Stories from my early tool days.

This is JohnJohn, an excellent automotive mechanic who worked out of a garage and yard on a back alley. In 1966, he was a good friend in Washington, D.C.
I had a 1960 Volkswagen bug, which I was doing my best to keep on the road. I used to watch JohnJohn as he tuned up my bug, and gave it oil changes, and one day I asked if I could try, as it seemed like something I could do. He was most generous with his tools, and his expertise, and I started on my Volkswagen repair journey that was to last 12 years.

I took along the Volkswagen Manual for the Complete Idiot, and during those years rebuilt two engines, a transmission, a rear end, kingpins and linkpins, a generator, and did some great autobody work, while continuing to do the regular maintenance work the mechanical components of the internal combustion engine and the drivetrain require. Regular oil & filter changes (every 3000-5000 Kms, or 2000-3500 miles), clean and properly gapped spark plugs, lubricated joints, and listening to the hum of your engine as you change gears, making sure you don't over or under "rev" the engine will make it all last much longer. I now drive a Toyota PickUp, and when the mechanic discovered that I had close to 300,000 Km on my first clutch, he was most surprised!     I had learned my lessons early on....
A week of commercial salmon fishing on a small troller off the coast of Wrangel, Alaska was one of the gifts offered to me as I made my way to the Yukon in 1970. I was on a Chattauqua, my journey in search of myself, and headed off from California with two friends on our way to the far North. One we left in Salmon, Idaho, the result of a romantic tale of a game biologist who was saving the Big Horn Sheep in Idaho and a dedicated activist who wrote him a letter congratulating his important work documented in Life Magazine. But I digress…Priscilla and I proceeded to the Yukon, taking the ferry from Prince Rupert and stopping off for a camping trip at Wrangell, Alaska. By saving three poor drunks who had a flat tire at the end of the eight mile road in the town (it ended near the campground), we made new friends and went out for a day fishing and to look at the seals. Turned out one owned a small troller, The Sea Hag.

Art was trying to help out his friend who had just returned shell-shocked from a duty tour in Vietnam. At the end of that first day of catching 40-50 lb. King Salmon, he said they were going out for 7 days, and if we wanted to join them, we were welcome. Thus began 7 days of heaving work: baiting the hooks on the ten lines that went out from either side of the boat; using a long wooden handle with a giant bent metal hook on the end, a tool called a gaff, to grab a hold of the salmon as they came up, hooked on the lines, and dragging them into the boat, where we had to beat them over the head until they were dead, then throw them into the icy freezer in the hold. There were moments of respite, when we just moved along the water from place to place, hoping for more fish. There was the time we met up with the shrimper, skipped by a friend of the family, with his daughter for crew. He let me drive his boat for a whole day, using the fathometer to measure the depth of the sea, and the depth of our net, to ensure we would get the right sized shrimp as we hauled in the big scoop net on the stern of the boat. The taste of shrimp thrown straight into a pot of boiling water on the stove in the galley, and pulled out by anxious fingers moments later, reminds us of what hand-to-mouth can also mean. One of the important lessons I learned on my journey was a connection to the land, and food, and the importance of knowing how to use the tools which will enable survival.




Background thanks to: