My dad was a civil engineer and was a “true” engineer in that he knew how things worked, why they failed and consequently how to fix them. I would equate him to a ship’s engineer – the guy responsible for keeping the boat afloat. If he didn’t know how to do something he knew where to get the information required to figure it out. As our American lives become increasingly surrounded by disposable crap; mechanical devises designed to be thrown away instead of repaired, I’m reminded of two “dad stories.”
John T. lived across the street and he drove around in this big ole’ Chevy Impala. My dad had a soft spot for Detroit iron and when that car didn’t move for two months he started to hatch a plan. On a summer Sunday morning he crossed Lawnwoods Drive with two twenties and a ten in his pocket and laid them on the table. “I gotta tell ya Mr. McGuffin,” John said “that car don’t run.”
Thirty minutes later dad and my brother Donald had that car running and were backing it out of the driveway. I wonder what John thought when he heard that V-8 kick over. I think Donald drove that car for another two years before it finally crapped out for good.
Dad was a good mechanic and consequently many of my stories about him concern cars, this second story is no exception. Back when he was in college my brother Mark had a girlfriend who owned a late seventies model Honda Accord. One day while my brother was puttering around in it the engine seized up, probably due to a lack of oil. Somehow dad and Mark got that car into our driveway where they pulled out the ruined engine and replaced it with one they picked up at Sam’s Riverside Auto – our second favorite junkyard after Easy Eddie’s Trails End Salvage. In a single afternoon they were able to pull and replace that engine. “It started on the first turn,” dad later told me.
“I can’t believe it,” dad said, “that engine was sitting on its pan in the mud, we didn’t even change the oil.” From that day forward dad bought only Hondas.
When people ask me how I know how to do things I always give credit to my father. He taught me a lot about woodworking and engines, but more importantly he taught me how to roll up my sleeves and just get in there and do it. Just getting started is nine tenths of the battle.