Posted by: JDM..... | April 7, 2013

Dick’s sandbox…..

and a few thing-a-ma-jigs.….

Ya gotta love my brother in law. He’s man of few words and many retirement hobbies. While some men who have forgotten where they used to work and why like nothing more than a challenging fairway or a feisty trout on the other end of a line, Dick is perfectly happy in his sandbox. At least, that’s what I call it.

Encompassing some five acres on the side of a small mountain, he has been digging holes and filling them back in, pushing boulders around like a dung beetle, felling selected trees and moving others from one spot to another for the past twenty-something years. It isn’t quite the way he’d like it yet, but then again that’s the whole idea.

I remember the old trailer and muddy set of ruts leading to it from the dirt road when I saw the place for the first time many years ago. Today, there is a well maintained gravel driveway leading to the house sitting not too far from where the old mobile home had been. The utilitarian chipboard shed has been demoted to a place for firewood and spiders to dwell, and there is a new garage that has never seen the wheels of a car but has served as a workshop for the last ten years or so and in that roll has sheltered various wheels of different kinds.

Where to begin? More than a few discarded tractors from back yards and barns around Maine and New Hampshire have found their way to Dick’s shop, where they’ve been restored to full function and more. While he could certainly buy most of the various attachments and modifications he has discovered a use for over the years, spending unnecessary time in a retail establishment for some men would be worse than having to live on tofu and sprouts. He is one of those men. If he can’t fashion it out of something else, he doesn’t need it. He’s a mechanic, welder, excavator, and more, if not by credential then by trial and error.

Take his airplane, for example. After forking over $600 to try his hand and risk his ass at tooling around suspended from a powered parachute a few years back, he decided to build an ultra-light airplane. Prior to that, the farthest off the ground he had been was the roof of the garage he had built in which to restore old tractors, fix ATVs and motor scooters, and to build the airplane. Whenever I hear that distinctive buzz on summer evenings now, I look up to see if he is making his rounds to dip a wing over the home of one family member or another. We now have several aerial photographs of the place.

 photo dozeraug2010007_zpsfe1baf38.jpg

His tractors and other big boys’ sandbox toys are the main thing, though, like the bulldozer he rescued so he could dig bigger holes. A few years ago he bit the bullet and bought himself a fancy new tractor, too. That didn’t stifle his need to tinker though.

He bought the machine the same way he buys cars, I imagine. When he or my sister in law decide it’s time for a new vehicle, he quietly window-shops and reads up on the various choices they may have in mind. When he’s ready, he visits the dealer.

Ambling in with no indication of urgency or interest, he’ll nod politely and greet whatever salesman happens to have drawn the short straw at that particular moment. Bypassing as much of the requisite small talk as possible, he soon lets the salesman know exactly what he wants and exactly what he is willing to pay for it. Any response other than “Yes” earns a polite “Nope”, and he walks away. To him, a vehicle needs no more bells and whistles than a pair of socks, which tends to raise hell with a salesman’s commissions. Being a nice guy, he doesn’t want to waste their time with pointless haggling.

Anyway, the shiny new tractor was Plain Jane true to his style, so when he decided a bucket loader would be useful for pushing boulders around or giving the dog a ride around the Sandbox, he made one by cutting a 55 gal. oil drum in half and welding the two parts back together end to end. He put together a system to suspend it from the tractor and adapted the hydraulic system to power it. I’m not sure if he ever actually did anything with it, but he clearly had a ball building it and couldn’t wait to show it off.

 photo grapple002_zps63dc54f3.jpg

He has a regular factory made bucket now, and his latest project was to rig something up to convert it into a “grapple”, just in case he might want to pick up small boulders instead of having to climb down and maneuver them by hand. I haven’t seen that particular item in action yet, but I did receive some pictures via e-mail the other day.

I understand he showed it to someone not long ago, and the person asked him what the hell he needed a “grapple” for.

I can picture Dick, hands in his pockets, moving something on the ground with the toe of a boot, shrugging, and casually replying……. “Who said I needed one?”



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