A Modest Proposal – Part 4.1


Dan’s plan

“We, all of us, put to sea in boats for slightly differing reasons. Me? I delight in watching the curl of a bow wave. I can do it for hours.”

I have become a bit of a slacker. At least that’s what I think the term means. Back in my Fleet Sailor days, we knew ’em as “Skates.” Perhaps this relative vacation has been more a matter of indulging the “soul of a poet,” that I on occasion allow to emerge. He’s a reclusive thing. Please, allow me to describe one of his furtive squints into the sunlight.

Alice-the-tractor, Beau-the-sea-dog, and I were out plowing snow for the umpteenth time yesterday. Alice has a relatively small engine, and a relatively small plow-blade.

At least, compared to present-day machines with roaring V-8’s and huge articulated plows mounted ahead of humongous pickup trucks of various manufacture, we move slowly, and often come to a jarring halt. You could say that we are caught in that netherworld of snowplowing. We are too slow to blast our way through the drifts and high-piled berms. We are not powerful enough to muscle our way through them either. So, we must make repeated passes with varying results. Occasionally, it’s an almost perfectly beautiful thing.

We, all of us, put to sea in boats for slightly differing reasons. Me? I delight in watching the curl of a bow wave. I can do it for hours. Often, I’ll let the girl have her head and just lie prone on the foredeck. I watch the infinitely variable shavings of water. They form and disperse in an instant. Each surge is an independent being of – at least indirectly – my own creation. The opalescence of one curl is often joined by a thick, truncated companion as we scend upward. The next, predictably taller and thinner, as the boat surges down, and follows her unwritten table of ever-shifting buoyancy.

Yesterday, so it was with the snowplow.

Beau maintained his lookout, in seamanlike fashion, off to port. Alice, as she may well have done each winter of her seventy-total, continued to thrum along. Her four cylinders fed by that ancient Zenith up-draft carburetor, each answering to the equally-ancient magneto’s electrical stimuli. Leaving me to study the infinitely variable curl of our bow wave. Nearly pure white. Thin. But, a most-graceful performance. Everything in balance. Everything detached from the accepted norms.

For that moment – perhaps an hour or so – my inanimate companion, my loyal and sentient beast, and that reclusive soul of the poet joined me for a metaphorical sea voyage. You could say that we tacked back and forth over a shifting seascape. Rising, surging, and playfully shoving the ocean aside. But, ever that beautiful curve of a bow wave. Announcing our presence to absolutely no one. Shattered in our wake of lugged tires and chains. Each lovely billow, but a blurred memory.

As all reveries must, that one ended with cold fingers, despite my gloves. Time to shed my veteran Carhart jacket, plowing Stetson, rubber boots, Beau’s crow’s nest, and assorted winterthings.

Even a poet knows to avoid dripping across Kate’s floors. We typically decamp out in the shop. And, what a delightful surprise!

The elves have not only been busy, they’ve been doing some pretty good work, during my sabbatical.

Apparently, we interrupted a work-in-progress. At least, those elves never seem to be around when I go looking for ’em. And, how were they going to know that I might just show up and decide to climb up inside Gypsy Wagon’s cabin? Just a good thing for me that I move more slowly these days!

That “temporary” ladder, that has become an almost permanent fixture, was on the way out. And something with a bit more class taking its place.

Like I was saying, those elves tend to stay out of sight. But, they didn’t seem to mind when I got down on my belly to peer into the catacombs under the aft cockpit.

Another “temporary” solution to my own impatience, and the imperative of rapidly passing time. The original engine bearers, and associated offal still inhabit this zone of darkness. One day, tankage will find a home here. Until then, ignorance is bliss.

For now, just a dungeon.

But, the surprises just kept coming. Somebody had been experimenting with a sliding door for the aft entrance. I’ll suppose the elves have grown tired of hearing me complain about thwacking my head on the too-low door frame. While I was out playing-er, plowing – somebody cut a significant chunk out of the head-knocker.

That notch runs right up against the interior woodwork and headliner. Somebody did quite well with a grinder and Sawzall; is all I’ve gotta’ say. The door was still pretty rough, but certainly shows promise. There was a profusion of aluminum extrusions lying about. Probably something from that pile will turn into tracks. Maybe.

Then, the piece de resistance. Pieces, actually.

Somebody had been turning perfectly good – and damn heavy – sheets of ¾ mdo into strips and arches and such. The long-awaited windows!

Pure showmanship for those guys to clamp ’em up in place just so I could see ’em. Everything has to be routed, and glazed, and tracks for the up-down inner pane all have to be figured out. Even so. I just stood there and admired things for a while.

I also sorta’ wondered what the poet might have to say about it. I’ll have to try to remember to ask, when I see him.

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