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Terry L. White

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Member Since: Jul, 2007

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What Boat?
By Terry L. White
Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Dad's building a boat out of the most unusual materials, watch what happens next!

What Boat?

My father had a love affair with aircraft ever since he was a boy, and when he was a man, he went to war and had a career as a photographer in the Army Air Corps.

The aircraft of my father’s youth were built of a wooden skeleton covered by a layer of varnished cloth. Most had an upper and lower wing, which increased the lift needed to propel even the smallest aircraft into the heavens.

Men tried to fly for thousands of years.

And I somehow believe that my father dreamed of flight until his dying day. I know we drove past the airport the day before he did cut loose from his life on earth, and Dad had laughed to see a P52, the war bird of many a childhood yarn.

Dad talked about airplanes a lot. When he didn’t have anything else to do on a Sunday afternoon, he would take us to an airport and let us play in the cockpits while he shot the breeze with a pilot or two.

I think if we hadn’t been so poor, Dad would have had a plane of his own. As it was he was kid-poor and when he did set out to build a pleasure vehicle it turned out to be a boat rather than an aircraft.

As if we could tell the difference.

First off, Pop built a framework of wood he had stored in the big chicken coop out behind the house. He designed what they call a jon-boat, a flat-bottomed skiff that didn’t draw but a couple of inches of water.

The part that went into legend, was the wonderful fabrics Dad found to put the skin on his wonderful invention.

Back when I was a kid, you could get a cotton feed sack for a dime, maybe a quarter. Now they made feed sacks from fabric that was suitable for children’s clothing, so the cloth was printed with all manner of fanciful and colorful motifs.

Tacked to the framework of Dad’s wonderful boat, the colors of daisies and roses grew as bright as jewels under layers and layers of shellac.

Now, any good wood man can tell you that varnish is waterproof, shellac is not.

My father, always the optimist, didn’t think there was all that much difference in the two substances – and he spent long hours spreading layer after layer of what he supposed to be sealer on his beautiful multi-colored boat.

He finished the boat one sultry summer night, and announced that we would have a picnic the very next day, which was Saturday.

He fussed with that boat, getting it on top of the car just so. He stopped in town for a case of pop, some hot dogs and rolls, a jar of mustard and a couple of boxes of marshmallows.

He had the idea he could fish while we ate.

It wasn’t that bad an idea, except all that shellac began to melt like wax on a stove lid. Dad had his hook baited, his had drawn over his eyes and his feet over the bow, happy as a fish in water.

Which he soon was.

You could hear all sorts of interesting language as he rescued his rod and tackle and waded sadly back to shore. You could see the disappointment on his face as he stared out to the place where his beautiful boat had been. He never mentioned the day again.

Oh, there were any number of times when one of us kids would mention the boat, but Dad always drew the culprit up short. He would look my brother, or sister, or me in the eye, draw up a breath, and shake his head in dismay.

“What boat?” he would say, all innocence and light, and no matter what you said he never would admit that boat ever existed.

And today from the great perspective of a creative and sometimes misguided old age, I can see that it never did.


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