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Art & Inspiration Grandpa's Tools - A Short Story

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Vorhese, Jan 10, 2010.

  1. Vorhese
    Joined: May 26, 2004
    Posts: 766


    EDIT: 10/3/2011
    I updated this thread because someone in the internet world posted a letter from their dad written in 1992 to them as he was dying from Leukemia... and it was eerily similar to my story.

    The letter:



    I wrote this this morning. It's all fiction, with some influenced elements. I figure, if anyone, people on this forum could appreciate it. Let me know what you think. Sorry, the paragraphs aren't indenting.

    Grandpa's Tools
    A Short Story By Jason Friend

    Alex was chasing daylight. And not just daylight, the weather as well. It was that time of the year when by 4 o'clock he had to be out of his driveway and back into the warmth of his house. It always amused him when people talked to him about living in California and how beautiful the weather must be there. They were all fooled. Everyone probably got the same postcard in the mail showing the Golden Gate Bridge all lit up in sunlight, no fog, no wind. Northern California was not the perfect 72 degree weather of Los Angeles. Tourists would hop off the planes in shorts and t-shirts and head right for the vendors selling hooded sweat shirts with cable cars on them. Be sure to put a flower in your hair, and bring your jacket.

    Alex could see the huge wall of fog rolling in from the west as he knelt beside the old '53 and figured he had about an hour left before it just wasn't worth staying out anymore. His butt was cold and numb from sitting on the driveway, but he had to get these last two brake cylinders installed tonight so he could use tomorrow to bleed the brakes and work out any problems. Everything had to be done and working by Monday or he'd have to take another day off from work, which his boss would just love.

    "Why don't you just get yourself a more reliable car, Alex? We wouldn't have these problems?" Alex would never respond with more than a shrug.

    He couldn't afford a new car, not that he'd want one. He could probably drop a grand down on some ten year old beater, but it just didn't seem right. He loved his Dodge and couldn't imagine having any other vehicle. There was no heat, no defrost, no radio, and it was still a 6 volt system. The charging system wasn't working, but he had a system worked out of swapping batteries when one went dead (usually in the middle of driving). The interior was original and looked it. Duct tape held most of the seats together and a few blankets provided cushion while also keeping the hardened foam dust from flying around while he drove. The fuel gauge didn't work but he was happy the speedometer was functioning, not that there was any real concern of being pulled over for speeding in this boat.

    The old Dodge surely wasn't practical, but it just made him happy. The windows rolled down, it ran, and it stopped. Well, it kind of stopped, which is why he was rushing to fix the brakes during the weekend. Alex wasn't the best at making friends, so as usual, this was a one-man job. He had finished the front wheels and now the rear cylinders needed to be attached and plumbed. It would be close.

    Down at the corner a blacked out sedan turned left and crept up the street, parking in front of the driveway. Alex looked up and recognized his father's car, but kept working. He heard the door open, the dinging of the open door alert, and then the sound of a trunk popping. Alex tightened the bolt holding the rear passenger brake cylinder on, put down his socket wrench, and grabbed a rag.

    "Hey pop." He wiped his hands as best he could. He saw his father awkwardly lift a black box out of his trunk. "I didn't know you were comin' over today."

    His father slammed the trunk down and walked up the driveway with a strained grin on his face. "I brought you a little something."

    Alex watched his father try to balance himself as he carried the heavy box in his right hand. He was a 62 year old man, but still was stubborn and would refuse any help, so Alex knew better than to offer. It then dawned on him what his father was carrying and he jumped up to stand.

    "Your mother and I just got back yesterday. We probably spent a week going through your grandpa's things, most of it junk. We set aside anything we thought you might want to have, some old tools, that recliner of his you liked. The grandfather clock is going to your sister, though. You'll just need to make a trip out to get what you want. The rest will go to auction."

    Alex wasn't too interested in his words, just what he was carrying.

    "But we did bring this back for you, your grandpa had specifically asked us to give it to you before he died."

    He recognized the box. It was his grandpa's old toolbox. The old, black enamel was chipped and rusting, but it instantly flooded his memories of sitting beside his grandpa as they worked on his old truck. His grandpa had shown him how to rebuild his first carburetor with those tools.

    His father plopped the box down and wiped his hands together. "Here ya go."

    "So how are you and mom doing?" Alex didn't look at his father, just the tool box.

    "We're doing fine, we had been preparing for it for a while. Your mother is still a wreck, but she loved him just as much as I did. We brought his ashes back, and we'll probably have some sort of ceremony soon. We need to get all you kids here, and we know how hard it is to do that."

    "I'd definitely like to help with whatever I can." This time he looked his father in the eye.

    "Alright. We'll talk about it tomorrow. It's getting late and your mother's got dinner cooking. I just wanted to bring these by tonight."

    "Thank you, pop."

    Alex walked him back to his car. He'd have normally hugged him, but the grease on his shirt told him to keep his distance. He waved goodbye, still wiping his hands on the rag. There wasn't much sun left. No real point in working any more tonight. He'd just get that fourth brake cylinder on tomorrow, there shouldn't be a problem. Past experience told him otherwise, but he was tired and it was getting cold.

    He stared at the old tool box, lifted it up by its well-worn wooden handle and carried it into the garage. He turned on the lights, picked up his tools from the driveway, and shut the garage door to keep out the cold and fog. Led Zeppelin was crackling on the speakers. "Raaa...mmble... on"

    He pulled up a chair and slid the tool box in front of him. On the back was a faded stamp. "Kennedy Kits - Made of Metal - Patented - Van Wert, Ohio." His grandpa grew up in Van Wert. Lived in Van Wert. Died in Van Wert. He had been a factory worker in midwest back when there was a huge industry boom. No problem finding a factory job back then. After the war he headed back with plenty of skills from repairing the planes on the aircraft carriers. He had done some time in Detroit working for Chrysler, but eventually settled back in Ohio where he worked the rest of his life as a machinist at a farm equipment manufacturer.

    When Alex was looking for an old car to fix up, his grandpa helped him choose the Coronet. "Ya know? I probably helped make that one, Alex." That's all he had to say and he bought it from an old farmer in Napa.

    He turned the tool box around a few times and then faced it towards him. He flipped the three latches open and delicately peeled the two top halves open. He could smell the old oil. His grandfather always had that smell. The smell of hot metal cooled by oil working the lathes and mills. The smell would stick to his clothes. It was a sweet smell, a pleasant smell. Whenever he would visit his grandfather he would hold his cracked, grease-caked hands as they walked to his garage. His young hands would have the same smell. It was comforting.

    Alex sat there under the incandescent work lamp and let the memories flood back. His grandpa was the one who made him who he is. He was a quiet man. An honorable man. And good with his hands. Somehow the latter had skipped a generation with his father. His father couldn't even unscrew a lightbulb. Maybe he rebelled against having a blue collar life. He had latched on to the flower-power scene in the late 60's and made the pilgramage to San Francisco. He was a Class 1 Hippy, the works. The hair, the clothes, the VW bus filled with incense infused curtains and shag carpeting. But like many of his generation, after the hippy trend died off, he cut his hair and fell right into a dull desk job working for a chemical company in Monterey. Sure, he couldn't repair a flat, but he could sell you 100 cases of petroleum based cleaner with a smile and a handshake.

    It must have skipped a generation. Alex would spend his summers with his brother and sister at his grandpa's. His parents would use the summer to go on some vacation to the British Islands or Corsica. This was fine with Alex. He loved just being in the presence of his grandfather. He was a kind man and spent every moment of the summer spoiling his grandkids. They spent most of the time at his house, but it was like summer camp. He'd always keep them busy with projects. And he made the best fried bologna sandwiches, cut like Pac Man, in the midwest on white bread; slightly greasy finger prints usually included. His brother was the artist, liked to draw, and his grandfather encouraged him by buying him pads of paper and paints and canvas. His sister hosted tea parties with her dollie; Grandpa always had a seat. But with him his grandfather recognized he was good with his hands. Many a day were spent rebuilding mower small gas engines and showing him how to do repairs on the house. Alex was too eager to help. And learn.

    Alex got up and opened the garage door. The fog was rolling in and starting to fold around the Dodge and the neighbors' cars. The windows were covered in condensation and it was chilly. He pulled the garage door back down and started up the electric heater in the garage. Creedence was on the radio. "I ainnn't noo fortunate son, no!"

    He went and sat back down in front of the tool box. The top tray was filled with standard 3/8" drive sockets and an old Craftsman socket wrench. These were good tools. They didn't make them like this anymore. These tools would last another 1000 years and were actually made in the U.S.A., not like the cheap Chinese shit of today. He was also impressed that it was a complete set of sockets. Try as he might, Alex could never keep a complete set. He'd always lose one or two somewhere. The biggest problem was the hill he lived on. If he accidentally set something on its side, it would just roll, roll, roll down the hill to god knows where. He couldn't count the times he had to chase after sockets, rolls of tape, and spray paint cans. Occasionally something would get away from him.

    He picked up the socket wrench. It almost felt warm. It probably was still covered in grease and palm oils from his grandfather. It felt good, solid. He attached one of the sockets and rotated it back and forth on the wrench listening to the "click." It sounded like a clock ticking. It put his modern Craftsman wrench to shame. Mixed in with the sockets and wrench were some small screwdrivers and some spare fuses, automobile light bulbs, and various keys to who knows. Things like that always seem to somehow find there way to a toolbox. Whatever these keys belong to probably doesn't even exist anymore. And he was sure the fuses and bulbs were blown.

    The top tray lifted up with a little work and exposed the bottom section of the tool box. Laying in there was an assortment of wooden-handled metal working hammers, screw drivers, c-clamps, pliers, cutting shears, crescent wrenches, some worn milling bits, and a set of drill bits. Alex pulled each tool out and studied it, before carefully placing them in a pile on the garage floor. As he got the bottom, there were a couple rusty screws, an old fishing lure. "That will make a great little decoration for my Dodge's sun visor."

    The tool box was empty of tools. But it wasn't empty. On the bottom of the tool box there was a envelope, stained from oil and years of water moisture and covered in dust. Alex turned the tool box over and banged on the bottom, hoping it would dislodge the envelope. No luck. He turned the box back over and wiped the envelope with his rag.

    "Alex" was written in pencil in a man's cursive handwriting.

    He felt a knot grow in his throat and stared at the writing for a few moments. "A letter? For him?" He slid a fingernail under the edge and carefully peeled the envelope off the bottom. It was held on by tacky residue of some sort, but it came off clean. Holding the envelope in his hands he sat back in the chair. He held it up to the work light and could clearly see a folded piece of paper inside. He tapped it a few times on one side and cut the other side open with his pocket knife (given to him by his grandpa). The radio crackled, America was playing. "This is for alll the lonely peeeeople..."

    He turned it over and tapped it until the letter fell out onto the floor. He started to unfold it. It was folded twice, very neatly. He turned his body to get the light to shine on the letter.

    Your parents just picked you kids up and I said good bye for the year. I just wanted to let you know how much I love you all and how much you mean to your ol' grandpappy. I'm writing this letter as I know that someday you will read this. Probably not for many years. Probably not until I am long gone. It will get to you somehow. Alex, you and me, we're the same. You have made this lonely old man happy. And probably added a few years to my life. I sure miss your grandma, but when you kids are around, I feel truly happy again. Just always remember that I love you and will always be with you.
    Love forever,
    September 1985"

    Alex could barely read the last few sentences. His eyes were cloudy and filled with tears. A few drops had fallen over the bottom of the letter. He got up, sniffed in a few times, and folded the letter back and put it back in the envelope. He neatly repacked the tool box, placing the letter on the top tray, and closed the lid. He snapped all three latches back and lifted the tool box over to a shelf and slid it into an open space.

    Wiping his eyes with his shirt sleeve, he turned off the light and the radio and went inside for the night. The garage went black. The only sounds were the wind whistling against the garage. Tomorrow he'd get that last brake cylinder on, bleed the brakes, and everything will be just fine. There won't be a problem. His grandpa had taught him well. And his grandpa helped make a great car.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2011
  2. dirty old man
    Joined: Feb 2, 2008
    Posts: 8,912

    dirty old man

    I don't see how anyone could possiblt add anything to this beautifully written post. And please, no wise ass remarks!
    I'm posting to express my thanks for your writing this, and to take it back to the top before it falls too far down the page.
  3. Vorhese
    Joined: May 26, 2004
    Posts: 766


    Thanks Dave!
  4. 29 bones
    Joined: Sep 26, 2006
    Posts: 1,126

    29 bones
    from so cal

    Great ......
    very well done.
    Happy New year Vorhese

  5. jerry sezar
    Joined: Oct 12, 2005
    Posts: 95

    jerry sezar

    I enjoyed reading your story. I still use some of my father's and grandfather's tools. I haven't found any envelope's addressed to me in any of the old toolboxes but I still have some of the notes they wrote to themselves for their projects.

    Thanks Vorhese
  6. Moonglow2
    Joined: Feb 4, 2007
    Posts: 658


    For a few years now I have been making these very plans for my only grandson. He gets the 54 and the tools as well. Thanks for putting them into words.
  7. Kevin Lee
    Joined: Nov 12, 2001
    Posts: 7,440

    Kevin Lee
    Super Moderator
    Staff Member

    Very nice. Thanks.
  8. 40FORDPU
    Joined: Mar 15, 2009
    Posts: 3,102

    from Yelm, Wa
    1. Northwest HAMBers

    I am constantly impressed with the talent the people of the H.A.M.B. possess..and it isn't just building Hot Rods. Thank you.
  9. So true. Very nicely written. I have some of my grandfather's tools from when he passed over 20 years ago. Some are from the late '30s into WWII. All of those are in one drawer in my toolbox. They get used plenty, but all go back to that drawer.
  10. ProEnfo
    Joined: Sep 28, 2005
    Posts: 1,498

    from Motown

    Thank you....

  11. -Brent-
    Joined: Nov 20, 2006
    Posts: 6,188


    I needed to read something like that today. Thanks.
  12. hot rust
    Joined: Sep 18, 2007
    Posts: 697

    hot rust

    reading this makes me realize that there are actually people who care and respect things of the past. i have several items that i keep of this same manner. and alot i keep in my head (values,morals and ethics)that were taught to me by people i respected and cared alot about. if only the generations of today would see the world in the same way maybe the world would be a better place for everyone instead of the (I, me ) thinking and caring ones that are around now. enough ranting
  13. Vorhese
    Joined: May 26, 2004
    Posts: 766


    Thanks for all the kind words! The grandpa in this story is, if anyone, based on my dad. I never knew my own grandparents. The car described is based on my Desoto. I've never owned a Kennedy tool box either.
  14. plym49
    Joined: Aug 9, 2008
    Posts: 2,797

    from Earth

  15. as I wipe the tears from my eyes This has made my day.
    Joined: Feb 1, 2007
    Posts: 483

    from Cincinnati

    I have my Fathers and Grandfathers box in the garage and it amazes me how they turned out such nice cars with so little tools!
  17. Rickybop
    Joined: May 23, 2008
    Posts: 7,186

    from Michigan

    Awesome Jason. A simple story, yet you gave it life. I like how you had America singing "This is for all the lonely people..." as Alex opened the letter from his late grandfather. A very warm and touching story, and nicely written. Perfect for the H.A.M.B. Thankyou.
    P.S. - Indented paragraphs don't work here...I've tried! :) Rick
  18. 34 Plymouth Hemi
    Joined: Apr 8, 2008
    Posts: 68

    34 Plymouth Hemi

  19. willymakeit
    Joined: Apr 13, 2009
    Posts: 1,326


    Thank you for story that is done well. Brings back many memories.
  20. GlenC
    Joined: Mar 21, 2007
    Posts: 757


    Great story, well written too. Comes close to my heart, my grandfather's tool box is sitting under the bench in my garage, and whenever I need an out-of-the-ordinary tool I go digging in it. Poppa Jim handmade a lot of his own tools, sockets on the end of long bars, cresent wrenches, little hammers that get into tight corners. they're all in that tool box.

    Cheers, Glen.
  21. mako4r
    Joined: Mar 19, 2008
    Posts: 119


    I'm hard pressed to type.... and my throat has a lump. thank you
  22. I appreciate your creativity. Nice story. Thanks for posting.
  23. SYCO620
    Joined: Jan 26, 2009
    Posts: 96

    from Merced, Ca

    Wow this hit pretty close to home. At christmas my dad brought over the tool box that my grandpa made filled w/ all the tools he used as a kid and also all the tools my dad used in the 50s to build his 37 ford. Those tools and box mean more to me than I can describe as my grandpa passed away last year. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for a great story......
  24. jroberts
    Joined: Oct 14, 2008
    Posts: 1,645


    Great read, thanks!
    I remember my dad and I working on an old go kart when I was 12 or 13. I still, to this day, remember him asking me in all seriousness, if I was afraid to get my hands dirty. I never thought about that before then. I certainly never thought about being afraid of getting my hands dirty, but I quickly learned that what he wanted was for me to get my hands in on the project at hand. He was always a better mechanic than I have ever been, but he did teach me a respect for machinery and the tools we use to fix it. I think the skipping a generation thing really is true in my family. My son is also a much better mechanic than I have ever been.
  25. Thank you! I watched as a young kid when my Grandpa, Uncle John, and Dad replaced the grousers on a Cat D4 with first gen hydraulics. A 283 rebuild for a 63 Chevy orchard truck, 235 for the 62 orchard truck. Helped older second cousin Jim when my Massey 165 was built to be my working tractor, I was 11, he went to school with my Dad. Helped my Dad set up orchard air sprayers, tractor drawn equipment, starting at 9.
    Maybe I can be that Grandpa one day! But my toolbox is heavy for a 3/4 ton pickup. My travel box weighs 120 lbs.
    Thank you again, making me think of older and easier times. Dreams I had for my sons, wishes for the future.
  26. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 9,877


    Very nice. Thanks.
  27. scooterseats
    Joined: Dec 12, 2008
    Posts: 59

    from East Texas

    Thank you for such a well written story that definitely hits many of us close to where we live. My dad was a mechanic from the time he got out of the Navy in WWII. I still have his first tool set that he bought on the GI Bill. I was raised in the garage with Dad tutoring me in the trade. This story has brought so many memories, I will be busy for the rest of the night just sorting through them. Once again, Thank you for this trip to the past!
  28. Thank you for such a great story it made me realize how lucky Iam to have had the the male influences in my life , my Grampa and my Dad . You defineatly captured the essence of that relationship, Love plain and simple.
    And thanks for making my day with this story, Rob !
  29. wood470
    Joined: May 21, 2008
    Posts: 226


    I too have a Kennedy box from my dad and it is only used to hold my best and oldest treasures from my Dad and Grandpa. Starret mikes and rulers,reamers drills taps, a lot o strange stuff but the best I have. Most people have no idea why I would save this stuff. I have a brother who didn't care at all. Told me to just take it all. I'm glad to read that I'm not the only one to be touched by this old stuff.
  30. oilslinger53
    Joined: Apr 17, 2007
    Posts: 2,500

    from covina CA

    You sir, are an amazing writer... I'm not an emotional man, but this story brought a tear to my eye... Beautiful, Thank you!

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