Autumn sparks

I’ve always been a great “light holder.”

My father didn’t have a son to teach the ropes of mechanics, etc., so he settled for a daughter who thankfully was gear-minded, as well, and enjoyed the idea of getting to hold the light while he tinkered with any number of things. Electricity, plumbing, car repair, building, you name it, I was witness to each of these things.

Now, you would think I would be savvy on all of these things after having watched my dad’s hands over the years, but during those times I was working alongside Dad, my mom, who is a bit of a prankster, would encourage me to “have a little fun” with dad when holding the light.

Sometimes, just to be ornery, I’d hold the light straight and true and then slowly move the light away from his work area, which always resulted in a stern “bring that light back over here, quit fooling around.”

My mom, who was in earshot of his frustration, would laugh, which would only encourage me to try it again and again and again until finally, a colorful barrage of words would emerge from Dad, and then I’d finally stop trying to ballyhoo the work light (by swinging it around) and watch as Dad soldered things together, snug fit plumbing pieces and gingerly placed wiring in a circuit box near a live bus bar.

Dad’s education in engineering allowed him the knowledge to be able to do all of these things without any issues and within a short amount of time. Whatever he was working on would be running again in spite of my antics.

All this being said, when I had the recent opportunity to help my father work on a project on the farm, I felt nostalgic as I once again held the light as he worked. This time, I held the light with more precision, following his every move as he tightened wires to a winch on a small side-by-side vehicle.

During the duration of the project, I noticed Dad hadn’t disconnected the battery from the piece he was working on, and I thought that was strange, but again, my expertise is in raising animals, so what did I know? He was the expert.

Dad jokingly said at one point as he worked, if I heard a pop, it meant the circuit had been fried. Again, I thought it was strange the battery was still connected, but again, I ignored it.

I decided to take a quick break into the house when he turned his attention back to read the assembly manual, and when I returned to the garage, Dad was mumbling that he had done it this time. When I questioned “why?” he said he had arced between the needle nose pliers he was using and the solenoid and had heard a pop.

This event resulted in grabbing a multimeter (I’m not 100% what exactly that is, but it basically tells whether or not there’s electricity moving) and checking. Thankfully, all checked out fine.

Dad resumed his connecting, and this time, I stayed close and suggested again that perhaps we should disconnect the main battery to avoid any future pops. Dad, this time, agreed, and we proceeded to disconnect the positive cable from the main battery.

What happened next I’m not entirely sure, but the next thing I knew, the socket wrench was lying on top of the battery with sparks first and then fire shooting out of the battery.

My father, not thinking of the flammable stuff surrounding the battery, yelled for a hammer to knock the socket wrench off the top of the battery, and I, ready to take defensive action, ran into the house to grab the fire extinguisher from the wall in the kitchen, pausing for half a second to grab a hammer from the nearby toolbox to hand to my father.

When I returned to the scene of the almost near disaster, extinguisher in hand, ready to pull the pin to spray, I could see smoke rising from beneath the area of the seat on the side-by-side and I asked, “Is it out?”

Dad, blowing puffs of air on the smoke, said, “It is now.”

The carnage that remained was a 1-inch hole burned into the top of the battery, a smoldering socket wrench that lay upon the garage floor (having been knocked off of the battery by the hammer), its socket welded to the attachment point and the smell of something acrid from smoldering plastic and escaping battery acid.

“Oops” Dad said as he removed the cables to the now-destroyed battery. We were going to have to get another battery to get the side-by-side working again.

As the smoke cleared, I held the light once again for Dad so that nuts could be removed to pull the heavy battery out of its compartment, being careful not to spill acid out of the newly burned gaping hole on the top.

“Maybe we just don’t tell Mom about the hole until we get the new battery,” he said as we wrapped the battery in electric tape to cover said hole and carried it to the trunk of the car.

Agreed, Dad. Agreed.

Until next time…

Stephanie Strothmann owns Purple Shamrock Farm LLC in rural Seymour. Send comments to [email protected].