Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Putt-Putt Here and a Putt-Putt There ...

A brand new adventure began one day during the summer of 1946. My dad came home lugging a box under his arm. The shape of the box led me to believe that he bought a new vacuum cleaner. However, he marched right into our garage, took the gadget out of the box and mounted the gadget on a board. It was definitely not a vacuum cleaner. All I knew for sure was that it was green. The box which dad completely shredded trying to get opened had some writing on the outside. It read, “Elgin/Sears.”

I was familiar with Sears but had never heard of Elgin. You know, an eleven-year-old boy can be full of questions. So follow along with dad and me in the following conversation:

Me: “Daddy, what’s that thing?”

Dad: “This is an outboard motor.”

Me: ‘Is that why you stuck it up on that board?”

Dad: “No, I just put there to get it going.”

Me: “Where’s it going, Daddy?”

Dad: “It’s not going anywhere right now.’

Me: “But …”

I decided not to pursue the matter. You could always tell when dad was not in the proper frame of mind for a conversation.

Dad proceeded to pour some gasoline into the motor. Then he mixed a bit of motor oil in with the gasoline. This was more than I could bear:

Me: “Daddy, why did you do that?”

Dad: “Some motors mix oil with the gasoline. This one is an Elgin 1.25 horsepower one cylinder air-cooled outboard motor.’

Me: “Oh.”

I was hoping dad would think I understood his adult explanation.

Then dad took a rope and wrapped it around the top of the motor and gave a yank. The motor said, “Putt.” He wrapped the rope again and gave another yank. “Putt …”

Me: “Daddy, why are you doing that?”

Dad: “Winston, why don’t you go find Mama and see if she needs any help with supper?”

I took the hint and went into the kitchen and told Mom the story of dad’s strange behavior. Mom explained that men sometimes acted that way. Suddenly there was a loud “Pow” and a “Putt Putt Putt Whirrrrrr …” Dark blue smoke belched forth from the open garage door. I ran back out and looked inside the garage and yes that motor was running. Dad looked all proud and was grinning from ear to ear. I thought he looked funny with his glasses slid down over his nose but I didn’t say anything. This was another one of those rare moments when an eleven-year-old boy displayed wisdom far beyond his years.

You see, two years earlier, dad began taking me out to fish. He rented wooden row boats. Dad ended up doing most of the rowing because I was not strong enough for the chore. On a good day my biceps looked like Grade AA chicken eggs. Usually Dad rowed upstream to his fishing spots. Then in the later afternoon he let me row. But rowing downstream was a lark. All you had to do was use the paddle as a rudder because the current carried you in the right direction. Then dad bought the Elgin outboard to ease the strain on all biceps concerned.

And so began the new adventures of a dad, his son and an Elgin 1.25 Horsepower one-cylinder air-cooled outboard motor. And oh yes, did I mention Prissy our dog? Prissy went with us on most all of our excursions. Our favorite place was on Pine Island Bayou off of Cook’s Lake Road north of Beaumont. You could rent a row boat there for two dollars.

But those are stories for another day.

Winston Hamby


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