TRUE EXPERIENCES


| March/April 1977



290 Apple Tree Drive, Media, Pennsylvania 19063

Back when I was a boy in early high school down on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, the fascination of motors had already begun to possess me. Trucks, tractors, farm gasoline engines or boat engines of that period were all fairly familiar; however, outboard motors, motorcycles and airplanes were quite scarce there and so I would walk or hitchhike a good distance to examine such.

Naturally in a country high school the FFA (Future Farmers of America) courses taught were popular with boys, since many of them aspired to follow the plow as had their fathers. Though my father was a farmer, some early revolt within grew into a distaste for the farmer's life and a more intense love of mechanical things. However, in addition to the courses dealing with better pig and corn raising, the FFA program offered two years of agricultural shop practice. As I look back on these now, they were pretty good and a lot of fun. We were all required to help build a large chicken house, make single and double trees, repair harness', make new cart bodies, repair implements including making and fitting wagon wheel spokes. To pass the course, one had to become pretty good at blacksmithing, since we made all farm implement hooks, eye bolts, chain links, etc. used in the projects with the open hand cranked forge, using hammer and anvil.

I enjoyed these courses immensely and some long lasting friendships began there, one of which I have good reason to remember in particular.

Boys in that area began to partake of the habits of their fathers pretty early, be they tasteful or otherwise. Tobacco chewing was popular with some of the boys in shop class, particularly during hammer and anvil sessions, as they could spit into the forge while the iron heated leaving no evidence of this misdemeanor for the teacher to note. I was persuaded one day by a buddy to take a chew from his plug of 'Apple' brand as we jointly used the forge to taper and bend our single tree hooks. We busily hammered and spat for the hour class, but I was too hasty when the bell rang for class change, spitting out the tobacco and swallowing the juice. Needless to say Science Class was pretty awful as the teacher noticed me turning pale and I just made it outside in a great rush through the hall holding my stomach.

Our shop teacher bought himself a small boat and then a Sears 'Waterwitch' two cylinder outboard motor. He made the great mistake of sometimes keeping it clamped to a board in the agriculture shop. Most of the boys had little interest in it, but a couple of us were fascinated by it and its availability ate upon us to no end. One afternoon during athletic period, when the same teacher took the class out for soccer practice, we sneaked back into the shop by jimmying the lock. Then began a process of 'chicken' to see who would have nerve enough to try his hand at starting the outboard first. I finally backed down. Due to my having more motor knowledge, I manipulated the knobs and levers while my partner wound the cord and pulled.