Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sawhorses and Barrels

Being the tinkerer and the putterer that my Daddy was, one would confidently expect him to be a carpenter of sorts. One would be absolutely right, too.
Daddy worked hard for his paycheck. He also worked hard to have the things he wanted, even if it meant building it himself - like a boat.
My cousin, Carlene, grew up much the same way I did, and she knows that we kids took the opportunity to play whenever we could, and anything was fair game.
My Daddy built a boat in the backyard. That was the boring part. He laid a piece of plywood over a sawhorse, and he soaked it good with water. Then he put concrete blocks on the ends to bend the plywood... and this was a process that took days. He repeated it with more plywood and with regular planks of wood. He put two sawhorses together at one end and put his boards on it, wet them and then put bricks or concrete blocks on the end to keep them flat, and more blocks at the other end to force them to bend and curve. It turned out to be a handsome boat, and he painted it yellow and white. Many were the summers when the boat was launched at Huger or 4-Hole Swamp or Bushy Park and catfish, crappie, and bream graced the dinner table.

I was curious about the boat building. I helped wet the wood and helped put bricks on the boards. After the boat was built, I had a new use for the sawhorses. Daddy built his own so these were sturdy, and heavy duty - not these flimsy little plastic ones people buy in the big box do-it-yourself centers.

There were a few large boards left around the shop when he was through. One, notably, happened to be long enough for the purpose. The school I went to had teeter-totters, or see-saws as you might call them. I saw, during the course of building that boat, a very similar and acceptable substitute.  A two by ten piece of pine, and about 12 feet long was perfect, and although it had no handles to hold on to, my sister and I, and occasionally our friends, spent hours see-sawing out in the back yard. Two on an end, or two on one end and one poor screaming victim on the other, we laughed till our sides hurt, and we became addicted to the butterfly in our stomach when we were forced high and fast into the air followed by the sudden heart-stopping fall downward till our feet hit the ground and our butts absorbed the shock. Did we ever fall off? You bet! Did we have a moment of daring-do and stand up on the ends? You bet! Did we ever try our hardest to launch someone OFF of the flying end? You bet! Was it fun? You bet!!!

We chanted as we teetered and tottered and see-sawed.

See Saw Margery Daw,
Jacky shall have a new master;
Jacky shall earn but a penny a day,
Because he can't work any faster.

Now, after the boat was built, and during the construction of it, daddy had a large old 55 gallon drum that he burned wood scraps in. In the winter he burned wood in it to stay warm while he worked on the boat. When the boat was finished, it was spring. It was warm. He didn't need the barrel. We did. We'd seen movies on television where kids were rolling the barrels around. Occasionally a kid would be inside the barrel. We'd seen clowns on television walking on the barrels, rolling them around. We'd seen movies of logging men, walking on rolling logs in the river... and that barrel became the dare all and do all for the moment.

We dumped out the ashes, and my brother was the first to do the barrel walk across the back yard. We all took turns and managed to roll it a few feet before we fell. After awhile it was easy. We managed to take turns being inside the barrel too, and being rolled down the slight slope in our back yard was like a crazy ride at the fair, although much dirtier, I must say. We hadn't thought to rinse out the barrel, you see. We were smudged with soot and dirt and ash... but we were exhausted and tired and our little bellies had had all the fun a kid could stand for a day when the sun went down.
It was good, hard, honest fun. Sleep came fast and easy after a day of barrel rolling and barrel walking. Dreams of flying came true as we perched on the plank in our back yard, and our screams of victory over gravity were tinged with hilarious, sometimes nervous laughter as it seemed we might accidentally launch ourselves into the atmosphere...

This is the scientific equation for happiness:

                                                1 sawhorse
                                                1 plank
                                                1 55 gallon barrel

                                               = Hours of fun and a Lifetime of Memories