My parents were married during the Depression and by
1945 were raising four children on a postman's salary.
After the war my father reluctantly joined his father-in-law's
glass company and was apprenticed as a common glazier though offered an
inside position behind a desk in the main office.
Having been born and raised as a late life child in a household
of grown but not yet married older sisters my father often felt overwhelmed
in social settings. Perhaps that is why he chose a career as an independent
craftsman working alone in a shed apart from the main building.
This tendency towards introversion did not indicate a lack of
confidence ... though my father spoke very little he was very decisive
in action. What it did demonstrate though was his strong streak of self-reliance.
We learned early on as a struggling family that if something
could be made at home or reworked instead of being purchased it would be.
My mother shared the same values darning socks, mending shirts and pants
and making all meals from scratch.
Vacations were few and far between and usually consisted of setting
up camp at a nearby lake. We never stayed at a motel when out of town and
eating at a sit down restaurant was out of the question.
Whenever we expressed an interest in having a particular toy
my father would suggest a trip to the library to check out plans for constructing
I remember a summer devoted entirely to learning how to make my own bow
and arrows. Working with various hardwoods Dad brought home he and
I built two bows ... one a redwood and hickory longbow and the other a
The bowstrings were twisted up using linen thread and waxed with
beeswax. A trip to a local turkey farm provided feathers for the fletching
and a shooting range provided the spent cartridge cases to tip the end
of the wooden dowels we used for arrows.
As eager as I was to try out my own creations I learned the discipline
and restraint that came from waiting for glue to set and varnish to dry
between what seemed to be an endless series of steps towards the completed
Throughout all was the echo of his own personal motto: "If
something is worth doing it is worth doing right."
There were other lessons as well ... some more painful than others.
One that made a strong and lasting impression involved a summer's Saturday
morning, a piece of solid walnut plank, an bicycle innertube and an old
leather shoe tongue.
With a gleam in his eye that came from fond childhood memories
he announced that we were going to build a slingshot 'the old-fashioned
was during the mid-fifties when children's TV shows were advertising the
Wrist-Rocket ... a hi-tech version of the perennial childhood toy.
I followed his every move as he roughed out the familiar shape
on his table saw and sander. Handing me the innertube and an old pair of
shears he had me cut out a thin strip of rubber a half inch wide and two
Trimming the shoe leather into a pouch and adding a couple of
slits he threaded the rubber strap through both sides. The ends of the
strap were secured in slots cut into the handle.
Again I had to wait for what seemed an eternity until the waterproof
finish (spar varnish) had dried completely. Finally the moment arrived
for testing and I loaded the pouch with a steel ball bearing.
Looking around for a suitable target I spied a robin redbreast
on the telephone line overhead. A second later the deed was done and the
bird was tumbling to the ground.
A second after that the slingshot was forced from my hands, broken
in two and dropped in the nearby garbage can.
Not a word was said ...
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Copyright © 2007 by Boyd Grant. All Rights Reserved