It’s summer time and the living is so easy that I’m tackling a job long neglected: cleaning the garage.
Actually the chore isn’t so much cleaning as it is sorting through and letting go of parts of my life long past and not to be relived. The softball equipment had to go, for example, as we are in our upper 50s and must come to grips that we’ll never play the sport again.
Of the various ball sports– basket-, volley-, foot-, etc. – I’ve always considered baseball to be the hardest on the body as players stand still for great lengths of time and then in an instant sprint to a base or dash to field a ball. Once, in my late 20s, I tore my hamstring so badly trying to beat out a single that I hobbled for nearly six months. I bled internally to the point where my foot turned purple up to my ankle. Now, nearing my sixth decade, it’s best if the only ball sport I play is bocce.
I also retired the bow and arrows. The set belonged to Sabra and was shelved, but I recovered it from gathering dust in the barn on our acreage we lived on of a few years back. We had plenty of room to set up an archery range, and we enjoyed many summer evenings shooting at a target.
From my high school physics class I remembered a section we did on predicting how far an arrow would fly given the strength and length of the pull, weight of the arrow and trajectory. I found the formula and plugged in the new numbers. According to my calculations, I could fire an arrow from one corner of our 10-acre rectangle of land, and it would land near the other corner with an acceptable margin for error. Unfortunately, I must have slid a decimal into the wrong place and the projectile was still going up when it passed the spot I predicted it would land. Luckily, the properties next to us were vacant and nobody got hurt.
The bulk of the items taking up space, however, had nothing to do with sports and everything to do with different get-rich schemes I’ve plotted.
A few years back, for example, in a game of Chinese Checkers with friends, I noticed that between fading eyesight and diminishing fine motor control everyone was having trouble moving the little marbles about the board. My solution was to make an oversized board, one big enough to use golf balls instead of marbles. Drilling the holes in the precise array proved difficult, however, until I put together a large jig to keep everything in line. I was going to mass-produce the games but after the third or fourth model lost interest in the project. Besides, we proved as unskilled moving the bigger balls as the smaller, and they were just that much harder to track down if the board spilled.
Another entire corner of the garage was devoted to storing the various parts of a refined model of an automatic chicken door closer. I built the first model a decade earlier when Sabra and I still lived on our acreage featuring, besides an archery range, chickens. Sabra loves chickens, and I enjoyed the fresh eggs but there was one problem: to keep the chickens safe we had to return each night and shut the door to the roost.
After many hours brainstorming, I came up with the basic design and then perfected the beta version with much tinkering. An electric timer set off a doorbell plunger at the appointed hour, which knocked a golf ball off a platform. The ball fell down a tube and smacked into a paddle, which in turn released a wheel (made from the crank of an old bicycle). The wheel was attached to a plunger, which shut the door. Much to everyone’s amazement, including my own, the thing actually functioned quite well for several years. I was going to corner the market on the contraption only to find out that there wasn’t much of a market after all.
Apparently, most people are perfectly content with closing their own chicken doors.