What I Owe My Parents ...
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 our own. 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 lemonwood recurve. 

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 project.

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 way'. This 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 feet long. 

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