Shade Tree Mechanics – Oil on canvas by Janet Kruskamp
This is more of a tribute to my son than anything. Our journey merged with Seth’s journey when he was two and he’s been taking motors apart (and putting them back together) ever since. He specializes in deceased leaf blowers and weed-eaters thought impossible and many a time I’ve heard a long dead motor roar to life, like some noisy apparition from the grave. He comes inside, long after dark, soot mottled, with grease across his face, his pants a destruction of debris, grease, and oil. A huge grin shines over the landscape of success, spreading across his face like a flag of victory draped over the statue of a conquered country.
Many a bike has been sacrificed to the young dream of a homemade Harley as weed-eater and lawnmower motors are fastened precariously on the bike frame, belts and pulleys arranged just so. After numerous attempts at hog heaven he one day finally realized his dream and loud pops, bangs, and roars were heard from the road where the test flights were taking place. I am so glad he got it running, and so glad it quit before he could buy leathers and boots.
His mother and I already know that when it comes to starting stubborn motors we just say, “Hey Seth…” and away he goes to tinker and adjust and fine tune. Meanwhile we are inside having given up on the particular motor, depressed, discussing the demise of another elderly garden tool when the somber silence is broken by a coughing splutter and roar and we grin in surprise, knowing that Seth has won again. No one can match him for sheer determination and tenacity when it comes to mechanics.
Last year at my parents place he discovered a shop full of weed-eaters and other odds and ends, left over from years of small motor collecting. He set to work on the oldest one on the farm, one of the first weed-eaters created, back in the last century some time. To his Grampa’s surprised interest he got it going. But that wasn’t the most interesting part. Once it was running he discovered an abandoned fan blade and without further ado or parental consent the blade was mounted to the newly resurrected weed eater and… then the whole thing was mounted on an old wooden raft in the pond behind the barn. I don’t think great speeds were achieved but he got high marks for innovation.
Recently he moved north to work on a farm and it didn’t take long before reports began to trickle in of old pickup trucks being resurrected to life, small garden trailers fabricated, and lawnmowers with landing lights. This is Seth, up to his tricks again! We grin, safe in the knowledge that some things do not change.