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October 1998
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My Father's Boat

My father must have been a young man when he built his boat since he was 22 when I was born and I recall it from when I was a young child. It was a marvelous thing in its way, although it never saw water.

He built it in one of the farm buildings. This building, like most such, was divided into three sections, a left, a right, and a center. The sections were separated by uprights spaced perhaps two or three feet apart and were otherwise quite open, except that the left section was walled off for use as grain bins. The door opened up onto the central section which was used for storing machinery and, in harvest season, for unloading grain from wagons into the grain bins. The right section was used for storage and for a small machine shop. At some time it had been extended to serve as additional storage space for machines. This too was separated from the main building by uprights. All in all it was a marvelous place for a young primate, providing many wonderful places for climbing around and about.

As I say, my father conceived the project of building a boat. Naturally he built it indoors out of the inclement weather of which South Dakota had a plenitude. He built it the right section of said building where there was work space.

He was a good rough and ready carpenter, quite competent at the carpentry required of a farmer. The design and construction of boats, alas, was not one of his skills. Boats, you may notice, are curved in their construction. Most boats, that is. This one was not. It had a flat bottom and upright sides, with ends that were at a 45 degree angle to the bottom. It had a couple of cross boards for seats.

It would have been a most ungainly thing if it had ever reached water. I have a suspicion that it would not have floated - the construction was rough and ready and I fancy it would have shipped water at an alarming rate. This mattered not; it was never fated to reach water.

My father, in his enthusiasm, had overlooked one small detail. The boat was about four feet wide. The uprights were two feet apart. There was no way to get the boat out of the building. Apparently the question of how to get the boat out never occurred to him since he did complete it.

And so it sat there, for years on end, occupying space. Junk was stored in it from time to time. It is not fair to say that it had no use; offspring played in it, pretending that they were at sea. For such flights of youthful imagination it was eminently suitable.

Many years later the building was torn down and used for scrap lumber, the boat along with it. If the boat ever saw water, it was only when the roof leaked. I would like to think that when at last it was freed that my father took it out for a maiden voyage. By then, though, I don't suppose he cared.


This page was last updated October 19, 1998.

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