Words make a difference
By Bill Shepard
It is strange and past my understanding as to how little and insignificant things can start one’s minds to working! Sometimes it is a song, a fragrance, even a word spoken, and our mind takes off to long yesteryears. We recall people, faces, things and events of long, long ago. It would take a person much smarter than I to explain such a mystery. All I know is that it happens, and often to me.
Like a while back, when my sister and I were visiting over the telephone. We do that often these days. The cold and rainy days we’ve had recently has lent themselves well for our visits, not being able to be outside very much. That should change pretty soon, now that springtime is here.
Just a few days ago, we were having one of our visits and my sister said that she had been outside in the cold.
“Why were you outside in the cold?” I asked.
She said, “I went outside to see if my car would crank!”
“Say that again,” I said.
My sister repeated that she had been outside to crank her car.
“Sis,” I said, “That word ‘crank’ went out with the T-Model Ford!”
Like I said, sometimes a word will set a mind into motion. When I heard the word “crank”, I went back to my childhood days. Dad had a T-Model Ford, a real dandy one with two seats. It had four doors and curtainless windows. Celluloid curtains could be had, but Dad couldn’t afford to pay extra for them. It was hard enough to come up with the twenty dollars he paid for the car! If it was raining, or in the winter, Mama would put the children in the back seat floor-board of the car, and place a quilt over us to keep us warm and dry.
When we started off somewhere, Dad really had to crank that car! A crank came with the car. It was a long piece of metal that was shaped in such a way that one end would fit into a slot under the fan belt. I don’t know just how it worked, but Dad would often tell me to sit under the steering wheel and control the levers that were mounted on the steering post. One, he called the gas, and the other called the spark. Both had to be just right, or the car would not start (crank). Dad would insert the crank into the proper slot and pull up, turning the motor. If it didn’t start (crank), he would say, “Give it a little more spark or gas!” and I would adjust the levers. That process would continue until the car would crank! Sometimes he would jack up one of the rear wheels and spin it around to make it start. I don’t know why he did that. There were a lot of things about that car that I didn’t understand. There was a long time that I thought it ran on water! Water was the only thing I ever saw him put in it! Sometimes when the family would be out in the country for a Sunday afternoon drive, Dad would stop and dip water from a ditch and pour it into the radiator. I thought it operated on water.
Another thing I didn’t understand was why the car would climb a hill backwards, but not forward! The hill between our house on the village, and up town, was not very steep – but that car would balk nearly every time we headed to town. With our family all seated inside, Dad would get up all the speed he could, but before we could clear the hill, the old car would come to a stop. Dad would allow it to roll back to the bottom of the hill, and we would unload. He would turn the car around and back up the hill, while the rest of us walked up. At the top of the hill, we would load up again and move on. Those really were the “good old days!” I loved it when we’d go for a ride through the country on a Sunday afternoon. Those long summer days we would see the pigs, chickens, cows, and sometimes people out for a walk. We seldom made one of these trips that we didn’t have a least one flat tire! Dad would take the tire off, and patch the inner tube. While he repaired the tire, I would play along the side of the road. Good times!
Well, Sis, you see what a what a word can do? They really can make a lot of difference. I heard a math teacher tell the following story. It seems that he had gone to a little back-woodsy school to teach. He was teaching the children math addition. That’s not too hard until you start the carrying process. He put the board numerals like 187 + 8 = 25. We put down the five, and carry the one. Simple, isn’t it? Not so to everyone! Over and over the teacher explained, “Put down the five, and carry the one!”
One little boy could never understand. His classmates said, “Let me help him!” He went to the boy’s desk, and within minutes he returned and said, “Now he understands!”
“What did you do?” asked the teacher.
The boy said, “I told him to tote the one instead of carrying it!”
I toted a lot of things when I was a boy, did you?
Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C. Signed copies of Mr. Shepard’s books “Mill Town Boy” and “Bruised” are available for purchase at the News and Press office. He has been sharing his tales of growing up in Darlington for decades, and we are delighted to share them each week.