STORY ABOUT BEING STUPID
or how i was ejected from the NABCW club, and became an officer of the Superman club
Grandad Harvey had a few favorite names, phrases and what for lack of a better word I might call japes with which to "encourage" us, his grandchildren. For example, if one of us had done something which did not meet his expectations, he might say, "You know what you are? You're a drismal! Do you know what that is?" Here there might be a pause, but rarely long enough to begin an answer, and an answer was never necessary, because whether or not we answered, he would say, "A drismal is a combination between a drip and a dismal." And then he would chuckle, or perhaps not, if the infraction was particularly grave.
Another one of his favorites was the NABCW club. Innocently bend a knife by using it to try to pry a drawer open, and you might hear, "You are a card carrying member of the NABCW club. Do you know what that is?" Again, the slight pause. "It's the Not A Brain Cell Working club." We seemed to be lifetime members of the NABCW club, and would occasionally have our status elevated to officer of the club, or possibly even serve terms as president.
I think some time in High School, or maybe Junior High School, I started flying up to Wisconsin to go deer hunting with Grandad. We had that week off of school because of Thanksgiving (and deer season where I lived). We would go up to the shack for the opening few days or week of deer season, then come back to his house for a nice Thanksgiving dinner. We never had venison for Thanksgiving though. In fact, over the years, I only saw a deer one time while I was in the woods with a gun, and it was only for a fraction of a second as it ran across a logging road in front of me, from the thick woods on one side of the road to the thick woods on the other side.
Hunting season has been going on for a long time, and the deer have pretty much figured it out. Or maybe all the ones who didn't have already gotten shot. From sunrise to sunset, when it's legal to shoot a deer (and which doesn't seem like a very long time that far north), the deer lay low in the swamps, maybe having a nice nap. So if you're not part of a big party of hunters, which Grandad and I usually weren't, you don't really have that much of a chance of even seeing a deer, except when you're driving out to the bars that night for a drink, you might see five or ten in the headlights. The successful hunters get together and split into two groups, one group stationary at one end of a swamp, the other group starting at the other end of the swamp, walking towards the others, making plenty of noise to try to drive the deer into the waiting group.
So I figured out pretty early on that I probably wouldn't get a deer since we didn't do much deer driving, but that didn't make it any less fun. There's something nice about sitting as still as possible in the freezing cold woods for hours just listening and looking and waiting.
By that time in November, there was often snow on the ground, and the lake by the shack was usually frozen, and it was bitter cold. But we almost never came back empty handed, or should I say without something tied to the roof of the car, because we had great success with the hunt for christmas trees. Grandad had an AMC American Eagle station wagon, with four wheel drive, which was helpful when driving on snow covered dirt tracks (he liked to buy AMC because there was an AMC plant near where he lived).
On one particular visit, I think I might have been in my last year of high school, or maybe even first year of college. At any rate, I had my driver's license, so I could help with the driving, of which there was five or six hours each way between Grandad's house and the shack.
Going up to the shack with snow on the ground, building fires, making kindling, loading and unloading a gun, walking around in the woods in the snow, chopping a hole in the ice of the frozen lake to get water and such like things led to many opportunities for Grandad to point out what a drismal I was, or let me know what a good member of the NABCW club I had become. But there were also occasions when he would threaten to have me kicked out of the club. For example, if I made a nice breakfast, or if I got up in the middle of the night and added a log to the fire so the cabin would stay warm all night, or brought in a good supply of wood so no one would have to go outside for wood all day, my good standing in the NABCW club might be put in jeopardy.
I think for most of this trip, it was just Grandad and me at the shack, none of the other guys who sometimes came up were there. When we went to bed, Grandad would lay out the plan for the next day, to make best use of the limited daylight. "Alright, set the alarm for 5:30, we'll get up and have a cup of coffee, then go out for a few hours, then come back in and have a nice leisurely breakfast." So I'd set the alarm for 5:30 and we'd go to sleep. After a nice night of sleeping, maybe getting up to put a log on the fire, 5:30 would roll around, and the alarm would start going off. Luckily it was a wind up alarm clock, and I knew it would only ring for so long. I'd stay still and quiet to see what would happen, and more often than not, nothing would happen, the alarm would ring for a minute or so, Grandad would stir a little bit in his sleep, then blissful silence would return to the shack.
Then about six thirty or seven, I would get up, or sometimes Grandad would, and then I would, and we'd light a lantern, I'd add some wood to the fire, or get a new one going if it had gone out, maybe start one in the kitchen wood stove to make it comfortably warm. Then start some water on the gas stove for the morning's first cup of coffee.
We would sit at the table looking out the window, where it would just be getting light. It would be dark and cold out there, sometimes windy and snowing. After enjoying the coffee, I might suggest that maybe we should go ahead and have breakfast now, since the sun was already coming up, and then after breakfast we could go out and get a few good hours before lunch. That's usually what we ended up doing, having the nice leisurely breakfast before going out for a few hours.
So after several days of nice leisurely breakfasts, it was time to leave. We packed up, and secured the christmas tree to the roof rack with some clothesline brought along for the job, and started driving south. I think he drove the first half or so, which was a little scary sometimes because as he'd gotten older, his driving had become a little strange. At some point he accepted my offer to drive the rest of the way, and it seemed more relaxing to be in the driver's seat.
Somewhere north of Milwaukee, the car started slowing down. When I tried to accelerate, the pedal went to the floor, but nothing happened. We were on the interstate, but there wasn't much traffic at all so I was able to make my way to the shoulder, where the car kept slowing down until we were crawling along at an idle, then as we started going up a hill, the car slowed even more till we were barely moving at all. I stopped the car, and got out to check things out.
It was dark by this time, bitter cold and very windy. It was a particularly desolate stretch of highway, with a fence divider, and off the shoulder a tall fence, a wide field, another fence, then some kind of residential area. We hadn't passed an exit recently, and there wasn't another visible up ahead. It looked like we might have to idle along until we found an exit, if we could get the car to go up the hill, and hope there was some kind of service station nearby. But I figured it might be worth a look to see if I could tell what was wrong.
I got back in the car and told Grandad I was going to check it out. He was fairly skeptical that I could do much useful, but seemed content to humor me. I turned the heat on high, warmed up a bit, turned the engine off, popped the hood and got a flashlight. The pedal was still flat on the floor, but I could easily lift it and it would fall back down. I got out and looked under the car, and there was a cable dangling down to the ground. I opened the hood, and found where the accelerator cable attached to the carburetor, and that was the cable which was detached. I tried to pull it taught along where it looked like it should go, and I could see there was no way I could reattach it, but I could pull on it, and see the part of the carburetor which it controlled. I got back in the car, started the engine again, and warmed up again. We had some clothesline left from the christmas tree tying, so I got a length of that, and went back out under the hood. I tied the clothesline to the place where the broken accelerator cable attached to the carburetor, and when I pulled on it, I could rev the engine. I dropped the clothesline down through the engine compartment to the ground, and shut the hood. I came back to the drivers side, reached under the car and got the now dangling clothesline, pulled it up and looped it around the rear view mirror.
When I was back in the car, I opened the window, got the clothesline off the rear view mirror, then closed the window most of the way, leaving it open enough for the clothesline to slide in and out. So then when I pulled on the clothesline, it pulled in the same direction the accelerator cable had, and off we went. The clothesline had a sort of rubbery coating to it, and it went under the car, and up the door and through the window, so there was a lot of friction to overcome, so I had to pull pretty hard, and let it go really slack to slow down. This created a sort of delayed reaction for acceleration and deceleration, but there wasn't much traffic to worry about, and the brakes were good, so I drove the rest of the way back to Grandad's house with the heat on high to compensate for the slightly open window.
This was when Grandad had me permanently ejected from the NABCW club, and informed me that I was now president of the Superman club. For the next day or two, I was a hero. He enjoyed telling everyone at the Thanksgiving dinner about how I'd saved the day, or rather the night, the cold, windy night.
So that's the story about how I was kicked out of the NABCW club, and became an officer in the Superman club. Sorry it took me so long to tell you.