WRITING #1: The claw hammer hung from two 16-penny nails driven into the tool wall corner of our rambler’s single car garage, just above the Elgin boat motor Dad used for duck hunting before kids came into the picture. The hammer’s handle was a dark Hickory brown; not a crack in the wood, only a few random drops of barn red paint from his annual house painting touch ups. Dad OK-ed my borrowing of the hammer, as long the cold iron claw made its way back to his home-made hooks each night. If not…I heard about it.
On countless summer mornings I would load my red wagon full of scrap wood and grab one of Dad’s repurposed, glass peanut butter jar full of nails. Then, standing on the flipped over tin bucket always placed near the Elgin motor, reaching with an outstretched arm, I would grasp the hammer and head down to what the older kids called “the ravine.” The Blue Earth River valley was just a couple blocks from the house. The ravine was playground of rocks, trees and trails; an open canvas with early summer visions for the world’s greatest tree fort, never coming to fruition.
During one of my summer construction spurts, just after dusk, when I was supposed to be asleep, I looked out my bedroom window to see Dad leaving the garage with a hand full of nails and the same claw hammer I had used earlier in the day while he was at work. He faded out of site walking toward the river. The following morning when I reported back to my construction site, I randomly came across a slightly larger, shiny fresh nail heads intermixed among my own. I could only surmise Dad’s unannounced inspection was not meant to criticize my craftsmanship, but to insure the boy’s latest masterpiece wasn’t going to come tumbling down.