One of my most vivid memories happened when I was 10 years old. We lived on Myers Avenue, a short one and a half block street, which stretched from the Dunlap Evangelical United Brethren Church where I went to kindergarten, to the woods in our back yard. This day my family loaded up in our 1964 VW Bug, Dad driving, mom at co-pilot holding baby Joey, Anne, Margaret and me in the back seat, with Jane and Mary in the tiny compartment in front of the rear window. At that time, car seats were the original seats that came in the car when you bought it. We filled them up.
We were going to Belmont Mennonite Church that Sunday evening to see families like the Boyts, Ropps, Bontragers, Chupps, and Detwilers who we also joined to support the famous Softball Team.
This time though, we were watching the sky as it grew gray and turbulent. In an uncharacteristic move, Dad turned around after crossing the railroad tracks in Dunlap, and headed back home. He seemed to sense trouble in the air, and told Mom to take the other children inside and go to the basement. For some reason, I tagged along with Dad out to the hill side where we could see the darkening southwestern sky. Then for a short time, a quiet stillness settled in around us, with an eerie green glow.
The calm was soon broken by a whisper of wind, that gradually grew in intensity and volume. Then in the western sky, the black tumbling clouds formed into a V-shape reaching to the horizon. That’s when Dad said, “Let’s get in the house!” We ran in, and the door slammed behind us, with the noise soon rising to the level of a jet engine. The air was full of flying debris as the twister passed by two blocks away, but left our house generally unharmed.
The wind is a powerful force. The Palm Sunday Tornado was not so kind to the Sunnyside neighborhood, as many homes there were wiped off their foundations, cars destroyed and trees uprooted. The pick-up basketball game we played the night before at the Concord Junior High tennis court with my friends Steve and Mike Forsythe, would be the last, as Steve died in that storm on April 11, 1965.
On the other hand, the wind can be a comforting friend. When a hot summer day is stifling, and the sweat keeps dripping, a gentle breeze is most welcome. The same is true when on my bike rides, I would finally turn from the struggle against the wind, and become a human sail. This was such a compelling feeling, that I invited my daughters to join me on a “One-Way-With-the-Wind” bike ride. We talked my wife Jan into coming to pick us up at the end of our journey.
We tried to pick a windy day in the fall, for six or eight times in the growing up years. The trips began by going to the end of the driveway, putting up a wet finger, or throwing a leaf up in the air, and following it. Every corner, it was the same, cruising down the path of least resistance. Many times, we would be peddling with little effort, in quiet, about the speed of the wind.
Destinations for the day trips included Plymouth, Shipshewana, Mendon, Michigan, etc. When we got “there,” which meant we were tired of siting on bikes and we happened to find a nice restaurant, we would go inside and call for Jan to come. These were pre-cell phone days, and allowed the unhurried waiting of an hour or so to discuss the day. Then we would eat together, load up the bikes and head home, retracing the route and checking the mileage.
Sometimes, as a family, we had no one to pick us up but we went anyway.
Other times, the wind is just a mild annoyance, like the afternoon I took the sailboat out at Little Eden Camp, and had to tack a headwind home which made me late for supper. On our travels, the wind seemed to have more influence on our old Toyota van than the steering wheel, and it made paddling across that Wilderness lake feel endless.
Some days it’s like there is a headwind in the shop. Today I wanted to finish the framework of the back seat while it is still easy to reach in through the side. Unfortunately, the rear cross frame needed to be reinforced first, and that piece logically should tee into the cockpit side moulding. But to really get the moulding lines to look good related to the top edge (sheer) stringer, I need to have the outside edge in place first.
So, the side stringer will be an obstacle making construction more difficult, but it leads to the best result in the end. Some days, the forward progress is just figuring out what to do next, and creating a list of things to do.
Before starting the side, I decided to do one last detail to the back seat, routing the angle for the seat bottom. I set the roller bearing cutter to follow the angle pattern, and routed two passes, getting most of the way through. To finish off, I used my best Japanese hand chisel and made the first cut. This is the peaceful time, when the ear protectors and the mask come off, and the dust collector goes silent. The first cut produced a curl so captivating, I had to leave it while I made some more of them.
It was like fresh wind in the sails. Below are Austin, and his cousins Andy, Alyssa and Luke.
Against the wind
I’m still running against the wind
I’m older now but still running
Against the wind
– Pete Seger 1980
The value of a prize and the satisfaction of its accomplishment is tied directly to the effort required and the obstacles overcome. Carry on.