Kevin Walsh
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Fat Guys
Building Boats

Amateur Hour
by Kevin Walsh

Hey, It's October! Time for the July Column

And so it came to pass that one morning last week, I looked up and noticed that it was October and I hadn't yet written my July Duckworks Magazine column. This was, of course, completely unfair, believing as I do that time should not be allowed to pass until all of my deadlines have been successfully met. This is one of my core, defining principles, along with the bed-rock belief that one cannot get into heaven either with a tattoo, or with body parts unaccounted for, requiring a sojourn in Purgatory to earn the price of each limb, appendix or tonsil (as the case may be) or alternatively, to find a replacement part from whatever source is handy. I imagine that Purgatory is pretty dog-eat-dog as a consequence.

It turns out that the bureaucracy of Heaven is quite the stickler about holding folks accountable for all the bits they were issued, but isn't very picky about exactly whose parts are returned as long as all the sums work out right. Given that my son is now seventeen, I'm considering adding a new rule about body piercing, but we'll let events sort that out.

The fact that I hadn't finished (or even started) my column was worrisome to me, although I wasn't too concerned that Chuck would be upset. Judging by the sheer volume of stuff that appears regularly in Duckworks, Chuck ain't hurtin' for material, babe. But how much time would pass, Dear Readers, before Chuck figured that my prescription for Thorazine had run out and that I had run off to become a Hari Krishna, or a Homeless Squeegee Guy, or, horror of horrors, an accountant? If Chuck were to come to that conclusion, why, my coveted spot in the Pantheon of Honorary Duckworks Columnists would surely pass on to some up and coming hot-shot, some nuclear powered kid who could build a skiff a week and type 340 words a minute to boot, thus condemning yours truly to an ignoble end in the ash-bin of history.

So I frantically began to cast about for a topic. My mind churned over the possibilities: Spar-Making Naked? No, everybody makes spars while wearing no clothes. Making Floorboards While Reciting Tolstoy? No, no. Everybody knows Tolstoy causes brain aneurisms and I don't want a law suit on my hands on top of everything else. How about I tell the story about lopping a large chunk of flesh off the top of my thumb? No, everybody chops something off from time to time (and hopefully grows a new one or reattaches the missing whatever-it-is before trying to breech the Gates of Heaven) and besides, I did that while making a salad. I was fortunate to find the bit of thumb before dinner, thankfully, so no one was forced to endure some weird water-chestnut kind of thing on their plate.

In the end I never did come up with a suitable topic. Oh, I'm still building my boat, and have in fact been working on the spars, although most of my work sessions are conducted fully clothed out of respect for my son's visiting friends. And I do have some good stories to tell about my Dad and me testing the water-tight integrity of the hull, but that's for future columns. The real problem is much more fundamental, and much more frightening to me.

The true fodder for this column has been my inept attempts at quality workmanship and my fumbling attempts at craftsmanship. In the beginning it was terribly funny to watch me work as I ripped ghastly gouges with dull, cheap tools in terribly expensive wood, and it seemed during those heady days of incompetence that I would never run out of things to tell you.

But now I find that, after nearly two years of painstaking stupidity, my tools are sharp more often than not, my cuts are more or less true and my glue lines are all but invisible to the naked eye. O, that such treachery should come to pass! Dear Readers, pray for me, for it seems that I am becoming - gasp! - semi-skilled! Yes, I'm afraid it's true, my friends. The hideous shroud of competence has begun to settle upon my unwilling countenance, and I find myself suddenly fearful that I will soon be bereft of amusingly foolish anecdotes to share with you.

So I'm forced to conclude that it's time for drastic, even heroic measures. Perhaps the time has come for me to chop off a thumb so that I can re-establish my links to that familiar, former clumsiness. That would certainly set me back a bit on the skill-scale, don't you think? However, you can rest assured that, should I elect to exercise such extreme tactics to retain my treasured spot in Chuck's List of Columnists, I will be careful to preserve it in a nice, big jar of formaldehyde. Heaven's awaiting!