Now, you know the Wizard of Oz. And you know the Tin Man. The old polished up rust bucket that just needs a little love to make it through the day. You know those two things, or at least "of" them. You also know that old Oz is magical to boys and girls everywhere. Movie or book, kids eat it up. Even kind of old kids.
I am fast approaching 30 as I write this, but let me tell you, I once loved the Tin Man when I was a little single-digit tyke. I don't recall why, to be perfectly honest, I just did. I guess you could say it was pure love. Maybe my fascination with biomechanical robotics was already showing. Nowadays, I am mostly a fan of Scarecrow. I love Scarecrow like a father loves a relatively quiet next door neighbor who occassionally loans out powertools. Not only is it that the guy wants a brain, something that most of us could benefit from, but there is that whole "crucified" imagery that boggles the allegorical mind. If you don't get what I'm talking about, don't worry about it. It is most definitely not critical to the story at hand.
I loved that Tin Man. And my brother Danny loved me. Now, I'll take a moment to introduce Danny, since he and I are sort of the de facto stars of this section of the website. He is nine or so years my senior. A strong boy. Shorter than me, and lighter of build, but we have remarkably similar faces and hair growth. If not for the accent difference (Danny's drawl shows more than my own) then it might be hard to pick us out over the phone. He is also one of the kindest older brothers a man can have. He still feels guilty for having hobbies, generally speaking, as opposed to spending more time with his family. He's the artistic one. He is fully convinced I would be good at it if I cared, but I do not really. I let him paint. I write, and hopefully well. He has some military under his belt but he did not take to it. He plays the guitar as well. That's neither here nor there.
The number of reasons why Danny and I are to be the de facto stars of this section is three. 1) We are both hardy enough that we allow damage tolerance to trump common sense. 2) We are generally adventurous, but unlucky, sons-a-bitch. And, 3) We are just creative and intelligent enough to get our collective butts in far more trouble than it's ever worth. Now, don't let me lead you astray. We enjoy the hell out of it.
The long standing "Mother of All Danny Stories" is the Tin Man Suit. And it involves all three of the above.
My family used to have an old wood burning stove. In the place of the archetypal stone brick chimney, we had metal stovepipes. If you don't know what I am talking about, they are hollow cylinders of thin metal. Think of a soup can, emptied out with both ends cut off, only bigger and much longer. Their central "hole" is about a foot wide, give or take, and they often have a little bit of a bend here or there to increase strength in that odd way that metal does. One end is a tad bit wider, and so you can fit them end to end, along with some elbow joints, and lead your smoke where ever you might need it to go. How Santa managed to shimmy down this, I don't know, but I'm sure that's why Southerners leave their front door locked. Just in case.
It is not unusual, around any family, to find excess materials for any old project. It makes a man just a tad bit more a man to buy ten boards instead of eight, and who knows what mistakes will be wrought in a construction project? We Boldens had some extra straight stovepipe in the year of '87 or '86, whenever this might be. "Clever Enough to Get Himself Hurt" Danny could not let a opportunity like that go to waste, now could he?
We used to have this old trailer, as in "-park" not "for hauling" out in our sizable backyard. A little bit run down, but sort of a second home right outside our home. I never found out why we had the trailer, but remind me to ask about that sometime. Due to some leaning of the ground, the one side was only about three-four feet from the ground and the other doorway, twenty feet down the way, was about six feet up. Thanks to some parismony born out of Southern Alabama, we only used about three steps, counting the soil that God put there, for either doorway.
Danny, of movable knees and elbows, bounded up these wide steps with an armful of stove pipe, a grey shirt, and an axe. If his Little Buddy (more on this in just a second) loved the Tin Man, then Danny had a surprise. You have an imagination, so I am sure you figured out what he was doing, that day.
Danny is built like a wall, now. The sort of guy you prefer not to fight. Back then, though, he was scrawny. Not unhealthy, just not all that sizable. His arms and legs fit right in those stovepipes. Back to Southern Parsimony, I guess, because he just used one for each leg and one for each arm. Four, all told. Axe in hand, and Danny was the Tin Woodsman (I know I have been leaving out the "Woods" this whole time, I just call him the Tin Man).
And here comes Tin Danny Woodsman and he is all smiles and I am all smiles. "I'm the Tin Man, Little Buddy!" Little Buddy is what he used to call me. It's what he still sometimes calls me, despite me being a few inchers taller and wider than he ever has been. I was his Little Buddy, though probably an annoying younger brother. Sometimes, we can be both.
The problem with Southern Parsimony is that we are bad with it. This "we" means both the Boldens, specifically, and the South as a whole. That's why we leave rattlesnake-havens in our front yard, because once a car breaks down, why worry about it? This is why our Sunday Best is also our Overall Best. And this is why two Southern boys, proud Boldens who should have known better, failed to recognize the fact that having stovepipes jammed up on your legs will cease all potential movement that your knees might make.
Funny thing about knees is that you can do alright walking without them on a straight surface. But once you got to go up some steps or an incline, then you have nothing but luck on your side. And, if you find yourself in a situation where you have to take a couple really big steps down what is less a set of outdoor stairs and more of a indication that you could climb up or leap down if you were inclined; well, all the hope you got left in the world is a prayer. God looks after old folk, fools, and Boldens. In the case of the latter, I am pretty sure it is because He wants someone to laugh at the joke.
Here is my older brother, dangling one leg out in the middle of Alabama nowhere, and another one that was pretty sure it was stepping forward. With one final shout, thespian in its drama, of "I can't bend my knees!" (coming out more as "ICANTKNEESMYAHHBEND!"); down came Danny, tin-legs, axe and all. Now, we are all having a good laugh at my brother, but let me tell you something. Plans schmans, you call tell a lot about a man in how well he covers himself while falling six or so feet with stovepipes on his arms and legs, more or less face first, and an axe in his hand. Danny had time to reckon that if he stuck his hands out to brace, those thin stovepipes would act like blades and do him an injury. He also had time to reason that his face would probably hurt less if the dirt hit it intead of his axe.
Out went his arms. Up came the ground. Danny was no wall, back then, but still pretty tough. Six feet to his feet. About five feet from his feet to the bottom of his face, where his very soon to be dirt smacked chin was located. All fulcrummed around that one left foot that was pretty sure it was next in line to take a step. I have no idea the force that he kissed down with, but it had to be more than a little. He was fine, I'll spoil that for you. Still is as fine as can be expected considering this is the dumb stuff he was doing twenty years ago.
The best bit about this whole thing was my reaction. My older brother just face flopped the ground and is laying sort of prone, his arms unmoving, his legs all still. An axe a few feet from his face. Sure I was concerned, but sometimes concern best comes out like it did with me. I fell down next to him and laughed until I could not breathe and tears were in my eyes. And he laughed right along with me.
As I said he was fine then, and more or less fine now. He never did play the Tin Man again, not once. But we still laugh about it.
Let me leave you with one thing. My poor brother was laying there with no air in his ground slammed lungs, and probably more than a little dazed. He had been the Tin Man for only a few seconds before it was all up and the costume had showed itself to be horribly cursed. I was laughing so hard next to him it probably still stands as one of the greatest moments of unbridled joy in my life. Far from failing, Danny had done it. He had brought happiness to his Little Buddy. Had he saved orphans from a burning building, he would not have been more a hero to me. Nor, really, has anyone ever since reached the size of that gawky teenager, still scrawny of arm, standing six feet from the ground with stovepipes and a grey shirt on with an axe in his hand, on that Alabama Day. Not in my eyes.
Written by W Doug Bolden
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