Saturday, October 30, 2010

Temptation in the Trailer

I was just like Eve in the Garden of Eden. Only I was tempted in our family travel trailer.

Let's start at the beginning. My Dad loved to tinker. He'd take things apart just to see how they worked. Perhaps because he was a child of the depression, he didn't like to throw things out. If something broke he'd save the parts for use in a future project. He was the epitome of resourcefulness.

As an example, we had a monstrosity of a picnic table that was parked in the far end of our back yard (where its bulk wouldn’t kill the grass.) It would take a minimum of 2 adults and 4 healthy kids to carry the enormous table to our back yard eating area. My 5 siblings and I dreaded moving that monster. In fact, if we got wind of the fact that that we were eating a meal outside, we would scatter like fire ants after an Amdro application.

As we grew up and began leaving the nest, my Dad was faced with a problem: how to move Big Bertha without his underage work crew. His solution: put it on wheels. I’m not sure where he found wheels strong enough to support the behemoth, but he did. Look Ma! No hernia!

Then there was the car side mirror that hung off the front of the house which allowed us to see the school bus coming down the hill. There was also some pulley system he developed using his riding lawnmower, a tree and the hammock to… well, I can’t quite remember exactly what problem he was solving with that. But I'm certain it worked. 

It should surprise nobody that when my Dad decided our travel trailer needed a radio stereo system he decided to do it himself. He got his hands on an old car radio and was attempting to install it when he realized he needed an extra set of hands. That’s how I found myself holding the soldering iron and the solder wire for him that hot August afternoon. I was about 10 years old.

Allow me to backtrack for a moment. My Dad had high hopes for me as his child prodigy. Apparently at age 3 I had no interest in toys. I wanted nothing more than to pound nails into pieces of wood all day long. “Mabel, that child is a chip off the old block!" my Dad said to my Mom. "If she can do this at 3 imagine what she will be able to do at 5! She'll be installing paneling in the living room!”

(But much to his disappointment, my construction skills peaked at 3 years of age.)

Back to that dreaded August afternoon. My Dad handed me a piece of wire and a soldering iron to hold for him until he needed it. He said, “Whatever you do, don’t touch the wire to the iron.” Then he proceeded to climb on a stool and stick his head and half of his body inside of a cupboard the size of a glove compartment.

Then the devil whispered in my ear and I began to wonder what would happen if I touched the iron to the wire. I looked at the wire, then at the soldering iron. They sure looked innocent enough. Would I get a shock? Would it make a noise? Would I break it? What could possibly happen? So I touched them together.

A ball of melting iron landed on my bare thigh.   I screamed a silent scream.

To this day I don't remember how I managed to sneak out of that trailer without my Dad hearing me. I believe I bribed my brother Tom into taking over my role as helper while I administered First Aid.

As far as I know, my Dad never found out about my little 'experiment'. I got a nasty blister on my leg that I managed to hide from my parents. But I did learn an important life lesson that day.

I'd make a lousy welder.

As post-note, my Dad passed away 7 years ago today.  I think he'd get a kick out of this posting.

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