After reading last week's blog post, my dad reminded me that I left out a significant portion of Steve's education story. More specifically I left out a significant individual. In addition to hanging out around the dairy farm, as a young man Steve was befriended by a good friend of our family, Curtis Spinks. Curtis is well known around our small town as one of the most intelligent mechanical minds in the area. He built hot-rods in his youth and became a masterful machinist as an adult. There didn't seem to be a mechanical component that Curtis couldn't make or a mechanical problem that he couldn't solve. He was a somewhat quiet, but yet eccentric fellow. I remember him being disinterested in the small problems, and only wanting to work on the problems that nobody else could solve. In another parallel universe, Curtis would have been a key component of any NASCAR team or completely comfortable building rocket engines for NASA. He was just that smart. However, when I remember Curtis, I remember more than his intelligence. He was a man with a kind heart and a humble demeanor. I think he knew he had a gift mechanically, and that's why he was always willing to help anyone with a mechanical problem. Given that problem was challenging enough, of course. He, much like my family, opened his heart and home to Steve. Steve would help Curtis around his shop. In return, Curtis would help Steve do things like build Volkswagen engines for his home-made dune-buggy. Steve learned invaluable skills from Curtis, mechanical and otherwise. He would be the first to tell you that. I erroneously left Curtis out of the last post, but in retrospect, it's just as well. He was such a big influence on Steve that he deserved a section of his own. We are all better for having known Curtis.
Everybody that has been around Steve has a "Steve" story. He's just that kind of guy. This is a Steve Story that was relayed to me by Curtis. It's one of many. Enjoy.
Steve was Bush-hogging a pasture for Curtis on a very isolated open field way off the beaten path. It was a field that was basically in the middle of a forest, with a small dirt road as an entrance. Curtis was always working on old tractors, and at this time had a pretty large tractor with a tricycle front end. This means that the 2 front wheels are really close together right under the front of the tractor. They looked like very large tricycles. The field in question was one that hadn't been mowed in a few years. There were pine trees starting to grow in the field that hadn't been cut, and some that had been there for a while. Those that were fairly new growth were two, or three, or even 4 inches in diameter. The older growth pines that had been trying to invade the field for a while were six to eight inches in diameter. Now understand that a heavy-duty bush-hog will clip the small trees easily. So as he was about to go bush-hog the field Steve asked Curtis, "Which of those trees do you want me to cut down?" To which Curtis replied, "If that tractor will run over them, you can mow them." It's probably more evident in hindsight that he probably should have been a little more careful with his directions. Curtis was doing other things while Steve mowed the field, but he went over to check on Steve around lunch. He intentionally parked a little way back from the field and walked the last hundred yards. Being so mechanically minded, Curtis always wanted to observe how people were treating and operating his machines. As he watched Steve mow the field everything looked fine. Then Steve started slowing down, He pulled up slowly to one of the older growth pines in the field. Steve was very careful, and Curtis assumed he was just mowing as close to the tree as possible. Steve had other plans. He rested those two narrow set front tires of the old tricycle tractor right up against the tree as the tractor came to a stop. Curtis still observing curiously. In a split second, Steve popped the clutch of the old tractor, sending the front end skyward as it quite literally climbed the tree. Steve pressed the brakes, keeping the tractor in what looked like a liftoff mode. Then slowly the tree succumbed to the weight of the tractor and started to slowly fall forward. With the tree now flat on the ground and the tractor in its normal orientation, Steve proceeded forward to mow up the tree with a thunderous eruption. After the violent grinding of that tree, Steve continued mowing the field as if it was just another day at the office. After witnessing this event, Curtis proceeded into the field to deliver Steve his lunch. As the lunch was being delivered, Curtis asked "Why on earth did you bush-hog that huge tree?" To which Steve replied, "You told me if the tractor would run over it I could mow it."