April 21, 2024

A Man of Parts


Folk wisdom assures us that necessity is the mother of invention, but those of us who live amidst the verdant acres of Doodlebug Island are convinced that the father is as often merely someone single-mindedly given to experimenting with whimsical ideas that float in and out of his consciousness and take root in what thin, fallow layers of gray matter may be found there.

Our Loy Lacy Lockhart is such a guy and he’s at it again! Now, if residents hear those words, “He’s at it again!” they know immediately who the “he” is; that ambulance service and medical personnel should be summoned; and that triage will be required.

Barely has Lace healed from one experiment, it seems, than he takes on the next one, and with an enthusiasm undampened by previous failures or prior injuries. Broken bones, contusions, the loss of fingers and an eye are but minor hurdles. And most surprisingly, Lace isn’t interested in financial gain. He only wants to see his projects succeed!

So far, the results are mixed. A binocular gun sight he developed simply enabled one eye to look into the other eye, and the breech exploded in his face. An electrical receptacle, designed to release a plug with but the touch of a button, started a fire in his home and blew off three fingers. A trebuchet he developed to solve the problem hauling firewood put logs the size of peach baskets through the side of his house and demolished his wife’s new Ford 150. Later, he used it to launch himself across Oak Creek to learn whether or not it had properties suitable for human transportation. Separating himself from boulders and river rock on the other side, however, rather convinced Lace that very little of what could be called success was to be achieved through this means and the use of this device.

Recently, Lace has been working on two inventions at the same time. One is a tethered hot-air balloon for children using the combined thrust of twenty-seven hair dryers. Theoretically, the balloon would rise no more than ten feet before sinking slowly to the ground as the air within cooled. But as with his other experiments, theory didn’t account for the results. Oh, the Mylar bag filled as he thought it would, except it overfilled and burst, allowing the hair dryers to assume the characteristics of falling rocks. Poor Lace caught the full load on his head.

Any other man would have given up, but not our friend. He built a bag using heavier materials and sent it aloft as before. It rose majestically and soon reached the end of the extension cord he had modified to accommodate the dryers. At that point the cord shorted out showering hot sparks in all directions before landing across Lace’s shoulders, where it sent repeated jolts of electricity through the soft parts of his arms, neck, face, and body. The balloon drifted away and hasn’t been found. This project is now on hold.

The second invention to which Lace has devoted time is intended for those who wish to protect their larger plants from freezing in winter, but who find it difficult to place a protective covering over anything higher than their heads. He fashioned what amounted to a large collapsible umbrella which, once the ground frame was in place, could be raised to full height through a series of ingenious pulley arrangements. But with no thought given to stabilizing the cover once it was raised, the whole thing, frame and all, simply collapsed on the other side of the plant Lace picked to experiment on. Unfortunately, that was the side from which he was working, and he shortly found himself minus another finger and with toes rather badly mangled between the ribs of the umbrella and the stationary platform.

Strangely, we fellow islanders seem to feel the effects of these failures more than Lace. We hate to see him disappearing in small chunks before our very eyes, but he himself carries on in such an implacable stoicism as to shame us. His is a mind dedicated to learning what works. And since it’s hard to know just how much longer we’ll have what’s left of him with us, we’re thinking about a suitable expression of our bereavement that could be etched on his tombstone. So far, we kind of lean to this: Here lie the remains of our beloved friend, Loy Lacy Lockhart, a man of parts!

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