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Wayne Weekly “Rolling…but No Navigation”

Written by on May 8, 2018

When I was a kid, I spent ten years growing up in Weedsport, N.Y. Weedsport was an Erie Canal “port”. The canal that ran through the village has been long filled and paved over, and now known as Erie Drive.

Living in a small rural village was a massive playground for a young adventurer. Whether it was exploring the local drumlin, “Science Hill”, living a fantasy adventure at the local stone quarry where we caught frogs, crayfish, and navigated the pond on a homemade oil drum raft that some long ago kid explorer had abandoned in exchange for “growing-up”, or sleeping out “under the stars”, my memories of those years are rich ones.

I remember the summer when our life’s ambition was to build homemade go-carts. These were not the gas powered carts that you now find at local go-cart tracks or in fairs or amusement parks. No, these were “gravity powered” wooden framed, wagon wheeled, innovations of pre-adolescent boys living the dream.

The fabrication was a simple one. Boards for the frame were salvaged from bed frames or similar abandoned good stuff. The wheels scavenged from a discarded baby carriage or Radio Flyer wagon. Nuts and bolts were taken from past inventions, or from Dad’s fastener supply, as were nails and washers.

The front axle would generally be attached to a board with bent over nails. That assembly was then attached to the carts frame with a single bolt so our racer could be steered buy a rope or close line attached to each end of the steering mechanism. Brakes were not a priority, I mean who wants to stop a speeding race car! However, we would sometimes take a one-inch by one-inch by ten-inch piece of wood, nail a piece of rubber from an old bicycle tube around the brake end, mount it to the side of the cart just behind a front wheel with a single nail, and we had our brake, for emergency use only you understand. Slowing the vehicle down, was generally done by foot power.

It was just one of those summer afternoon moments that has left me with a permanent reminder of   my by-gone racing days.

I was in a hurry. I needed to complete my four wheeled wonder that afternoon. I scoured the garage looking for just the right parts, but due to time, I had decided to by-pass the carts ability to steer. This time four wagon wheels were all mounted directly to the main frame. No steering mechanism. But I didn’t care much, my sights were on a straight course from the top of Science Hill, to the flatlands below. I was proud of my afternoon creation, but I needed to “dress” it up a little, give it some snaze. Nails, shiny nails protruding fearlessly from the front bumper…what genius!

My next door neighbor, Terry, a few years older than me, decided to be my partner in the great sport of downhill go-carting. We soon arrived at the crest of the hill, where I lined up my speed demon, buckled myself in with a piece of robe nailed to the cross wood plank used as a seat, and, using inertia from a back and forth bodily movement, reached the point of no return. Down the hill I flew at break-neck speed (and the overwhelming possibility of breaking my neck was non-contended by my dare devil spirit).

I reached the bottom and slowly came to a halt. Success.

Now it was Terry’s turn to break the sound barrier.

He towed the cart up the hill by the tow rope attached to the frame. At the top, he carefully aimed the wheeled cart straight down the hill, took his seat, started his engine, and shoved off for a high speed adventure.

I stood at the bottom of the hill, watching Terry barrel down the “track”. As he picked up speed and approached the bottom, something went wrong. The cart veered off track and proceeded to come at me. I froze. I took a direct hit.

After gathering composure, I stood up. I sure didn’t want anyone to see me lying on the ground, a victim of my own handiwork. In a moment I felt a warm trickle running down my shin. Blood. Lots of it. My bright shiny bumper decoration had punctured my leg. Terry watched in horror as the blood got absorbed by my sock and down into my sneaker. He picked me up, tossed me over his shoulder, and carried me home. How he did that eight minute trek so quickly, I’ll never know.

You know, I lived. That seems to be obvious. But I never forgot the lesson learned about being in a hurry, well, at least in building a go cart. The scar is clearly visible today. We can all roll, but we can’t steer without a method to navigate.

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Proverbs 3:5, 6