As the youngest of 13 kids, it seemed Calvin always got the least desirable job. Until he was four, he was the block his brothers used to keep the truck/wagon/tractor tires from rolling. More than once, to keep everything level, he was jammed under a motor, floor-boards or a massive log.
It was just after his fifth birthday, right when puberty struck with a vengeance, that the power of his hands began to emerge. Late in the fall, while chopping wood, Calvin watched as the family ax finally gave up the ghost, and the last molecules of steel surrendered to rust.
One swing, it was an ax—the next swing, a stick.
He came from poor mountain people. No money, no tools, no plumbing, and no hope. If it broke—and it always did—you fixed yourself with what you had on hand. No trips to the store for parts, and no searching for the right wrench. There was no money for parts, and the one bent, rusty crescent wrench stayed pretty lonely in the tool sack.
Being responsible for the family’s fire/stove wood was a duty Calvin took seriously. As he watched the ax head dissolve into brown powder, and float away in the late afternoon sunshine, he simply reached down, grabbed a thirty-five pound chunk of wood, and broke it apart with his hands, as if it were nothing more than a badly dehydrated Rice Krispy treat.
Before long, the strength of his hands tamed even the most rusted bolts, bent nails and gnarled stumps. By the time he started his third year of second grade, people had learned to never shake his hand. He lost a part time job at the service station. He couldn’t add, and had developed the disturbing habit of breaking lug nuts when changing tires.
After crushing the schools only football is a moment of athletic excess, Calvin quit school and concentrated his talents on firewood and the game he called, “full-contact marbles.”