Grease on His Hands…
He had grease on his hands from the time he was twelve. His dad had driven a gasoline truck during the war. He loved going down to the yard and hearing the rumble of diesel motors. It was no surprise when he took night courses during high school to learn auto mechanics. After the Navy, he opened a garage where he could work on cars any hour of the day. He loved being around cars and engines too much to consider it work.
Soaking it in…
When she was old enough to be safe, his girl would toddle around the shop. At four she could identify all the tools in the shop, by eight he taught her how the machinery worked, and by nine she proudly displayed the stain of grease on her palms and under her nails. She hadn’t been on her first date when her dad left. He left her with several car manuals worth of knowledge and a love of engines. She had soaked it all in. She knew the sound and feel of a properly running engine; she loved the smell of oil and parts soaking in gasoline. When he left, she ran to her engines for solace. She could hammer and bang until her anger was spent.
Guys and Cars…
Down the hill was a shop where she could sit for hours. She watched the lathe turn as it ground down a rotor, she watched the guys rebuild clutches and wanted to jump in and do it. The guys in the shop were her heroes. She would go to a friend’s and talk hours with her dad about anything mechanical. She was intuitive about engines – just like her dad. Her definition of a great weekend had something to do with getting greasy.
One night her date’s car stopped dead, she diagnosed the problem by sound.
“No parts available at midnight . I can look at it tomorrow tho.”
” No that’s ok. I have a friend who knows cars.”
She demurely smiled. Next day the guy who “knew cars” proclaimed after a half hour what was wrong with the car.
“Hmm- isn’t that what she said the problem was?”
Unfortunately, she had a lot of first dates where engines came up. She just couldn’t shut her mouth when it came to mechanics. The guys couldn’t stand the fact that she knew engines better than they did.
Airplanes and Engines…
She loved engines couldn’t get enough. Four-cylinders were not much of a challenge anymore. Not having access to any foreign cars with twelve cylinders; she joined the Navy to see the world and work on some powerful engines. Power Plants was the name -Jet engines was the game. She had fallen “in love” in one day. The practice engine was beautiful and she loved the shrieking powerful sound it made when it was turned it up. Within the first week, she knew all the tools and how everything worked. Her hands ached to pull that jet engine apart. The instructors may have tried to be intimidating and all- knowing she wasn’t “buying it.”
What sailors had on their minds…
She tore down her first engine in her squadron. She was working on turbo props. She was in her element mixing a little of the old with the new. As a newbie, she got the dirty jobs. She fit perfectly in the tail pipe so the guys thought it would be a great laugh to give her the job. What they didn’t know was she was in her element. Dirt, after all, washed off. Plus she looked good grease smudges and all.
Most of the crew were right-handed; she was ambidextrous and she had small hands.
“There’s a right and a left side to every engine,” she said with a Cheshire smile.
“Guess you will need someone to work on those hard to get places.”
The sailors got used to this female grease monkey. Sometimes they forgot she was a girl. They remembered again when she walked out of the shop no longer in her greasy coveralls and steel toed work boots. When she slipped into her cowboy boots, tight jeans, flannel shirt, and let her long, dirty blond hair fall to her waist, the southern boys wanted to hoot and holler.
” Whoa baby- care to go dancing tonight?”
” Got a date. Thanks sailor.” Behind her winsome smile was the knowledge that, after hours, these sailors had more than engines on their minds.
Love in all shapes and sizes…
She loved her work, loved the planes, the people, the travel, but she was missing something – Love. She met this guy. He could diagnose an engine problem by sound too. He had done everything from fixing cars to scraping ’em as a kid. They could “talk shop.” He loved her when she was greasy and when her hair was down. One day she hung up her coveralls and her ratchet. She had a child. She had to learn to diagnose different things by sound. She enjoyed every minute of her new love.
Engines are electronic now. Not too much to play with unless you have three college degrees and some serious diagnostic equipment. Every once and a while she will turn the ignition of her ’65 Stang just to hear that sexy rumble or peer under the hood to caress the immaculate engine just to get some grease under her nails.