Sitting here in my office, immediately after a lunch of Rueben on Swirled Rye and my daily fix of unsweetened iced tea. I see on the screen, the madness that seems to be our world as it is, in the present day. On the right of my computer screen is a rendering of Harry Truman and an American flag in some ad for something to prove to someone you are more patriotic than the next guy. To the left, a well-known "JA" Jack Approved decal stuck on the wall. I've spent a good deal of time avoiding and loathing much of what I see on social media and in the news anymore. Funny thing about it all, if you turn off the computer and television, real life takes a turn for the better. No barrage of bad news, political and religious propaganda disappears... unless you talk to yourself about it, or hang out in places where some dope thinks he/she are going to educate you. Stop the intrusion, get a hobby.
Owning this intrusion into my life, known as a business, affords me some perks from time to time. Twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday to be exact, my boys come to the shop, instead of going to the grandparents house. Sometimes, we go catch a movie, or have lunch in the park. My oldest, works in the shop to make money. This past week, while waiting for me to finish a job, I put them both to the test. They were bored and I showed them how to unfasten Dzus fasteners. They promptly started taking the Hippo apart, with a little direction from yours truly. They never let me down, or disappoint. They are sharp kids and at 11 and 14 they work together pretty well. They had all the body panels off, removed the hillbilly throttle pedal and chute mount too. It took them about an hour and a half. Of course, I took photos of everything. Documenting every step of their existence seems to have become my mission. It takes on a little more importance for me, than most. If you know me, you know why. If not, simply put, I lost my oldest son to a car accident, almost 5 years ago. He was a good kid. I'm not going to turn this into a lament of days gone by. Another place and time for that.
Using wrenches to work, not fight.
Watch videos of these two in action - Video 1 - Video 2 - Video 3 - Video 4
Consider this though... In this thing we call our hobby/disease/obsession, including our kids is something we need to do. They may piss and moan when you suggest it, even give you (as Archie Bunker would say) a constipated look. But, if you can make it interesting for them, it turns into an education they aren't even aware they are receiving. This past week, for example, when I had the boys take the dragster body off, I explained Dzus fasteners to them. I told them the name of the guy who invented them and how his name was spelled. I even explained how to pronounce the name and how it sounded like the Greek character. As their progress continued, I would come back and check on them, show them how to do the next chore, or how to hold the wrench and then leave them to their task. When I returned and turned on the camera, I asked them to explain what they had done. The oldest took charge and started listing everything and the younger one jumped in too. I asked what the name of the fastener was and I'll be damned if they didn't recite the whole schpeil I gave them earlier. Sponges when they want to be, now try that with history or English.... much different outcome!
Out with the old
Sure, I get free labor out of the deal... I keep telling myself that! Something better happened in the bigger picture, though. My boys learned how working together gets a job done. They learned how this beast of automotive engineering went together. A little drag racing history tossed in there, with a little discussion of what may go on at Bakersfield this year. The ultimate compliment was paid to me when they told me they had fun and learned " cool stuff". As a father, when your kid tells you they learned something cool from you ... Well, you stand a little taller. There's a feeling of pride, unmatched, and for some reason you might get something in your eye and find it hard to swallow. Damned allergies...yeah... that's what it is.
What's cooler than a Vega funny car?
Two more weeks and I lose my "executive board". They go back to school and inevitably someone will ask what they did over vacation. I wonder how many of their classmates will be able to say they worked on funny cars, dragsters and hot rods. How many went to work with the old man and hung out at the art museum. Installing lettering in galleries with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of the coolest art on the planet. Probably not many... if any at all. That is a shame. As my old man, John Delmar Buck would say, " a cryin' damn shame." This past week, the old man would have turned 73. He died when I was 15, heart attack at 36. What that should tell you, life is precious....make the most of the damned thing and leave one hell of a skidmark when you go out! This is another reason I spend as much time as I can with my sons. Just in case I make an early exit, they will have had as much of my time that they could get. But I digress. I told my boys at lunch that afternoon, if they would have been around when I was young, they would have been the cool kids in our group. They grinned and sat a little taller. Funny how when us old farts figure out a way to compliment them, they dig it and never forget.
If you are reading this, it goes without saying, you are one of the coolest mofos on the planet. That's just how it is when you are a race fan, car guy/girl, motorhead, grease monkey, etc. Propagate the faith and include your kids, please. We need to keep our ranks full and healthy. There's a bonus to it too. They will know you care, love them and want to be with them. No need to force it on them, or expect them to rebuild a Dana. Give them a rag and let them wipe the wrenches, sweep and talk about silly things that mean something to them. I have no clue what Optimus Prime does and I am well-versed in My Little Pony episodes and what a "brony" is. The short one told me all about it. Really, he did! All that is part of spending time with them. Time that you can never get back, packed with memories. My daughter will turn 30 this year. She has two degrees, lived in NYC for a few years, married to a great guy, and has her own dance academy. I was in my shop this past weekend and get a text from her. She and her husband went to Kentucky to visit friends. I get a text alert, she sent me photos of a couple cars at a car show they happened upon. I thought to myself, " ya did okay, Buck." She grew up going to car shows with me. There's always some association we all make to the past, sound or smell usually brings a memory. Once, we were setting up a float for a parade her dancers were in. I was spray painting some piece of it and she recalled to her husband, how that smell reminded her of the car shows. Her memories of going to shows with our friends Roger and Linda Allen and their kids. Roger's Camaro, and how practically every one would ask what color it was.... "Candy Brandywine", we all knew the answer when quizzed. If your reading this Roger, you're indelibly etched in Meg's memory. She will proclaim her fondness for the smell of bondo, "ever since I was a little girl!", she will profess.
I hear and read people complain how kids aren't into this and they are more interested in video games. Well, maybe so, if you rest on that assumption, it will become a sad fact. It never hurts to tell them they are putting the phones and games down and doing something else. Let them pout and complain, so what if they do. I'm sure if you were like me, your parents had some smart ass remark for your disdain for their orders. We survived , they will too. Don't worry if their psyche is wounded, or if they get mad at you. You are the parent, not their friend. They have plenty of friends, we are the mentoring force in their life. It could be the difference between an incoherent bump on a log , with drooping pants and an incoherent mumble.... and a young person who has manners and ability to solve their own problems and varied interests. Hell, the one we lost, he wasn't much into the car thing. He was born into it and could care less. When he started driving, he had a Lincoln Mark VIII I gave him. I did a wrap on it and painted the wheels . It was dark and kind of sinister with blue flames and skulls. He would rather drive my Yukon than the car... until I went out of town and he had to drive it. Some little gal thought it was cool and that's when the light went off. After that, he drove that thing everywhere and eventually left the bonds of earth in it....he called it Alice.
All we have to do is open their eyes to it. Like someone did for us and we remember the best parts.
Try it, they may just like it.You may even do something dumb, like become a hero in their eyes.
NOSTALGIA DRAG WORLD - Text and photos by Eddie Buck