As I Remember, Chapter 7

This entry is part 7 of 39 in the series Ted Bio


      Although I never went to school after I was twelve years old, I did learn a few things. There was an old, retired barber that worked on the ranch. His name was Walt Woodvine. Every Saturday afternoon, he would cut all our hair. This fascinated me. I watched him closely. I had just begun to shave. I had bought a new razor and strap, also a hone. I learned to keep my razor sharp. Then one day, Woodvine went away and didn’t come back. All our hair began to grow long and shaggy. I decided to do something about it. I bought a full set of barber tools. I was ready. I think it was Dell that I tackled first. And as amazing as it may seem, I did a pretty fair job. From then on, it was a cinch. I not only cut all the family’s hair, but many of the neighbor’s. I never went into this as a profession, but always have and still do have a set of barber tools and now and then cut someone’s hair.

      But I also learned another trade. And in later years, this one really did me a lot of good.. Cars and gasoline engines of any kind fascinated me. There were very few good mechanics in those days. The average person didn’t even know what made a car run. I will give you this illustration. For instance, let’s take a model T Ford. Most everyone owned one of them. The lever on the right of the steering wheel was there to regulate the amount of gas that the carburetor let into the engine. The farther it was pulled down, the more gas. The lever on the left regulated the timing. When pushed to the top, the spark was retarded. Firing after the piston had passed over dead center. When the lever was pulled down, this would advance the timing, giving the engine more power. The average didn’t understand this at all. He thought that pulling the lever down, gave the engine MORE spark. And the more spark you gave the thing, the harder it would kick when you cranked it.

      My Baby Overland, The Puddle Jumper, I called it. I took this apart from one end to the other many times. By doing this, I learned exactly what made a car run. And what to do in case it didn’t. After I had it a couple of years, I traded it off and got me a 1923 Star Coupe. This was quite a classy little car. And there were many improvements. As time passed, I was getting to be quite a good mechanic. I did almost all the work for everyone on the ranch. I bought me a good set of tools to work with. Also many books on the gasoline engine.

      There was a big blacksmith shop at Letha. A German from the old country operated it. His name was Henry Bower. In my spare time, I hung around his shop. He taught me how to weld. Time passed quickly. All us kids were growing up. Brother Ray who was about two and half years younger than myself, was as big as me. Del, who was always sort of a runt, suddenly began to shoot straight up and didn’t quit until he was six foot two. Jennie was turning into a beautiful young lady, Brother Bob was trailing along behind.

      As much as I hate to, I guess I had better say a few words about brother Ray. Later, he would make a lot of changes in my life. As a kid, he was quite a problem child. For one thing, he had sticky fingers. He thought that everything he touched belonged to him. He had a mean streak. Every time Mother would attempt to punish him for something he had done, he would kick her on the shins and run. One day he had done something that Mother considered real bad. She took after him with a switch. To escape, he run down the stairs and into the cellar, which was under the house. He slammed the door and locked it from the inside. Mother’s patience had about come to an end. There was also a lock on the outside. She snapped it shut and I heard her say. “I guess two can play at this game.” She laid down her switch and walked away. I guess she left him in there for several hours. And I bet she never did that again. The place was a total wreck. Fruit jars were smashed. The whole thing was literally turned upside down. One of the worst things that he had done was to drain all the oil out the cream separator and pour in a quart of varnish, which was on a shelf. We thought we would never get it to run again. Mother used to say. “There is a devil in that boy!”

      I don’t think that Ray ever learned how to do anything with his hands. Work was a nasty word to that guy. But he was a good pretender. Almost every Sunday, Dad’s partner, Mr. Feldman, would come over from Boise. He would get to the ranch real early. An hour or so before Mother and us kids took off for church. I never could understand why, but Ray was doing everything he could to make a good impression on this rich Jew. Here was one of his favorite tricks; When he would spot Feldman’s big Mitchell coming down the road, he would grab a shovel and run out into the orchard. He would take off his shirt and dip the top part of it in the water. Then put it back on again and wait. When the opportunity was just right, he would splash some water on his face, then come marching in. Right past Mr. Feldman, of course, with the shovel on his shoulder. And how he loved those flattering remarks made by the Jew. Such as: “Now there is a boy.”

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