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Fixing Your Own Junk - The Pit

A message from the editor

Kevin McNultyPhotographer, Writer

I can't say that I've had too much experience with tools as a kid, but as far back as I can remember I have always been intrigued by them. I remember that when my parents weren't around I would sneak into the garage to mess with sharp and pointed objects little guys weren't supposed to be touching until they were much older. I guess it was the good ol' American TV that we used to watch before it went to hell that inspired me and got me interested in building and fixing things. Now the shows are all drama and angst, girlie contests, housewives that leave extremely poor impressions on young ladies, and mindless reality shows. I had some great times walking around the house loosening up random nuts, bolts, and screws, then tightening them back down. Although I sometimes worried that I'd get busted when I cross-threaded the bolts that held something important in place, like the refrigerator door!

My grandfather was a general contractor and a great carpenter. I remember the days I spent with him while he toiled away in the garage making cabinets and furniture. I would be in the driveway hammering 20-30 nails into a piece of wood or I was banging at the glass on the cage where he kept his pet rattlesnakes! My favorite store wasn't the toy store, but the hardware store. While my grandfather picked up his building supplies I'd be walking the aisles fondling all the pocketknives, hammers, hatchets, oddball tools, and wrenches, and dreaming of operating all those complicated-looking power tools. Grandpa was cool, and about once a month I'd end up with a new pocketknife and some mousetraps to play with.

Those woodworking tools were darn cool, but even back then I had the itch to work on things that burned fuel. The guys down the street (my dad called them Itchie and Boogie and juvenile delinquents) were working on trucks, hot rods, and dirt- and oval-track bikes. Those machines seemed like a whole different world and something I could really get into.

My chance wouldn't come until I was 17 and I bought my first hunk of junk for $500. My mom looked out the front window at the multicolored, primered, Bondo'd, dented mess and said, “What the hell is that?” It certainly didn't look like it was worth $500. Well, in no time I had that old car torn down, the wiring pulled out, and the engine apart in my bedroom. My only help was a couple of books, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Auto Repair, some cool and popular automotive magazines (hopefully Mud Life is helping motivate you), and the advice of a girlfriend's brother. I'm not quite sure Mom ever knew I cleaned all the engine parts in the kitchen sink. I sure wish we had a dishwasher back then! Anyway, in about a year I had that old car up and running and it was the envy of some good friends.

My point here is to try and motivate you to get your kids involved when you build and fix your own junk. Turn that TV off, grab a wrench, and teach them a skill—like how not to cross-thread a bolt. Who am I to say, "Work on your vehicle and get your kids involved"? Nobody really, it's just a suggestion. However, I see too many minor fixes or modifications being completed in shops and hard-earned money needlessly being spent. And every time I pass a grown man on the road waiting for AAA to come out and change his flat tire I think, What kind of upbringing did he have? Perhaps he doesn't want to get his pretty shirt dirty or he's on his way to the salon to get his back waxed, hair frosted, or eyebrows threaded, and doesn't want to break a sweat. Come on, man, get your hands dirty!

We'll see you out there.

Kevin McNulty

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