After my father retired, he did nothing but watch television for a while. He took it upon himself to see that the cable to the television antenna on the top of the mountain was in good shape, the tubes in the little black boxes that boosted the signal were properly maintained so that the five or six families around him got good TV reception. He needed something to give him a boost.
I suggested that he tear down the old wooden plunder house and build himself a workshop. The big problem with him was tearing down the plunder house. After taking the contents to the basement for safekeeping, I proceeded to get to work with a crowbar demolishing the old house. I thought to myself "How am I going to get rid of all this old wood?" I had no sooner removed the first board when a neighbor came over and asked if they could have the wood for kindling. Her two sons would carry them away and stack them in their garage as fast as I could rip them loose. In about three hours, I had a clean building site and he had no excuse to not build a work shop.
The next time I got home on leave, he had built a beautiful cinder block workshop, complete with an attic and an oil stove, with a tank for fuel outside. The door had glass in it, worked perfectly and it had several large windows to supplement the lighting system he had installed.
When he had visited us at Camp Lejeune, we had watched a couple of people flying U-control model airplanes. I thought, "Why not", and bought him a model airplane motor. On my next visit, I had to go to Princeton with him and "fly" with him. I did. You can get really dizzy after taking those planes around the circle a few times.
The next time I came in, he had gone upscale to radio controlled model airplanes and he made some real beauties. I had to go fly with him. This meant I had to run with the plane, with engine running, and launch it like kids used to do with balsa gliders. We got off a few successful flights and the wind caught one. I had to watch to where it was last seen and go retrieve it. After a long hike up the hill and through the trees, luckily I came upon a youngster who had found it and he gave it to me. We were on kinfolks land, forgot who and he gave us some of the best green gage plums.
Somewhere around here, he became interested in Ham radio, he studied Morse Code, got his Ham Radio Operator's License, built a large antenna, got tied in with the MARS net and enjoyed that. He was cited for relaying messages in the 1964 Alaskan earthquake, by relaying messages to worried friends and relatives of people who had loved ones in Alaska at the time.
After a time, I guess he got tired of playing and when a friend with an accounting business retired, he decided to move to Marlinton, West Virginia and did accounting and tax work for the people of the county.
He lived in a trailer in Marlinton and did his own cooking most of the time. He found out about TV dinners and thought this was the answer. After about a week, he decided that a man can only eat so many of them and they all start to taste the same.
While in Marlinton, I guess his roots began to show. He had to be growing something. He had a garden along the river and grew more than he could eat or give away. He started canning his surplus and when we would visit, he would fill my trunk with cases of canned pickles, canned tomatoes. and other vegetables he had grown.
When he decided to do something, he did it well, from model airplanes, TV cable maintenance, Ham radio and even while with the IRS, I think he took about every correspondence course in accounting the IRS had to offer.
Once when visiting me at Camp Lejeune, he decided he could make a better salt water fishing rod. He went home, rigged himself a homemade lathe for turning small sizes, got some seasoned hickory and turned out some beautiful rods. He sent me one in a canvas case that could be used in five different configurations, from boat rod to surf casting rod. I still have it, Dad.
Musings of Henry T. Cook, Lt. Col., USMC (Ret.)