Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Redneck Engineering Comes in Handy

At Sunset Point RV Resort, Marble Falls, Texas...

My late father, an electrician by trade, was also an avid tinkerer. A small ramshackle shop he built beside our house was his inner sanctum, a place where he created all sorts of things, mostly from wood, but from other scrap materials as well. He would have been proud to know that his great grandsons, Mason and Pryce, are enjoying today the children's toys and furniture he made in that shop.

When I was a kid, my father helped me build many things like kites and slingshots and even an electric motor as a science project. My favorite of the homebuilt things was a go-cart, upon which I roared up and down the street when I got older. The running gear was made of parts from an old washing machine.

My father almost never had to buy any materials from which to fashion these things. Having grown up during the great depression, he was quite accustomed to making do with whatever he had. He hoarded used lumber and other surplus materials he scrounged in his electrical work. He had many cigar boxes full of all kinds of nuts and bolts, washers and springs, pipes and fittings and thousands of pieces of all kinds of paraphernalia that he had collected over the years. He saved everything that he thought might have a possible use, although he couldn't imagine at the time what that use might be. Nonetheless, it always came in handy whenever he wanted to build or repair something. He was able to use this stuff--most would refer to it as junk--to fashion amazing things that were interesting and functional, although perhaps a bit unorthodox in their appearance. We referred to this as "redneck engineering" and other terms that have become politically incorrect nowadays.

I tell you this bit of background because these memories of my dad came rushing back to me the other day when I needed to do a little redneck engineering of my own with Phannie. It seems that the temperature control knob on the air conditioning panel had become inoperative. Son-in-law Tyler and I pulled it out of the instrument panel, and we discovered that the bracket underneath holding the actuator cable had broken. After taking inventory of the miscellaneous hardware that I carry in one of Phannie's belly compartments, I discovered a few metal picture hangers. After doing a good bit of bending and cutting of one of the hangers, I was able to fashion a tension bracket that handily replaced the broken one. Works great!

So why do I share this little piece of my ancient history? Well, if you are fortunate enough to have any aptitude for redneck engineering, it may come in handy when you operate something as mechanically complex as a motorhome. It could save you thousands.

I'm pretty sure this bit of shadetree mechanic work saved me quite a few dollars in parts and repair bills, and I don't claim to have much aptitude at all with this sort of thing--certainly not as much as my dad, who I thought could fix anything. It also provides a rationale to RV owners for keeping a small collection of some little parts and doohickeys--junk, if you will--for which you don't see an immediate need but which you might fashion into something very useful in a pinch. Certainly an assortment of fasteners such as screws, bolts, nuts and washers would be a minimum to have on hand. And don't forget duct tape, glue and WD-40. With these things and a few tools, you can fix almost anything.

I was so fortunate to have a father who spent time with me and gave me some life skills that I still use today. And although this personal story is hardly something that would be meaningful to a reader, it was a warm cookie for me--a real pleasure to write while remembering what a good role model I had. 

Who would have thought that a picture hanger could be used to fix an air conditioner? My dad would have been proud.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.

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