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Making Fun Out of Nothing

Story ID:7602
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family Memories
Location:Butte Montana USA
Year:1970
Person:Our Pops
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Making Fun Out Of Nothing
by Kathe Campbell

What better place for a father and his children to spend time schmoozing daily thoughts and plans, a dad's past, a growing child's bright future. A place to talk about the importance of values, good grades, friendships, and maybe a few reluctant words on the facts of life.

The big basement with it's double doors accessing our back yard found them there often, a dad showing off his craft and flair for inborn talent. Kids eagle eyeing every project early on, grasping Pop's special way with tools, turning out wonders from nothing special. A bicycle, a go-cart, an antique pump organ, even unique bluebird houses created from leftovers to wow envious neighbors.

"What did you haul home this time, Dad?" they queried often while catching the keys to the trunk of Pop's car.

Sometimes the only clue would be crooked wheels or handlebars. Maybe a stray clutch, a rusted-shut water pump for our pond, or a wooden crate full of parts awaiting their rebirth as a chainsaw. Throw aways that seemed to come alive in calloused hands capable of a mere trifling, or whopping big works. Hands of your friendly insurance man, a cheerleader, Boy Scout, and basketball players all. And when neighbors entered the door bearing modern gadgets that failed all too soon, Pops lent his hands to make them last forever.

Eternal flotsam and jetsam imprisoned the stuff of creative frenzy, turning out miracles, or restoring toys for less fortunate kids, a giving nature that dwelled in Pop's heart. So lest risking my happy home, I rarely stepped foot in the subterranean vault with its collection of old discards. Sweeping sawdust or organizing tools meant toying with disaster, for my gang knew exactly where everything had been left, days or even weeks before.

They could't pass up the dirt bike craze, and soon swarms of local kids were riding and racing. Neighboring fathers and sons spent evenings wrenching in our garage and basement, tinkering, rebuilding, and experimenting with fuels, drinking in all of Pop's profound safety rules. They were akin to all racing crowds obsessed with the smell of ether, methanol, exhaust, and the rumble of hot engines. I wonder how many Sunday dinners I slaved over, praying for them to return safely off the tracks.

Pops provided our teens with wrecked cars to jazz up and mend fenders with body putty, always a half-sanded vehicle tucked away in the garage anxious for it's paint job until the next child turned sixteen. But down in the inner sanctum, trail and road bikes were awaiting their final fittings, despite our visiting grandpa's dislike of the disreputable and raucous engines rumbling up the driveway. I decided that if my darlin's ever looked at me the way they ogled those two-wheeled monsters, I'd have been eternal putty in their hands.

Not all were brand new, but Pop's made sure we all had our own trail bike. It was the beginning of a lifelong love affair riding logging roads and wildlife paths, snuffling the pine, always with lunch, a gold pan, and a line and pole bungeed along side. At trail's end we hiked deep into Mother Nature's pristine silence. When the fish quit biting in one place, we moved on until limiting out, sometimes packing enough gear for overnighters, then feeding our souls beneath a blanket of stars.

Other times, after the harried mowing of lawn and Saturday morning chores, my men fled town to fill their senses atop bigger hushed dynamos of power. They were like kids running away from home to discover the new and wondrous. Every blade of native grass, crops, pungent sage, wildlife, and all the rivers coursed windswept and flagrant scents. Rocky Mountain warblers trilled and the game birds struck up their signature chords, boasting their nested hatches at every turn of the road. It's said that if you wait fifteen minutes, the weather will change in Montana. Nobody notices it like a biker.

Now and then they took a weekend trip up north to breeze in on our beloved old grandpa on his cattle spread. Emerging from his cabin, Gramps shook his head and smiled while running gnarly fingers through his beard, still repelled with his family's brand of horsepower.

"Well, boys, guess I never realized how important it was for you to have those cussed things. Have you taken 'em apart yet to see what makes 'em run?" he'd say.

It seemed like yesterday when Eagle Scout awards were achieved. They were off to college, the military, or raising families of their own. They left the work benches, power tools, and sawdust behind, but never precious memories of the man who played with them and taught them well. I felt like a sorry substitute as Pops was sadly left floundering in their world of fun.

"For the grandkids someday," he sighed, although I knew deep down that the precious delights staring back at him represented youthful daydreams. A virtual wealth of mechanical devices of gas or electric contrivances to wrench on, tinker with and rebuild like new, obsessed with the smells and sounds.

And as if by design, our children and grandchildren have taken up the gauntlet to revel in a legacy of creative genius. But even nicer, they kept alive Pop's custom of community benevolence and especially... the tradition of making fun out of nothing.

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Kathe Campbell lives her dream on a Montana mountain with her mammoth donkeys, a Keeshond, and a few kitties. Three children, eleven grands and three greats round out her herd. She is a prolific writer on Alzheimer's, and her stories are found on many ezines. Kathe is a contributing author to the Chicken Soup For The Soul and Cup of Comfort series, numerous anthologies, RX for Writers, magazines and medical journals. kathe@wildblue.net