My son read my last set of ramblings about my dad and sent me a note saying that he knew it was going to be about “Grandpa Poncho” as soon as he read the title. He then went on to say he thought it was going to be about his grandpa’s attempt at fixing a heater. I know I picked on dad a little with the last article, but this story is too good to pass up as well.
My brother told me this story many years ago and I still have to chuckle when I think about it. My brother stopped by my folk’s house one sunny afternoon and walked to the back yard where he saw dad sitting at the picnic table working on something with a screw driver and a rag. The item that was getting attention was off red in color and looked like it may have come to this country on either the Nina, Pinta or Santa Maria.
My brother Pete asked dad what was going on and dad proudly held up the gizmo and told him he uncovered this treasure on his last trip to the dump. “Here we go,” Pete thought. “OK, dad, what is it?” Dad looked at Pete and said, “Well, it’s a heater, of course. I plan to use it in my deer blind this season.” Pete looked it over and could see dad was right about one thing. At one time, it was a heater that ran on lantern fuel, but he wasn’t sure how long it had been since it heated anything.
“How about if I just run to the sporting goods store and get you a new one, dad,” asked Pete. “They don’t cost much and they really work well.” “I don’t need a blankety-blank new one,” sputtered the old man. “I will get this one to work just fine and it didn’t cost me a dime.” Dad went back to turning screws and wiping the gizmo off and my brother shrugged his shoulders and went into the house to say hello to mom. He told me he looked out the window a bit later and sure enough, dad had the heater actually running. Pete told me it didn’t look too bad, but there had to be a reason it was in the dump and not in someone’s deer blind.
Fast forward to that year’s deer season. I was stuck downstate and wasn’t able to join Pete and dad for that year’s season. Pete told me later that opening day was quite interesting. It was a chilly morning and both dad and Pete left early to go to their respective blinds. About mid-morning, Pete thought he might want to check on dad and he left his blind to do that. Pete said as he walked up to dad’s blind, all he could see was a cloud of black smoke surrounding the blind so he picked up the pace to find out what was going on. Pete told me that as he got closer, the door to the blind opened up and that little heater came rolling out of the door. Dad came out shortly behind the heater and Pete said was covered head to toe in black soot. In fact the only thing that wasn’t black were the whites of dad’s eyes.
My dad was no altar boy so of course, the woods were soon filled with about every colorful phrase you can think of. After Pete made sure dad was OK, he couldn’t help but start to laugh. Dad took offense to the laughter and reminded my brother that the blankety-blank piece of s#*t heater could have killed him. Pete almost reminded him of his offer to buy him a new heater, but thought better of it. He got dad back to camp and helped him get cleaned up. I think dad took the rest of the day off and coughed up some soot every now and again. Most people would have bailed out of that blind the minute the heater starting acting up, but I knew my dad and he was as stubborn as that heater and I am sure he hung in there telling himself it would clear up at any time, until he just couldn’t take it anymore.
I think Pete did buy him a new heater shortly thereafter, but I know if dad would have come across another heater in one of his treasure hunts, he would have surely tried to use that one too. I guess old habits die hard.
And that’s the situation as I survey it …
After a 35-year career downstate amongst da trolls, during which he built a successful engineering and surveying business, John Matonich is back home in da U.P. His column will appear here occasionally, don’tcha know. His book “Surveyin’ Da Situation” is available on Amazon.com.
Image credit: ben dalton