rusted, but, holding the holy grail of our youths. Yup! Garcia Mitchell 300's. Dusty and making a strange noise no longer smooth operators. Two weeks ago I decided to try and clean up one of the old Mitchell's. A bit of windex on a toothbrush, some flitz to polish the chrome bail, a few drops of Balistol for lube. After an hour the old girl was back to her former glory. That white and red rod, well it's guides were still nearly perfect. I took the windex and toothbrush to it too. Before I knew it I held the perfect fishing rig. Took it fishing that weekend. Threw casts much further than that ultralight rig ever did. Put those casts just where I wanted them too. Caught my first fish on it a couple days ago. A little bluegill too little to eat. Coulda swore I heard grandpa's laugh behind me as I threw the fish back. Just the wind, or was it a new old friend trying to tell me it's story?

Another old friend. Back in those same teenage years, I bought myself a good axe and a good bowsaw. A country boy can always make pocket change cutting firewood and selling it roadside. The axe a "Craftsman" purchsed from Sears was a true workhorse for many years. Cut I don't know how many christmas trees and face cords of firewood with it. Cutting firewood is a rough way to make money though. Only got to keep and sell half of what I cut, the other half going to the guy that owned the woodlot. After my lumberjack experience I started hitching rides with a friend and his dad. His dad had a couple ancient dumptrucks, that he would drive down into NY's "southern tier", or when in a bootlegging mood into PA. A trip with them would net me $25.00 and lunch. Stacking wood inside a dump truck is a much easier gig than cutting wood. It took a week to make $25.00 cutting wood. After a few trips riding down I showed up one morning to find a 56 Ford F600 sitting in thier driveway beside the even older Dodges we had been using. Suddenly I found myself being taught how to back one of the old Dodges into tight spots. More lessons on how two speed rear ends work in hilly country and soon I was making $50.00-$75.00 a day driving. Trucks with 26,000lb GVW's aren't exactly compact things when driven in the woods. Sometimes things need to be moved so you can get where you need to be. Soon my trusty axe was riding with me, it's handle bobbed to a convenient if not efficient 24 inches.
Several years later found me moving away and storing a bunch of my tools in dad's garage. When mom and dad moved a few years ago My old trusty friend was found in a corner, missing it's handle. A handle was purchased, but never installed. A little incident with a former girlfriend found my car with a broken window. Seems she thought she'd make a point with an axe handle she found in the backseat. Needless to say, I never again dated a redhead. A few weeks ago found me in a little country hardware store buying bits for my ancient yankee style drill. While there I wandered around and window shopped. Lo and behold one dusty corner held three double bit axe handles. All three dead nutz straight, one fire tempered hickory. I didn't even know you could still get fired hickory handles. Today I went back and dropped a whopping eight bucks, then spent 45 minutes fitting it. Soon I'll sand off the varnish and give it a dose of linseed oil. Then I'll sharpen the old girl up in preparation for the next big snowstorms downed limbs. Hefting her I hear a voice, a husky drawling country girls voice. She say's "What took you so long".

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The bad part about being a stepdad

For the most part I have found being a stepparent a rewarding experience. Even though they have been in my life a mere 2 years, I consider these three kids my own. They spend summers and holidays with thier dad, half a country away in Texas. This year my stepson's summer visit is going to be a permanant move. For the most part with the exception of an occasional camping trip he isn't much for the great outdoors. His sisters on the other hand will go shooting or fishing every chance they get. Last sunday at his suggestion we took a day for the shooting range. For the past couple years there has been 2 .50 caliber muzzleloaders residing in my gunsafe. They'd never been shot in the time I had them. Ever since we sat and wached the movie "Jeramiah Johnson" he's been wanting to shoot these babies. He has a favorite of the two so he shot that one and I shot the other. First I loaded mine and shot it. Then I loaded his while he watched. He took aim and squeezed off his first shot. At this time I noticed the biggest grin I'd ever seen on his face. At that he reloaded while I watched and he was off and shooting. After what was probably the best afternoon we had ever spent together we headed home. He even cleaned the gun with no arguments, he was actually happy to do it. Today I had the day off. DW worked an overnight shift last night, so I figured it best to get the kids away from home so she could sleep. Off we went to a different sporstmans club. This one a little less primitive, and much more family friendly. Also closer to home. This club has a 35 acre lake built back at the turn of the last century built by the late great New York Central railroad. Origionaly built to assure a constant supply of water for a large mainline water tower in the era of steam power. It now just provides a constant supply of recreation for 900 of Genesee counties families. We spent a great day fishing. And in my case getting completely sunburned. Only one fish was caught, we had more fun feeding our left over worms to the fingerling bluegills under the dock than we did fishing for thier parents. Saturday they hop on a plane for Houston. While mom and I could use a short break just for us, the break will be too long in the end. I wonder if these kids realize just how much they mean to me. I wonder if they know just how much I love them. I wonder if they understand the effect they've had on me. They may not call me dad, but, they are my kids. Just as much as they are his kids. I love you kids. And Christopher, I will miss you more than you will ever know. woodss

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Happy Birthday darling!

My wife loves to put up our food. Knowing what is in it is a major factor. Her preferred methods are canning and dehydrating. But, she hates the power company more than she loves putting up food. Thus there is an old wood stove set up in the yard. The kind grandma used to do the laundry on. This is where we do our canning. Her next preferred method is drying. The problem is our 5 Ronco dehydrators all use electricity. So, in her war against the meter reader she often unplugs then and sets them in a sunny window. When this happens we usually lose part of the food we are trying to preserve. With her birthday fast approaching I was at a loss for what to give her. She likes store bought OK, but would much rather have something that wasn't bought. For several weeks I have had a thought running through my head. This started shortly after finding a dehydrator on a window ledge. The food on the sunny side was fine, but, the food on the far side was growing some funky mold. So thursday I grab a dehydrator tray and hide in the depths of my 1920's vintage garage. FYI, most garages from that era don't have electricity. As a vintage tool collector that's just fine with me. In my little treasure trove you will find piles of stuff salvaged from the trash. Don't let me see a pallet made of planed boards in a junk heap. It will soon be a pile of planed boards stacked in my shop. So a few furring strips, a piece of quarter inch plywood, some 5"x30" pieces of plexiglass, and a almost full can of flat black auto primer are soon sitting on my bench. Then I dive into a drawer full of vintage Stanley "Handyman" tools. After two hours I come out for a lunch break and a trip to the hardware emporium for .97 cents worth of white paint. After lunch another hour and a halfs work turns out this. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket As I set it up in the yard for a test run she walks up and says "now that's neat". I just stick my hand over it and feel the warm stream come off it. Then I turn to her and say "HAPPY BIRTHDAY". In return I get a big hug and kiss. When she asks the question most men dread, I answer "about a buck". Her response is an even bigger hug and a kiss. I guess my 40 yr search for a bride was worth it. She really is a keeper! Woods