Keith didn’t curse like my dad did when stuff like that happened.
The older I get, the more I have been enjoying the small, subtle ways I can see how I am very much like my Dad. One example of this (related to my current topic of cars) is that (like me) my father was a people person. As a teacher and a parent, my Dad had an amazing amount of patience with people.
But he (also like me) often had absolutely NO patience with inanimate objects. Especially ones he depended upon for some project he had going.
I remember vividly, one afternoon watching (from a good distance) as my father got up on top of the front end loader he’d just attached to the old Farmall H tractor, and started pounding it’s hard cold (and quite immobile) iron frame with a plain ol’ carpenter’s hammer. The damn thing just wouldn’t work the way it was supposed to. It kept dumping the entire scoop of manure on every try.
He had tinkered with that beast of a machine all afternoon and finally had had quite enough. Dad laid into the loader (which he’d purchased from another auction and had been quite happy with how cheaply he’d gotten it for) with an almost frightening fury. All the while, letting fly a string of expletives that would make a sailer blush.
He succeeded only in breaking the hammer and slicing the heck out of his hand.
And yet… time after time, year after year I was witness as my father patiently accepted with an authentic and trusting heart, all manner of follies and foibles foisted upon his life by the people around him. Especially from me.
I do so love the memory of my Dad.
Another example is my father’s insistence on hanging onto some of the language of his day… long passed. How his fondness for a time before the march of technology, had rendered obsolete, words he insisted on still using long past their usefulness to actually communicate meaning. To me anyway.
One such word was made known to me the day he brought home an old 1962 Plymouth Belvedere sedan. Like the VW Bug of yesterday’s post, the old Plymouth was one of those cars Dad got from who knows where (and probably for free) so he could teach his boys about cars. The Plymouth came before the bug and was actually the first car I ever drove on my own after learning the basics of driving on the tractor.
That day Dad brought it home, I remember getting in and the first thing I noticed was that the Belvedere had no gear shifter coming from the steering column. Instead it had what I quickly dubbed a “push-button” drive because it was operated by pushing these big buttons on the dash. Dad called it a hydra-matic drive and quickly corrected me with the amused slight frustration he’d get when I insisted on changing one of his precious words. Heh… but as his love and joy of being with me always trumped any of that, he’d always make a game of our little debate. The only time I was able to get the slightest rise out of him was when I discovered his word for the gas pedal.
“Foot feet?” I’d say laughingly.
“Foot! Feed!” insisted my father. “It feeds gas to the motor. It’s operated by the foot. It’s called the FOOT FEED!”
“Foot feet? What are foot feet?” I mocked as only a thirteen year old would do.
“Come here! I’ll show you.” Dad then yanked my arm and hauled me out of the car. I kept laughing as he dragged me over to the tractor and sat me up on the big, wide metal seat.
“You know how to drive the tractor yes? So how do you give it more gas and make it go faster?”
I instinctively reached up to the lever on top of the tractor’s steering column and Dad quickly grabbed my hand.
“The… accelerator?” I said, remembering the word from some time before but I couldn’t remember how.
“Very good but another word you could use for it is, hand feed. You use your hand to operate it and feed gas to the motor.”
Then he took me back to the old Belvedere and sat me in the driver’s seat. “Ok so now how do you feed gas to the motor on this vehicle?”
As soon as I put my foot on the gas pedal, and Dad stopped me and said, “Ok so what are you doing now?”
“Stepping on the gas.”
“By doing what?”
Stepping on the gas pedal.”
“Or… ” he then said the words slowly and articulating so clearly I found it hilarious… “the foot feed.”
“Foot feet?” I burst out laughing. “What the heck is a foot feet?”
“Just start it up” Dad said in total exasperation.