July 20, 2017

It’s a Privilege to Grow Up in Maine?

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Independence and Forceful Circumstances

A writer just sometimes feels compelled to write about something even if it seems a bit out of the norm of topics an author is accustomed to write about. My topic is not completely out of what readers have come to expect here as it does have to do with the environment somewhat but mostly about lifestyle education, being raised to be fiercely independent and the circumstances in life that force us to do what it is we have to do.

This morning, I was putting together something for my granddaughter for her birthday, which is today. I actually have two granddaughters with birthdays today, just one year difference in age. While I was doing mostly a brainless exercise of place part A next to Part C and while holding part D with one hand, take item AA and screw part A into Part B as shown in the figure on page 17, what rushed into my mind took me back probably about 50 years. I felt overwhelmingly compelled to write this down. Follow along.

Some of you know and probably most don’t, I grew up dirt poor. I was the youngest of 4 boys and there was one sister, although she was 19 years my younger. My three brothers and I shared one 8 x 9 bedroom, i.e. two bunk beds with room enough to stand between the beds and change clothes, provided it was done in shifts. I’ll spare you all the usual, missing pots and no place to……..you get the idea.

My father was a smart man. Sometimes an intolerant bastard, as I guess that’s where I get it from. He was clever, talented and, make no mistake about it, he refused help from anybody, as I suppose he would somehow feel either beholding to them, although I’m more inclined to think he just never wanted to become dependent upon anyone for anything – another trait I brought along with me I guess.

Having only about enough money coming in to feed everyone and pay what few bills we had (my father never owed any man anything.), there was never “extra” money to do those things my father had a hankering to do. But that didn’t stop him.

One thing he wanted was a garage. He knew exactly what he wanted that building for as well. Dad was mechanically inclined and worked as an auto mechanic for a few years in his early days. Most of the time we had two vehicles, held together with junk parts and whatever was necessary to tinker them along and keep them running. Therefore, a couple of bays for each car would be nice. That way in winter and lousy weather days, tinkering could continue uninterrupted.

There also needed to be a small room in the back corner where he could run his part time radio and television repair business. And of course the attic would be a good, not ideal, but good place to store all the extra automobile parts for needed repairs. You see you didn’t just go to the junkyard when you needed a part. You always had your eye open for a good deal or maybe even an honest swap.

So how was a man with no money but an ingenious mind going to build a garage? Simple, that is if you thought the way he did. He began looking around the area for old, sometimes half fallen down buildings. He would go and talk to the owner and see if he would like to have the building(s) torn down and the debris hauled away.

I believe that I was about 8-10 years old at that time and for the next 2 or 3 years, my summers and weekends when the weather was good, was spent all day, everyday learning to use a hammer and pry bar to dismantle old buildings.

Usually the old man took up the high work. He would rip the boards and beams off, being careful not to break or destroy the lumber as it had to be used again. Mostly rough-sawn boards flew off the roof, landing somewhere near the building on the ground and that’s when my work, and that of my brothers, began. We had to pull each board out of the pile and pull all the nails. Some buildings were old enough that square-cut nails were used or even wooden pegs. We pulled all the nails, regardless of shape and size, and saved them in a large wooden nail keg; an item I’m sure the old man found someplace that was being discarded.

As you might be able to imagine, I didn’t enjoy doing this. There were other things I would prefer to be doing but it was either work or get your ass kicked.

If spending every weekend for 2 or 3 years wasn’t sobering enough for a 9-year-old, imagine during the summer and/or afternoons and evenings after school, going out to the keg of nails and spending the needed time with hammer in hand straightening every one of those nails and spikes. It made for some pretty sore fingers.

Eventually the garage got built. It was a slow process and virtually everything that went into the building of it was free and recycled. It just required a little blood, sweat and tears.

If I could turn the hands of time back to those years, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m a staunchly independent person who wants nothing from nobody and expect the same in return. At times I’m an impatient bastard and extremely difficult to deal with.

I am proud to be who I am and I know, unlike I’m sure millions of other people, that as we head deeper and deeper into “trying” times, that passed-down knowledge, independence and cantankerism will get me along while others struggle.

It is a shame that this kind of heritage is no longer passed along and is all too often looked down upon by “educated” people who seem to know better than everybody else. We’ll see!

I felt compelled and I satiated it. I hope you have enjoyed and gotten something out of this sharing session.

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